In a recent letter, NBAA and other industry stakeholders urged city of Santa Monica, CA officials to withdraw their new template agreement for use of specific aircraft tie-downs at the embattled Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) because it does not comply with the city’s federal and California state legal obligations.
The city’s agreement purports to be a “license” to use tie-downs at SMO, while also granting the city the ability to evict tie-down users without cause, with just 24 hours’ notice. The Nov. 22 letter asserts this defies the city’s commitment to the FAA to provide aeronautical users with reasonable, unencumbered access to SMO.
“The terms of the tie-down agreement are in conflict with both federal grant assurance No. 22 and with California real property law,” the letter added. “Accordingly, as currently formulated, the agreement is unenforceable. We strongly urge the city to withdraw the template; consult with counsel and replace it with a legally compliant agreement.”
The template agreement represents the latest effort by city officials to stifle operations at the historic southern California airfield, towards their goal of closing the airport and redeveloping the land under it.
Although NBAA and other concerned stakeholders maintain their efforts to defend the airport, the city’s actions continue to threaten longstanding airport businesses, and forced one recent closure.
Brian Vidor opened pan-Asian fusion restaurant Typhoon at SMO in 1991. After his lease expired in 2015, Santa Monica officials initially offered Vidor a short-term agreement, despite his request for another 10-year lease.
“They finally said they’d give me the longer term, but at three times the rent I’m paying now,” he explained. “That’s completely unrealistic.”
The Spitfire Grill is another popular SMO hangout for pilots and the non-flying public. First opened in 1954 as the Lindaire Coffee Shop, the restaurant and its colorful employees were even the basis for a 1996 film of the same name.
Despite this storied past, Spitfire owner John Clarizio has also encountered difficulties in securing a new lease. “This area has always had this airport, and for more than 60 years there’s been a restaurant in this location,” he added. “I’ve owned this business for 25 years, during which time I’ve served as the caretaker for an important local business that counts the entire community as its customers.”
While Clarizio still hopes to work out an amiable lease agreement for his business, Typhoon closed its doors in early November. A post on the restaurant’s website noted the city created “business conditions so difficult that it has become impossible to carry on without incurring financial ruin.”
The restaurants are not the only SMO businesses impacted by the city’s actions. On Sept. 15, Santa Monica served 30-day notices of eviction to Atlantic Aviation, the field’s largest fixed-base operator (FBO) and its sole provider of Jet-A fuel, as well as American Flyers, a flight school and fuel provider that has operated at SMO for decades.
On Dec. 13, the FAA issued an immediate cease-and-desist order for the city to halt the evictions process as the agency continues its investigation into the legality of the city’s actions, allowing both businesses to continue normal operations.