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News, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Airport

Harrison Ford Joins Fight To Keep SMO Open Until 2023

Posted Jul. 3, 2014, 8:08 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

The saga that is the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) will have to end someday. However, that someday is not anytime soon, as yet a group of aviation interests and actor Harrison Ford filed a federal complaint July 2 to challenge the City of Santa Monica’s plans to shut down the airport by July 1, 2015 – now less than one year away.

The Santa Monica City Council has consistently been on the record as interpreting its federally mandated obligations to maintain SMO through June 30, 2015. Based upon such an interpretation, the council had gradually arrived to a decision to initiate plans for a closure of SMO.

However, the complaint filed this week with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) claims the City’s federal obligations actually do not end July 1, 2015 but instead more than eight years later.

“The City has repeatedly asserted … its Grant Assurance obligations end in June 2014 [and] these obligations are extended, by separate contracts with the FAA, only until July 1, 2015,” Richard K. Simon, the attorney representing the at least 10 parties attached to the complaint as plaintiffs, stated, adding Santa Monica believes it has the power to either operate or close SMO entirely at its discretion as of next summer.

Simon added the FAA made it clear Santa Monica’s obligations to operate SMO is extended at least through August 2023.

Specifically, the complaint states Santa Monica received $240,600 in August 2003 as part of a larger $1.6 million grant given to the City in 1994 to pay for repairs and upgrades at SMO. The 2003 grant would expire in 2023, according to the complaint.

City officials have long contended the money received in 2003 was part of an accounting transaction as part of the 1994 grant and not a new grant. Therefore, the 20-year clock started when the initial grant was made in 1994, not when the accounting transaction was made in 2003.

The complaint seeks urgency, as the parties initiating the proceedings stated both them and the other SMO tenants cannot wait until July 2015 for a resolution. According to the complaint, if City Hall carries through with its plans to “disregard” its federally mandated obligations and “effectively gut airport operation,” the complaint states, the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm.

“The Complainants’ businesses and operations already have been, currently are, and will continue to be adversely affected by the City’s repeated public announcements of its intention to close or restrict the Airport and its operations after July 1, 2015, which effectively discourages investment in and commitment to the Airport by current and prospective tenants and users,” Simon stated in the complaint addressed to the FAA’s office of chief counsel.

According to the complaint, the parties bringing the action include Ford, Aero Film, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assoc. (AOPA), James Ross, Justice Aviation, Kim Davidson Aviation, Krueger Aviation, National Business Aircraft Assoc., Paramount Citrus, and Youri Bujko.

According to the complaint, Ford has been an Airport tenant for 10 years, basing both of his fixed‐wing (piston and jet) and rotor aircraft in his north‐side hangar.

Ford has testified before Congress as an advocate for general aviation and regularly flies missions in support of humanitarian causes, according to the complaint.

The complaint is the latest chapter in a bitter back-and-forth between various segments of the Santa Monica community concerning the future of SMO.

In June alone, both City Hall and pro-airport residents were moving forward with plans to place competing initiatives on the November ballot.

On June 10, a group of Santa Monica residents backed by AOPA filed more than 15,000 signatures with the Los Angeles County Registrar in hopes of amending the City Charter to require voter approval any future development at SMO.

Exactly two weeks later, in an attempt to give council members enough power to achieve partial closure of SMO and ensure development on the property is limited, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved a direction to find some sort of middle ground with a ballot measure that could compete with the AOPA initiative.

In March, the City Council unanimously adopted a plan to look into how SMO could either be shut down or have its operations significantly cut by July 1, 2015.

Many local groups are closely monitoring how Santa Monica and the FAA will sort out the future of SMO. One group,, hopes the City will shut down the airport and convert it into a park. Some neighborhood groups state the airport poses health and safety risks.

On the other side, airport activists stress the significance of having a functional airport in an urbanized region prone to earthquakes. Others point to the airport’s economic benefit to surrounding area. In some corners, there is an argument being made to keep the airport open in order to prevent the land from being developed with large mixed-use projects.

