Santa Monica’s ongoing conflicts with regulators over the Santa Monica Airport hit yet another speed bump last week when the Federal Aviation Administration issued an unexplained delay to one of the ongoing cases.
The issue centers on an administrative proceeding triggered by national aviation associations and individuals claiming the disputed end date of an agreement between the City and the FAA expires in 2023, years later that City Hall had asserted.
Regulators had promised a decision on the issue and City staff was expecting a formal response by the end of last week. Instead, they received a brief paragraph.
“This matter is before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) based on the above referenced complaint, filed in accordance with the FAA Rules of Practice for Federally-Assisted Airport Enforcement Proceedings, 14 CFR, part 16,” said the letter “Pursuant to 14 CFR part 16, subpart B, the date by which the Director’s Determination will be issued in this matter is hereby extended to September 21, 2015. An extension of time is necessary and appropriate for a fair and complete determination in this case.”
The letter is signed by Randall S. Fiertz, Director of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis.
A ruling on the hearing would have clarified the City’s ability to control land on the Western Parcel of the airport.
Local officials have repeatedly requested information from the Federal government. City leaders went to Washington, D.C. in July to plead their case in person and Congressman Ted Lieu has issued statements specifically critical of the FAA’s slow decision-making process.
“This unexplained further delay has no apparent excuse, and just underscores the difficulty we have had in getting the FAA to work with us in good faith to determine when Santa Monica can take back legitimate control of land we unarguably own,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown in a statement. “The City Council is fully aware of and totally honors the direction given us by voters last year with Measure LC. We will seek legal advice and, when the Council as a whole can meet on this matter, determine if and how this changes our committed course of action toward control and potential closure. The bald-facedly unexcused FAA inaction is extremely disappointing.”
The City has several other legal issues pending. Santa Monica is awaiting the results of an appeal before the Ninth Circuit court. The City filed the suit against the FAA in 2013, lost the first round and then appealed. There is an ongoing lawsuit over the legality of charging aircrafts for entering SMO’s airspace when those planes do not land.
The City has been named in a lawsuit related to a 2013 crash at SMO. The family of passenger killed when a plane went off the runway and into a hanger also sued the pilot. The City has also filed a suit over the crash seeking repayment for property damage and associated expenses.
The City recently prevailed in a lawsuit filed by anti-aviation activists over the defeated Measure D that was part of the 2014 election. Measure D was soundly defeated at the polls, but two lawsuits were filed against the City and the backers of Measure D arguing that the proposal should have never made it to the ballot. Both lawsuits were dismissed and a judge ordered the filers to pay the aviation interest’s attorney’s fees.