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Santa Monica City Council revises lease terms for airport tenants

Santa Monica City Council revises leasing policy for tenants of the city's embattled airport

In the wake of actor Harrison Ford's crash landing near Santa Monica Airport this month, the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday established new leasing policies for tenants of its embattled airport, but declined to discuss exhaust limits that were recommended for jet aircraft.

The council, which has been planning to scale back and eventually close the airport, unanimously approved limits on the length of leases for various parts of the facility.

The Museum of Flying, Atlantic Aviation and two non-aviation tenants, VW-Audi and the Milstein law firm, will be able to negotiate three-year leases at market rates.

Those establishments are located on property covered by federal agreements designed to preserve the airport indefinitely unless the U.S. government approves a different land use. City officials say lawsuits to contest those agreements could take years to resolve.

Tenants on the western portion of the airfield, such as Krueger Aviation, will be allowed to rent on a month-to-month basis also at market rates. The city contends it could gain control of that land soon, giving it the opportunity to eliminate aviation uses and shorten the runway so it could not be used by jets.

Council members decided that longer leases could be negotiated for cultural uses on land in the southwest portion of the airport that is not restricted to aviation uses.

They also wanted at least some of the non-aviation land to be turned into a park or other recreational facility within three years. Such a move could eliminate hundreds of tie-down spaces for planes.

The council, however, did not address a recent recommendation by the Santa Monica Airport Commission to ban jets that emit high levels of exhaust.

City Atty. Marsha Moutrie advised the council against such a restriction, saying the federal government is responsible for setting emission standards for jet aircraft.

Santa Monica attempted to ban jets with high landing speeds in the late 2000s, but the measure was opposed by the Federal Aviation Administration and eventually overturned in federal court.

Before Tuesday night's vote, the council heard comments from more than 100 members of the public, who expressed opinions both for and against the airport.

Opponents, some of them citing Ford's crash on March 5, demanded that the airport be closed as soon as possible and replaced with a park and recreational facilities. Many demanded that the current tenants be given month-to-month leases.

Joining the anti-airport contingent were former Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and his successor, Mike Bonin. Both have demanded the closure of the airport, which borders their district.

Supporters of the airport said many tenants, such as Barker Hangar and the Typhoon restaurant, deserve long-term leases because they contribute to the community and local economy.

Without long-term leases, they contended, tenants will have a hard time financing improvements or expansions of their businesses.

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