With this week’s filing, both sides will present evidence to the FAA as to whether SMO should remain operational through July 2015 or August 2023. Once a decision is reached, the “losing” party has a chance to appeal in federal court.

Post a comment


Jul. 3, 2014, 9:12:09 am

phil hendricks said...

Arrogant Harrison and company, all members of the1% or less, need some lessons in humility.

Jul. 3, 2014, 9:18:12 am

Jerry Rubin said...

I wonder if Harrison Ford ever got a whiff of the toxic SMO jet fumes that constantly bombard so many residents. I know he is a good actor, but can't he at least act as though he cares about these ongoing health, environmental, noise and safety concerns. It's time to close SMO! Mr. Ford and other elite jet setters might just have to travel to Santa Monica by limousine from another more appropriately located nearby airport.

Jul. 3, 2014, 9:28:55 am

John B said...


Jul. 3, 2014, 9:37:45 am

Candy said...

I totally support SMO. I am not a pilot or in the 1%. I live in the City and I have also been affected by noise at some point, but nothing will compare to the noise and pollution of the bigger commercial jets that will fly overhead when LAX has more airspace to use. Think people.

Jul. 3, 2014, 11:20:55 am

VP said...

I see all those usual NIMBYs here. How's the real estate speculation business? You've awoken the dragon now...

Jul. 3, 2014, 11:32:53 am

Rerry Jubin said...

To rich Jerry Rubin, a more appropriate place for an airport is anywhere but wealthy Santa Monica. Jerry Rubin owns property, dabbles in politics... he and the Rubin family are wealthy. Who's really the elitists?

Jul. 3, 2014, 2:58:59 pm

Martin Rubin said...

C.R.A.A.P. member Cary on Harrison Ford: The hypocrisy of Harrison Ford is almost unimaginable. I had contacted Conservation International about him and then told them I would no longer contribute to their organization because of his willingness to speak out both sides of his mouth. Check this out (Conservation International) website: [] Our health relies entirely on the vitality of our fellow species on Earth. When we protect the places where the processes of life can flourish, we strengthen not only the future of medicine, agriculture and industry, but also the essential condition for peace and prosperity.’ – Harrison Ford So the residents and other living things (including our dogs and cats) of Santa Monica and LA that live by the SM airport are not even considered "fellow species"? How does someone dare say things like the above and then selfishly fight to keep an environmentally toxic airport open? Maybe it's better if a journalist could ask him that and see his response in print, or TV/Radio or on-line.

Jul. 3, 2014, 3:01:15 pm

xboomer said...

Thank you Mr. Ford for your support.

Jul. 3, 2014, 3:11:33 pm

Pilot Rick said...

"The saga that is the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) will have to end someday." This is absolutely not true. The city has agreed to operate the airport in perpetuity. That means forever. Therefore the "saga" will never end, unless NIMBYS like Jerry Rubin move away or die.

Jul. 3, 2014, 12:52:25 pm

Yep! said...

Harrison Ford owns six aircraft plus a helicopter "I only fly one of them at a time" just like the rest of us 99%.

Jul. 3, 2014, 3:49:14 pm

Donald said...

Only about 300 privileged people take off from SMO daily yet produce 50,000,000 pounds of CO2 annually and is subsidized by YOUR tax dollars. Compare that with the 70,000 Big Blue Bus daily users that run on clean natural gas and is NOT subsidized by the city.

Jul. 3, 2014, 6:56:56 pm

The Rubes said...

The anti-airport crowd like the Rubins ARE the 1%. They own expensive real estate and throw their weight around in local politics in one of the wealthiest communities in the US.

Jul. 4, 2014, 10:15:10 am

John said...

I used to work with him, and I can tell you he's stoned every waking moment of the day. I don't have much of an opinion on this airport issue, other than to say nothing scares me more than that man flying machinery over our heads.

