March 24, 2015 –If you are planning to attend the Santa Monica City Council meeting this week on Tuesday, you should arrive early if you want to get a seat.
Both sides of the Santa Monica airport debate are rallying activists to attend the meeting, and a large crowd is expected.
The council will not be taking a formal vote on anyting involving the airport, which is located on 227 acres of City-owned property. But the municipal staff is asking for direction on a range of issues involving the future of the controversial facility.
The Santa Monica Airport Association (SMAA) posted an alert on its Facebook page, and noted in all capital letters that “this is not a drill.”
“If you care about Santa Monica Airport, speak up Tuesday evening,” the post states.
The post is followed by several comments from apparent airport supporters who say they will attend and encourage others to do the same.
One person wrote, “Time to wind up the local pilots and get them fighting!”
On the other end of the debate, the group No Jets Santa Monica Airport posted a message on its Facebook page titled “Rally at City Hall.”
The group focused on the staff recommendation that the leases for some of the tenants, including two involved in aviation, be renewed for three years.
“Support month-to-month market-rate leases at Santa Monica Airport after July 1, 2015,” the group wrote.
The July 1 date is important because this is the day after the expiration of the 1984 agreement between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that guarantees aviation use at the property.
There is strong disagreement whether the expiration of the agreement actually means the FAA can no longer operate the airport. Lawsuits to settle various issues are pending in the federal court system.
“We waited decades for July 1, 2015,” No Jets Santa Monica Airport wrote. “Don’t let 2018 be the new 2015. Tell [the] City Council ‘no three-year leases to aviation tenants.'”
City Attorney Marsha Moutrie wrote in a lengthy report to the council that the proposal for three-year leases “reflects the reality that it will almost certainly take that long to resolve the legal issues” involving the airport.
She added, “The revenue from airport leases must be maintained in the meanwhile to maintain the airport’s financial self-sufficiency.”
Attorney Jonathan Stein, an outspoken Santa Monica Airport opponent, took great exception with Moutrie’s thinking. He wrote about his views in two mass emails sent out to various political leaders, activists and media.
The views were also shared on the website for the group Sunset Park Anti Airport Inc., of which Stein is the treasurer.
He called Moutrie’s report “rambling, biased and confusing.”
Stein wrote that offering three-year leases to two of the aviation tenants but not to others was “the only policy sure to start a successful lawsuit against the City.”
He further wrote that all tenants should be placed on month-to-month leases, and this would do nothing to harm revenue coming into the City for as long as the airport remained open.
“Few if any tenants will leave,” Stein wrote. “The Airport is the only cheap commercial rent in our highly desirable city.”