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CITY HALL — Airport Commission members have expressed a desire for stricter airport leasing policies have been recommended by City Hall.
Last month, City Council decided not to vote on leases at the airport and instead sent the recommendations back to the Airport Commission, which voted 4 to 1 to start its review process with input from the current tenants.
Santa Monica Airport tenants will be invited to attend the next commission meeting, scheduled for Sept. 22.
Next year, a key airport agreement is set to expire, giving City Hall more control of the leasing process. Many aviation and arts tenants in buildings on SMO land are currently paying below market rate for their spaces. All leases have expired or are set to expire along with the agreement.
City officials recommended that, among other things, council raise the rents to market rate and that they allow three-year extensions of all the leases.
Many residents urged council to consult the Airport Commission before moving forward, claiming that the proposed guidelines don’t go far enough to restrict aviation uses at SMO.
Last week, the Airport Commission discussed some alternative leasing guidelines but did not make a final decision. Some commissioners suggested amending the recommendations so that leases are offered on month-to-month or six-month terms.
Current tenants, particularly those in the arts community, have asked for longer leases, which would allow them to more actively plan for their futures.
Other commissioners, like Chair David Goddard — an outspoken opponent of the airport — suggested the council could legally rezone the land, only allowing tenants that conform to certain guidelines. Under this proposed zoning, many of the aviation tenants would not be allowed leases, making the airport less attractive to pilots in general.
City attorneys say this would invite a lawsuit from aviation interests. Goddard maintains that there are legal precedents for the rezoning.
At one point Goddard accused city officials of deliberately delaying information requests he’d made, an accusation that several officials and a fellow commissioner vehemently denied.
The commission agreed that they’d need to hear from the current tenants before making a decision.
“I’m suggesting that we hold a workshop,” Goddard said, “or maybe two workshops, and invite the artist tenants and then the business and aviation tenants, arguably in separate workshops, and solicit information from them and find out their concerns so we can recommend a strategy that will address their concerns.”
Commissioner Lael Rubin said this could take an unnecessarily long amount of time and instead proposed they send tenants a questionnaire.
“I think it’s really fairly predictable what the answer is going to be and I would hate for us to be wasting our time,” she said.
Ultimately, only Rubin voted against the notion of a workshop.
Commission Peter Donald suggested that, given the tense divide between the aviation community and airport opponents, police coverage might be necessary at the workshop, a notion that Goddard rejected.

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