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"Even Santa Monica Airport Supporters Admit Big Challenges"



Monday, January 20, 2014

Even Airport Supporters Admit Big Challenges
The Santa Monica (CA) Observer


Airport Owners and Pilots Association leaders recently met with
leaseholders, pilots, and business owners at embattled Santa Monica
Municipal Airport to talk about the challenges facing the airport and new
opportunities to earn the support of the neighboring community.

During a Jan. 18 visit the to the airport, AOPA President Mark Baker had the
opportunity to tour the field, get an update on the issues from a user
perspective, and discuss the way forward with a variety of airport
stakeholders.

"The challenges this airport faces are significant, and it's critical that
the user community speak with one voice. We all share the same goal-keeping
this important and historic airport open and operating so it can continue to
be a valuable asset to the community," Baker said. 

During separate meetings on Jan. 17, AOPA Foundation President Bruce
Landsberg talked with airport activists about how to educate the nonflying
community about the value of the airport and its role in the regional and
national transportation system. A study conducted in 2011 showed that the
airport was home to 177 businesses, hosted 894 jobs, and produced $275
million in annual economic impact.

"There's new energy around inviting the broader community to experience the
airport and all it has to offer," said Landsberg. "When people recognize all
the things a local airport can do for them and their neighbors, they begin
to take pride in it."

Santa Monica has been embroiled in conflict over the airport's future for
more than two decades, and AOPA has invested thousands of man-hours in
addressing a wide range of concerns ranging from noise to safety to
pollution. The association also has supported the airport in various legal
actions and hired independent consultants to look into public opinion about
the airport.

The airport is currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by the city of
Santa Monica over use of airport property. In the lawsuit, filed Oct. 31,
2013, the Santa Monica City Council asked the court to give the city clear
title to airport property and challenged the current effectiveness and
constitutionality of agreements that require the city to operate the airport
in the future.

But the FAA argued that the city is disputing the terms of the land
agreement decades too late, and the agency asked the court to dismiss the
lawsuit. According to the FAA, the city had 12 years under the Quiet Title
Act to bring suit against the federal government once the city learned of
the government's interest in the property. But the city signed the property
over to the federal government in 1948, more than 65 years ago and has
repeatedly acknowledged the government's interest in the land over the
intervening years.

It is now up to a federal judge to decide whether to dismiss the city's case
or allow it to proceed.

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