SMO — The Federal Aviation Administration wants City Hall’s lawsuit over the Santa Monica Airport thrown out.
Attorneys for the FAA filed a 31-page response Friday afternoon listing several reasons why they believe the suit should be dismissed.
The lawsuit, filed by City Hall against the FAA in October, is meant to determine who controls the airport and its 227 acres.
Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods have long complained about the noise and pollution created by jets and propellor planes taking off and landing at the airport. Others are worried about safety as the airport, which opened in 1917 as an informal landing strip for World War I biplanes, lacks standard runway safety areas. Some homes are located roughly 300 feet from the ends of the runway.
One group of residents recently formed to lobby the City Council to create a park at SMO if City Hall wins control over the land.
City Hall officials could not be reached for comment regarding the motion by presstime.
Many of the key exchanges that dictate the lawsuit occurred in the middle of the 20th century.
FAA attorneys claim that the time to sue was more than 50 years ago. In 1948, they say, City Hall signed a document that acknowledged the U.S government’s interest in the airport. Under the Quiet Title Act, attorneys claim, plaintiffs must sue within 12 years of learning that the federal government is interested in the disputed land.
City Hall claims it first learned of the federal government’s interest in 2008, according to FAA’s attorneys, when the feds blocked the council’s attempt to ban certain types of jets that are generally larger and faster than most.
The motion puts forward numerous instances in which this is allegedly not the case.
In 1962, according to the motion, a city attorney acknowledged that under the 1948 agreement City Hall must continue to operate the airport. A similar exchange occurred in 1975, the motion claims.
On three separate occasions — in 1952, 1956, and, 1984 — City Hall petitioned for the transfer of land. In doing so City Hall demonstrates its awareness of the U.S. government’s interest, FAA attorneys claim.
Further, FAA attorneys say that City Hall should have filed in the Court of Federal Claims not the U.S. District Court. The Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction over constitutional claims regarding the seizure of property valued in excess of $10,000. City officials say the feds received $755,000 for airport land in 1926, which is now valued at approximately $10 million, according to the motion.
Additionally, attorneys claim City Hall should have gone through the FAA before filing a suit. In three cases, City Hall has asked for, and been granted, exemptions from the FAA.
“In this instance, (City Hall) should also follow the established process if it would like to be released from the conditions and restrictions that it agreed to comply with,” the motion said.
The FAA and City Hall have long been at odds over the supposed expiration of its obligations to maintain the airport. City Hall says the expiration occurs in July of 2015 but the FAA maintains that this is incorrect, claiming the actual date is August 2023. This is further maintained in the motion.
The FAA asks that the lawsuit be dismissed at the next scheduled hearing in Downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 10.