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California

Santa Monica loses another round in effort to close its airport

Santa Monica Airport
A corporate jet taxis into position at Santa Monica Airport, which must stay open until 2023 under a new ruling.
(Los Angeles Times)

The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday rejected an appeal by Santa Monica to overturn a recent FAA decision that required the city’s embattled airport to remain open at least until 2023.

Eduardo A. Angeles, the FAA’s associate administrator for airports, upheld a decision made in December by Byron K. Huffman, acting director of the agency’s Office of Airport Compliance.

Citing federal regulations, Huffman concluded that a federal airport improvement grant of $240,600 accepted by Santa Monica in August 2003 required the facility to stay open until August 2023. Grant terms usually expire 20 years after their acceptance.

Huffman ruled in a complaint filed by airport tenants and national aviation groups interested in keeping the airport open, such as actor Harrison Ford, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. and the National Business Aviation Assn.

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Angeles stated that Huffman’s decision was supported “by a preponderance” of reliable evidence and consistent with federal law, court precedent and FAA policy.

In their effort to close the airport, Santa Monica officials repeatedly have contended that all grant requirements expired in June 2014, 20 years after an original grant of $1.6 million was received.

In effect, they said, the additional $240,600 was simply an amendment to the original grant and did not impose any new terms.

Having exhausted the FAA’s administrative review process, city officials must decide whether to challenge Huffman’s decision in federal court.

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Angeles’ decision is part of an ongoing battle by the city to shut down the historic airport, which once was home to Douglas Aircraft Co. and used by the U.S. government during World War II.

dan.weikel@latimes.com

Twitter: @ladeadline16

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