Cathy Larson, Airport Committee Chair,
Friends of Sunset Park

Federal Ruling on City vs. FAA

In October 2013, the City of Santa Monica
filed a lawsuit against the Federal Avia-
tion Administration (FAA) to “establish
the City’s right to control the future use
of the Santa Monica Airport property.”
With the 2015 expiration of the 1984 Op-
erating Agreement with the FAA rapidly
approaching, the City asked the court to
declare that the City has clear title to
the land, and to refute the FAA’s claim
that the City must operate Santa Monica
Airport (SMO) “in perpetuity.”

After conducting a three-year Airport Vi-
sioning process, which included studies
by consultants and extensive public input,
City Council asked City staff to return
to them in March 2014 with options regard-
ing the future of SMO.

Meanwhile, staff had ongoing discussions
with the FAA regarding the possibility of
modifying SMO’s operations to significant–
ly reduce its negative impacts on the sur-
rounding communities. Those discussions
were apparently unsuccessful.

On February 13, 2014, federal judge John F.
Walter issued a ruling on the City’s lawsuit.
On the question of clear title to the air-
port property, the judge ruled that the 12-
year window for the City to dispute the
title with the federal government lasted
only from 1948 to 1960.

Regarding the City‘s argument that the
FAA’s assertion that the City must ope-
rate the airport “in perpetuity” equated
to an unconstitutional “taking” without
just compensation, the judge ruled that
since the City hadn’t sought compensa-
tion, its request was premature.

The judge also ruled on the City’s claim
that the federal government has violated
due process and the 10th amendment, say-
ing that this claim was also premature
because the City hasn’t officially an-
nounced its intention to close the air-
port, therefore the FAA has not yet ta-
ken any action based on the “perpetuity”
clause to prevent closure.

March 25 City Council hearing

City staff will return to City Council
on Tuesday, March 25. The only item on
the agenda will be SMO. This is a very
important meeting, as it’s expected the
Council will direct staff to take spec-
ific actions regarding SMO’s future.

The community advocacy group Airport2
Park ( is in
full swing, advocating for a “green”
airport future with park space, play-
ing fields, and creative re-use of
existing buildings. On January 30,
the organization held a forum to dis-
cuss funding possibilities to trans-
form the SMO’s acres into the largest
public park space on the Westside.

In February, an un-named pro-airport
conducted a telephone “push-poll” to
promote a ballot measure that would
prevent the City from using the air-
port property for anything other than

It is expected that both park advocates
and aviation interests will be out in
full force at the March 25 City Council


You can also submit comments before
the meeting to Council@SMGOV.NET —
Remember to put “Santa Monica Airport”
in the subject line. The meeting ag-
enda is posted at
/agendas.aspx , with the agenda item
number (8-A), staff report, and staff

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