Attorney Jonathan Stein Says Santa Monica Actually Lost the Fight to Close the Airport
Any fair reading of the settlement shows that is not true the Airport will Close in 2028
February 7, 2017
The best legal recourse is a writ of mandate action in Los Angeles Superior Court. Resident organizations or residents from LA and Santa Monica should be plaintiffs. This is a 50-50 shot and time is short. A writ of mandate will void the City approval and end this 12-year nightmare.
There are three primary reasons the City Council action was unlawful. First it violates the City Charter, specifically Measure LC for "local control" adopted by a 60% vote in 2014. This will be explained below.
Second, it requires a CEQA review of giving away the real property interest of the City – the avigation easement the City has owned for 100 years – to the federal government. No CEQA review was conducted in the "dark of night" adoption.
Third, the "dark of night" adoption violates the Brown Act. True, you can settle auto accident lawsuit without normal public hearing. But you cannot reverse (i) the August 23, 2016 City Council Resolution closing the Airport December 2018, and (ii) the March 22, 2016 City Council resolution setting leasing policy, without public input and proper deliberation.
And fourth, the City obligates itself to make repeated "gifts of public funds" to aviation tenants. The City is mandated for 12 years or longer to charge below market rates on airport buildings and hangars. They are mandated to charge the same rental rates as Compton Airport, for example. That violates Government Code requirements that the City get fair market value rent for its property, which is considerably higher than Compton Airport.
Measure LC requires the City Council to keep and exercise "local control" over the Airport. It cannot give it away to the federal government. Has the City Council given away its powers over "local control" of the Airport. The answer is a resounding "yes".
First and most important, the City loses all ability to take airport buildings and hangars out of airport services for 12 years and probably longer. The "status quo" is maintained for 12 years and that loses "local control" to change the status quo. And they do so after leases to Snapchat that show these buildings are actually worth about 500% more than aviation uses.
Second, the City reverses its current leasing policy and agrees to enter into 3-year leases with aviation tenants (jet owners) and aviation services (Atlantic Aviation). Well, that leasing policy was an expression of local control, and agreeing to enter into a uniform set of leasing terms for hundreds of future tenants loses "local control".
Third, the City agrees to a consent decree, same as if the Santa Monica policy force was shooting black teenagers, the same as if Santa Monica prisoners were denied food, clothing or sanitary conditions. A federal consent decree loses "local control".
Fourth, the City gives up an avigation easement it has held and used for 100 years, and with it "local control" over noise, curfews and other local operating conditions. Giving up real property held for 100 years is a loss of "local control".
And fifth, the City agrees to specific noise and curfew limitations that it would otherwise control locally.
In closing, it is not at all clear the City Council understood what it was voting on. In the televised press conference afterwards, two major points were made. First, the Airport would absolutely close in December 2028. Any fair reading of the settlement shows that is not true. And second, that "local control" was maintained. Again, any fair reading shows that is not true.
The points above are as obvious as the nose on your face to the City Manager and City Attorney. Yet four City Council members voted for them. And they adopted this horrible settlement in lawsuits they were 90% likely to win. The lawsuits themselves dealt with far less intrusive federal controls. In other words, the settlement is worse than if the City had lost those litigations. It is corruption plain and simple, and the remedy is a legal challenge that will void the City approval.
Jonathan Stein, Law Offices of Jonathan Stein