BY MATTHEW HALL
Santa Monica pursuing legal action to force a pair of airport businesses to vacate airport property.
The action follows some legal maneuvering by the businesses, the FAA and the City related to the ongoing fight over control of the airport property.
City Hall has outlined a series of actions designed to maximize local control of the airport including a municipal takeover of some airport services that are currently provided by private companies like Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers.
Following a recent change to the city’s leasing policy that put airport business on a month to month basis, the City has the ability to shut down the Fixed Base Operators to make way for its own services and the companies were sent notices to vacate in September.
The Federal Aviation Administration then opened another complaint into the City’s handling of the airport, (known as a Part 16 hearing) based on city’s intent to close the airport on or before July 1, 2018, the adoption of the new leasing guidelines and the city’s goal of phasing out leaded fuel sales as part of a takeover of aviation services.
The FAA initially said it would expedite its case but the hearings have been delayed.
Last week, Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers filed lawsuits in Superior Court in Los Angeles and requested a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the City from filing Unlawful Detainer actions. That motion was denied and City Hall filed its motions on Friday.
“This morning, the City of Santa Monica filed Unlawful Detainer (UDs) actions in Superior Court in Santa Monica to force Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers to vacate Santa Monica Airport, where both are operating under leases that have expired,” said the City’s press release. “Having served both businesses with 30-day notices to vacate which have been ignored, the next step is to sue for possession of the City-owned property and facilities via the UD action.”
“Again, private aviation interests tried to thwart the public interest by seeking to preclude the City from having its day in court. Although the leases they signed explicitly acknowledge they had an obligation to vacate City-owned facilities last year, they sought to remain indefinitely to continue to reap profit from selling fuel from City-owned tanks and earn a mark-up from subleasing City-owned buildings. Judge Chalfant’s ruling allows the City to move forward with evictions. Finally, the people of Santa Monica will have our day in court,” said Mayor Tony Vazquez in the statement.
The judge’s ruling sets a hearing for Dec. 1 and prohibits the city from seeking an expedited trial until that date.
Officials said the City will continue to pursue its plans for eventual closure of the airport.
“The Santa Monica City Council is confident that, in the end, the City’s rights to local control will be upheld in State court and ultimately respected by the Federal courts,” said the press release. “In the meantime, the Council has directed staff to proceed in an orderly fashion to assert our right to take over all legally-required Field-Based Operations at Santa Monica Airport and to establish a City-run fixed-base operation (FBO) that operates in the public interest and not for private profit. A trial date for the eviction lawsuit will be calendared by the division of the Superior Court that handles these unlawful detainer proceedings.”