The above Southern California aeronautical chart shows the complexity of the airspace and the number of airports in and around the country’s 3rd most busy airport, LAX. What it does not show is the degree to which the airways are crowded and the long waiting lists for hangar space at the region’s general aviation airports. That depiction would convey that the loss of one airport, like Santa Monica, will reverberate through the area. Closing SMO would directly affect Los Angeles International Airport, Long Beach Airport , John Wayne Airport and beyond.
Airports are an unusual form of transportation infrastructure. While they are located in one community, their economic and operational benefits extend well beyond the immediate neighborhoods. Both the terms of Surplus Military Airport and the FAA grants are designed to reinforce this duality by requiring the community which accepts the land and/or federal grants to EXPLICITLY ACKNOWLEDGE that the civic entity agrees to keep the airport open.
The AIP document imposes a number of federal requirements, to which the city/region/state/authority must adhere, and many mandate things with which elected officials may/may not agree. Those assurances include a requirement that the airport remain open for such use for the duration of the grant. The Military Surplus Airport deed of transfer requires that SMO remain open in perpetuity.
Some of the residents of Santa Monica hate this facility and for decades their elected leaders have attempted to restrict or close operations there. Those efforts have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in several law suits. This current litigation is most likely to cost the taxpayers a lot more money.
One of the options available to the United States is to compel reversion of the property. The city’s overt antagonism to meeting its aviation obligations will not be difficult to prove. This is not a matter of local government being compelled to do something which it does not want to do. The taking of the property and the acceptance of AIP grant funds created an obligation of Santa Monica to regional and federal interests. That wider sphere of aviation impact is not something from which the Santa Monica politicians can walk away.Share this article: