After almost seven months of review, new rules for aeronautical businesses are scheduled to land at the Santa Monica Airport Commission on Monday night.
The July 23 meeting will be the second time the commission has heard the Minimum Standard proposals following outcry from both airport critics and supporters that the original hearing in June did not provide enough time for public comment.
The new standards include insurance rules, security requirements, application procedures, general operator requirements and specialized rules for individual types of businesses. Commercial service providers such as fixed base operators (FBO), aircraft charter/air taxis, flight training schools, aircraft maintenance and repair stations, self-service fuel pumps, aircraft management services, air transportation arrangers, aircraft sales operators and other aeronautical services would be covered under the rules. The guidelines are an addendum to existing leasing rules and are part of a larger revision to the way leases are handled at the airport.
The process began in in January of this year with notices sent to stakeholders. The City conducted seven meetings in February and asked for all comments to be received by March 9 in advance of a June hearing.
At that hearing, several public speakers and written comments asked for additional time to review the rules. Airport supporters said the rules discriminate against businesses catering to pilots and violated requirements for maintaining operations at the airport. Critics argued the Airport Director was given too much leeway to waive some requirements and were concerned the rules didn’t do enough to enforce airport safety.
After the final round of public input, much of the document remains intact from prior versions. However, revisions have been made that clarify how the Minimum Standards will apply to tenants and addresses the specific relationship between the minimum standards, the consent decree and existing city code.
The Minimum Standards do not overrule any of the existing documents and are now explicitly subordinate to other regulatory documents such as the Consent Decree, City Charter, Municipal Code or Airport Leasing Policy.
The Consent Decree allows City Hall to close the airport in 2028, shorten the runway and resolved several ongoing legal disputes between the city and the FAA. Under the decree, the City is required to offer aeronautical businesses three-year lease terms and adhere to FAA standards that make the airport available to pilots on reasonable terms. Staff said the new Minimum Standards are in compliance with those rules.
“The Minimum Standards, if adopted, would establish entry benchmarks that the City would use to determine whether and under what conditions an aeronautical service provider could conduct a commercial operation at the Santa Monica Airport,” said Airport Director Stelios Makrides in an email earlier this week. “The Minimum Standards would, as an addendum to the City’s Leasing Policy, build on the existing commercial operations permit and leasing processes to:
provide concise and reasonable threshold entry requirements for persons or entities wishing to provide commercial aeronautical services to the public at the Airport;
prevent irresponsible, unsafe or inadequate services; and,
prevent unfair competition.”
The most recent revisions maintain the Airport Director’s ability to waive the requirements but specifically state waivers also require the approval of the city manager and could require approval by both the Airport Commission and City Council. Some requirements, such as insurance, airport security and non-discrimination clauses cannot be waived.
Interested parties can comment on the rules one last time at the Airport Commission meeting on Monday, July 23 at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 1685 Main St. The agenda and a full report are available online at https://www.smgov.net/departments/airport/commission.