Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO)

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NBAA Continues SMO Advocacy, as City Passes Airport-Closure Resolution

Sept. 1, 2016

Even as Santa Monica, CA officials have escalated their efforts to close Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO), NBAA continues the association's advocacy work to ensure that this vital community asset remains open and accessible.

NBAA, Others Question City's Leasing Policy Changes at Santa Monica Airport

At a meeting on Aug. 23, the city council passed a resolution to close the airport as soon as legally possible, and to exercise its proprietary exclusive right to establish a city-run FBO. In her public comments at the meeting, NBAA Western Regional Representative Stacy Howard expressed disappointment and frustration with the council's "historic and continuing revenue diversion and mismanagement of the airport by the city."

Howard called on the officials to address current issues of great concern at SMO, such as the failure of the city to issue any new leases to aeronautical tenants despite a new leasing policy passed in March.

"The city has abandoned its fiduciary responsibilities to the airport and its tenants," Howard said at the meeting. While the city incorrectly alleges that the airport operates at a loss, city officials continue to short-change both Santa Monica taxpayers and airport users by not issuing aeronautical leases and collecting the associated rents, according to Howard.

Prior to the meeting, NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown sent a letter to Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez and other city officials, warning them that they are legally required to continue to operate SMO, and to provide access to SMO on reasonable terms and without unjust economic discrimination. Brown reminded the mayor that despite the stated desire of city officials to implement a security program to restrict access to the airport, as well as operate a proprietary FBO with the intent of reducing the scope of fueling and other services at SMO, these plans are impermissible.

"There is no rationale for Santa Monica's virtually unique and entirely unjustified hostility towards one of its greatest assets," wrote Brown. View the Brown's full letter to Santa Monica city officials.

Alex Gertsen, NBAA's director of airports and ground infrastructure, noted that the FAA has reinforced Santa Monica's federal obligations on two occasions in the past several weeks.

"First, the FAA issued a decision on Aug. 15 that reaffirmed the legal requirement for the city of Santa Monica to operate the airport through at least 2023. Then, on Aug. 29, the agency wrote to Mayor Vazquez, expressing concern with the council's stated desire to close the airport as soon as it legally can," said Gertsen. "While we continue to argue our differences in court, the city needs to stop the mistreatment of the airport, be a good host to its users and tenants and respect and uphold its federal obligations."

The FAA letter, from Kevin Willis, the agency's director of airport compliance management analysis, also noted the FAA's concerns with the new airport-leasing policy, and the city's failure to issue leases to aeronautical tenants while issuing some to non-aeronautical tenants; the city's plan to operate a proprietary, exclusive FBO; and a staff recommendation that would eliminate sales of leaded fuel at SMO.

In his response to the FAA, Vazquez indicated that the city will continue to defend its rights to local control.

"The FAA is prepared to pursue all legal remedies at its disposal if the city council takes concrete actions to restrict leases or operations without complying with applicable federal law or otherwise seeks to undermine the Final Agency Decision dated Aug. 15, 2016," wrote Willis. Read Willis' full letter to Santa Monica officials.

View NBAA's SMO resources.