The City of Santa Monica does not like that it has an airport in its midst. It does not appreciate that the facility is the home to a fleet of aircraft and its location makes it an excellent place for aircraft visiting the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area. The elected officials want to ignore that over the 66 or so years as a civil airport, SMO has become a critical national asset in the context of aviation’s access to this geographic area.
Driven by these perverse views, the City filed a lawsuit seeking to close the airport and use the land for other purposes. The theory for their litigation is creative at best and expensive at worst.
The US government/FAA has responded forcefully. Here are a few quotes from the national government’s letter to the City:
“This lawsuit, which involves a recorded real estate instrument signed by the plaintiff over 65 years ago, should be dismissed. To begin, that recordation, and subsequent conduct over half a century, belies any notion that the case was timely brought under the Quiet Title Act…That statute allows suits against the United States to resolve disputes about title to real property in which the United States claims any interest (with exceptions not relevant here) only if the plaintiff sues within twelve years of learning of the federal government’s interest. In 1948, plaintiff City of Santa Monica (City) signed a recorded instrument that documented the United States’ interest in the City’s airport (SMO or the Airport Property). Plaintiff’s knowledge in the 1940’s, and in the decades since, of the transaction giving rise to its claim here squarely triggered the QTA’s statute of limitations.
Consequently, this case is jurisdictionally deficient because it was brought too late. In addition, the case is unripe because the property continues to be used as an airport and, thus, the option that permits the United States to decide whether it takes title and right of possession of the Airport Property as well as other rights under the 1948 Instrument of Transfer has not occurred.”
Enough said. Pay your substantial legal fees and forget about closing SMO.
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