National aviation groups and Santa Monica Airport tenants, including actor Harrison Ford, filed a federal complaint Wednesday challenging the long-held position of city officials that the embattled airport can be shut down next July.
Santa Monica officials have insisted that the terms of federal airport improvement grants the city has received over the years allow them to close the general aviation hub next year because all conditions will have expired.
But in a complaint filed with the Federal Aviation Administration, the tenants point out that in August 2003, $240,600 was added to a $1.6-million grant, pushing back the closure date to at least August 2023. Grant terms usually expire after 20 years.
"It's pretty much self-evident," said Richard K. Simon, an attorney for the tenants. "This is a very important issue. The city is already studying actions that would violate the grant assurances."
Deputy City Atty. Ivan Campbell, who has handled airport matters, declined to comment Wednesday, saying he had not yet discussed the complaint with city officials.
In addition to Ford, the action was filed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., the National Business Aviation Assn., an aircraft brokerage, a flight school, a repair shop, an aerial film production company and several aircraft owners.
The complaint sets in motion an administrative process in which both sides present their positions and evidence to a high-ranking FAA official. The decision can be appealed in federal court.
Santa Monica went through a similar proceeding several years ago after it tried to ban certain types of jets at the airport. The FAA overturned the ban and the city lost on appeal.
In various court and FAA proceedings, the city has asserted that the funds received in 2003 were "just an accounting on a previous grant" and included no new grant requirements. Santa Monica also has disputed the findings of a hearing officer, who disagreed with its position.