Good Evening Mr. Mayor, City Council Members, Madame City Attorney, and Madame City Manager –
We have recently witnessed the Harrison Ford airplane crash, who fortunately survived, and the Mark Benjamin jet crash, who unfortunately, along with his three passengers and their pets, did not. The community is fortunate that it was not impacted by either of these events. The latter could have been catastrophic if the jet had gone off the end of the runway. These are warning signs. We must pay attention to them. We must also remember that every day, the users of our airport are blowing poison on our neighbors to the east. This is unconscionable to inflict this injury. Up to now, we can say that we did not have the ability to make a change because of our contractual obligations. On July 1, 2015, we no longer have that defense. We now have the right and the obligation to mitigate those dangers.
In the March 2014 City Council meeting on the airport, the City Staff recommended 1-year leases for aviation tenants and 5-year leases for non-aviation tenants. I objected because this proposed policy was discriminatory to the aviation tenants.[i] Staff agreed and modified the recommended leasing policy to 3-year leases for each class of user to avoid potential discrimination claims.
The Staff’s March 2015 recommendation for 3-year leases for only 5 tenants, 2 of which are aviation tenants, appears to violate the “non-discrimination” and “no exclusive rights” provisions of the 1948 Instrument of Transfer and 1994 Grant Assurances related to users not granted 3-year leases.[ii] Further, it ignores the unanimous March 2014 City Council direction to implement the 3-year terms in conjunction with the LMSD leasing policy.[iii] This leasing policy is critical because it legally discriminates against a use as allowed by the courts, not illegally discriminating against a user as recommended by staff, which is disallowed by the courts and our remaining agreement(s).
Under our agreements, if you give one 3-year lease to an aviation business, you must give all aviation businesses 3-year leases. Under our agreements, if you allow one aviation business at the airport, you must allow all aviation businesses at the airport. On July 1, 2015, we are no longer obligated to have any aviation businesses, but if you allow one, you must allow them all. The residents have made themselves quite clear in public comments at both previous City Council airport meetings that they no longer wish to have incompatible businesses as neighbors at the airport. They are concerned about having Atlantic Aviation as a neighboring incompatible use for three more years. This is why the Airport Commission recommended month-to-month leases for all tenants and an LMSD leasing policy.
Legal Strategies vs. Airport Commission Recommendations
The last three City legal strategies have failed so we prefer to avoid them. Instead, we would prefer is to comply with our agreements, with what they really say, not how they can potentially be interpreted by the FAA. We would prefer to exert our rights as a proprietor in the “land use” arena as the courts clearly provide to the proprietor.[iv] And if that draws a challenge, then at least we are on solid legal ground, unlike the C and D aircraft ban, which clearly violated what our agreements said by “unjustly discriminating against a class of aircraft” ii and in the “safety arena of aviation rules” that the FAA has been given clear jurisdiction.[v]
In 2012, the Airport Commission recommended raising landing fees and charging them to all users. We were told by Staff that the City could not because the current fee schedule was part of a settlement agreement with the FAA. Well, that Staff Member is now gone, the landing fees have been raised by over $1 million per year, the fees are now charged to all users, pattern flying has significantly declined, and there was no Part 16 hearing or challenge by the aviation folks. This occurred because the Airport Commission’s recommendations comply with our agreements and are supported by case law.
We now have a simple contract expiration of the 1984 Agreement. The City is no longer required to lease space to aviation businesses at the airport or sell aviation fuel. The Airport Commission is 2 for 2. The last three legal strategies are 0 for 3. Please help us implement the next Airport Commission recommendation.
Request For Support for March 2015 Actions
I would like to personally request, on behalf of the residents, your support for the community strategy which is comprised of Airport Commission recommendations.
July 1, 2015:
a) maintain all tenants on month-to-month leases.
b) raise all rental rates to the market rates paid by non-aviation tenants subject to the City’s arts leasing policy.
c) provide a good faith notice to all tenants and airport users of a December 1, 2015 implementation of a LMSD leasing policy and the discontinuance of fuel sales.
d) negotiate direct leases with subtenants giving priority to the largest, i.e., Volkswagen and Milstien.
After December 1, 2015:
a) implement a LMSD leasing policy to eliminate uses that are incompatible with surrounding residential neighborhoods.
b) discontinue fuel sales.
c) subject to compliance with federal law, implement the environmental ordinance limiting aircraft pollution quantities.
I am happy to discuss any aspect of this strategy with you.
Thank you. Regards,
David Goddard, Chair, Santa Monica Airport Commission