Fight Over Santa Monica Airport Heats Up

Santa Monica Airport [FLYING file photo]

As the fight for Santa Monica Airport rages on, several airport tenants and aviation alphabet groups have filed a Part 16 Complaint against the city of Santa Monica. The complaint alleges that the city has denied leases to long term tenants, imposed unfair landing fees on visitors and airport tenants, and diverted millions of dollars of airport revenues to the city’s general fund.

The complaint claims the city has been diverting revenues through purported loans without valid documentation. In addition, the complaint states that the landing fees, which were activated in their current form on August 1, 2013, are not only excessive and unreasonable, they were adopted without reasonable notice to the tenants and have the effect of double charging tenants for services they already pay for by other means.

Santa Monica city manager Rick Cole spoke passionately against the airport on January 28 in his State of the City remarks. “We will assert local control and we will reuse those building[s] and hangars for creative business uses and will generate the revenue we need to build a great park, the great park that a great community deserves,” he said.

In its current form, SMO supports about 175 businesses and 1,500 jobs and contributes $250 million to the local economy, according to the AOPA.

Since July of last year, which is when the City officials believe the City could reclaim ownership of several parcels of the airport land, many businesses that have been operating at the airport for decades were denied extended leases and have since been operating on a month-to-month basis.

When the Part 16 complaint was filed on February 5, the City had refused to accept a rent check from local SMO flight school Justice Aviation, which operates out of a large hangar on the south side of the runway, on the basis that the City “intends to evict Justice Aviation” without justification. Justice flight school manager Jim Ross said Nelson Hernandez, who the city hired in November as senior advisor to the city manager on airport affairs, visited the school last Tuesday and said the city would shut down its operation on Saturday February 6. However, so far the flight school remains open.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter