Santa Monica Lawsuit May Determine Airport’s Fate

 - November 5, 2013, 3:42 PM

The city of Santa Monica, Calif., has filed a complaint against the FAA that will force resolution of the issue of who controls the airport. The complaint, filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, seeks “to establish the City’s right to control future use of the Santa Monica Airport property.”

Essentially, the city now believes that it did not relinquish title to the airport when it leased the property to the U.S. government during World War II, when Douglas Aircraft produced thousands of airplanes at the airfield for the war effort. During its leasehold, the government substantially improved the airport, building the single runway, the control tower and other infrastructure. When the government relinquished the leasehold on Aug. 10, 1948, it stipulated that the property remain an airport, and if the city violates any part of that agreement, the property reverts to the government.

The complaint seeks both a declaration that clear title to the airport property belongs to the city and that the requirement to keep operating the land as an airport is unconstitutional (“a taking without just compensation”).

NBAA said it “pledged to oppose the most recent action taken by [the city].” The lawsuit, said AOPA, “lacks any merit in law and is another desperate bid by the city to close Santa Monica Municipal Airport.”