Jul. 3, 2014, 1:53:53 pm

Christian Fry said...

Pilots are totally misrepresented as elite millionaires! The fact is the majority of operations and planes based at SMO are small propeller aircraft. These planes are just as expensive to buy and operate as the boat or RV you may enjoy. Like boats and RV's, you can spend as little as $20K to over $1 million. Most of the aircraft based at SMO are NOT multi-million dollar jets and their owners are NOT millionaires. Let's focus this debate on the real issues. According to a study funded by the Santa Monica City Council, SMO generates $275 million in economic benefit. SMO's controlled class airspace forces jumbo-jet traffic to stay high over our fair city. And most importantly, the FAA, through FAR Part 77, restricts building heights in a 3.8 mile radius around the airport. Close the 100 year old Santa Monica airport and the law of unintended consequences goes into effect. We loose a huge economic engine on the Westside, the FAA can reconfigure the LAX airspace lowering arrival altitudes to save airlines time and money, and developers can now turn the Westside into Miami's west coast cousin by building high rise buildings where they are currently not allowed. Let's put our efforts towards making SMO the greenest, quietest, and safest airport in the world. Let's get the Santa Monica City Council to stop wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to shut down one LA's most valuable transportation assets. Let's keep this 100 year old gem serving and protecting the Westside for generations to come.

Jul. 5, 2014, 7:45:00 pm

jerry spencer said...

The Airport has been there since before almost everyone trying to shut it down moved in. If you didn't want to live near an airport, there is, and always has been a simple choice. DON'T LIVE NEAR AN AIRPORT. The airport is a necessary lifeline to everywhere from here. Just because you don't have a plane doesn't give you the moral right to demand the Airport close. I don't have a plane and never will but I recognize selfishness when I see it. The people fighting to close the Airport are just that. Selfish. They knew it was there and now they're whining and trying to deprive our area of this necessary business despite all the accommodations the Airport has made for them. Like my mom and dad taught me, 'kwitcher bellyaching.' You CHOSE to live here; no one forced you. You don't like it? Move.

Jul. 7, 2014, 6:56:20 pm

Randl Fleck said...

The fact that SMO was has been here for FAR too long, doesn't give it ANY right to continue to pollute and do harm to the 178,000 people in the zip codes directly next to the airport. The problem isn't the residents, the problem is the few greedy selfish flyers (only about 300 take off every day) that feel they have the moral authority to pollute and DEMAND that the city to continue $ubsidizing their own highflying lifestyle - at the expense of the majority of the residents. Time for it to go…

Sep. 2, 2014, 2:28:24 pm

Nicole Simpson said...

it would be a huge shame to lose the Santa Monica Airport. They hold a lot of great events there. It's an important part of Los Angeles history. Everyone knows that land is worth billions of dollars in business tax revenue. The residents should support the airport because when big business comes to their back yard they are going to hate their property values and their neighborhood

Sep. 10, 2014, 4:31:26 am

elita said...

Hi,your article was nice and interesting.Keep posting some more article.

Oct. 28, 2014, 8:31:10 pm

Jack Davis said...

While you guys don't want to give up your polluting SUV's and fast cars that, by volume alone, pollute more than a jet that flies high and fast, into the ocean winds that blow much of the residue inshore and break up the particulates quickly .... much faster since it has altitude, verses all the cars that already sit on the ground, your bad science is really not the real reason for banning jets. The SMO is a national and local security haven that has brought tremendous amount of business to our city. So lets look at things as they really are ... and not the bad science you claim to hold on to .... moreso for politically-correct purposes. This fear mongering is getting to be ridiculous.

Mar. 7, 2015, 8:21:26 am

Steve M said...

I've never been to SMO, but looking at aerial maps I am surprised how close the surrounding structures are to the field. I'm sure there was nothing but open land when the runway was built in the early part of last century. How dumb do you have to be to build or buy within spitting distance of an airport? It shouldn't be a surprise when you can hear planes fly over.

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