Settlement Reached with One Plaintiff in SMO Fight

 - April 28, 2016, 10:44 AM
Despite the City of Santa Monica's settlement with one of the aviation businesses impacted by its efforts to close its airport, aircraft operations as well as the fight by industry stakeholders continue at SMO.

In its ongoing battle with the aviation industry and member organizations such as NBAA and AOPA, the City of Santa Monica reached a settlement with one of the plaintiffs against the city's efforts to close the Santa Monica Airport (SMO). According to the legal agreement reached this week, Justice Aviation, an SMO-based flight school, settled with the city for $450,000 for the closure of its business, agreeing to cease its operations no later than May 11, and vacate all premises by June 10.

In response, Justice withdrew from its lawsuits against the city, including a multi-party Part 16 lawsuit alleging that the city is in violation of its federal grant assurances, and agreed to hold it “harmless from any liability or responsibility for any actions, omissions or conduct by it.” The document also held a provision whereby neither party would discuss the settlement. Justice was one of the businesses negatively affected by the city’s refusal to grant substantial lease renewals to aviation companies while it fights the FAA’s interpretation of its grant assurance commitments, which the agency says extend at SMO until 2023.

NBAA, along with other stakeholders, has challenged the city’s new month-to-month leasing policy introduced last month, stating it does not appropriately address aeronautical issues at SMO and does not change the city’s failure to comply with federal obligations in offering businesses and individuals long-term leases at the airport. “Month-to-month leases create challenges for both aeronautical and non-aeronautical businesses on the field, putting numerous local jobs in jeopardy,” said Alex Gertsen, the association’s director of airports and ground infrastructure. “Airport businesses are being suppressed through the city’s attempts to drive the airport into closure, by setting subjective criteria for ‘compatibility with the surrounding community,’ while providing the city manager with the power to target aviation tenants for eviction with disregard for federal grant assurances.”