FAA Rules Santa Monica Must Keep Airport Open

Ruling prevents the city from shutting down SMO through 2023.

Santa Monica Airport
An FAA ruling released this week prevents the city from shutting down Santa Monica Airport.Pia Bergqvist

The FAA has ruled that the city of Santa Monica must keep Santa Monica Airport (SMO) open through 2023, dealing a significant blow to officials who want it gone.

In a ruling released Monday, the FAA denied an appeal of an earlier decision and maintained the city is required to keep the airport open because it accepted federal grant money for airport improvements.

Santa Monica received $1.6 million for planning and airport development in 1994. Projects funded by the grant were completed in 1996. However, the city applied for and received an additional $240,600 in 2003. The FAA maintains that its agreements with grant recipients last for the life of the facility built with the money or 20 years.

The city argued the 2003 grant did not trigger the grant provisions as it shouldn’t be considered a “new” grant but rather should be part of the pre-existing agreement that would have expired in 2014.

City officials filed a motion to dismiss the case but were rebuffed in federal court in December 2015. Monday’s ruling was the city’s first appeal, with the FAA essentially acting as judge and jury. Officials said they will now continue their appeals in the federal court system.