Comments Made To the Torrance Airport Commission

Comments before the Airport Commission Torrance, California
8 April 2004
Jim Gates
Redondo Beach, CA

Good evening. I am here tonight to urge the Commission to reject the proposed non-airport use of airport property for several reasons: Reason 1: The proposed project violates City agreements with the Federal Aviation Administration regarding use of the property. On March 5, 1948, the City of Torrance accepted the Torrance airport subject to the terms and conditions of the Surplus Property Act of 1944 and the transfer agreement. That agreement required, and the City agreed, that ?all of the property transferred . . . shall be used for public airport purposes, and only for such purposes.? These restrictions ?run with the land? and have no expiration. In two separate letters (in 1987 and 1990), the FAA has advised the City that it remains subject to this obligation.

Reason 2: The subterfuge of designating the first floor of the proposed parking structure for ?aviation use? and then leasing the ?air rights? on the upper floors to South Bay Mercedes for non-airport purposes is prohibited under the federal transfer agreements.
FAA Order 5190.6A, Airports Compliance Handbook, 10/1/1989, clearly defines application of the aviation-use restrictions to encompass ?all property comprising the land, airspace, improvements, and facilities? of the airport.

Reason 3: The City has not received FAA approval for this non-airport use of airport property.
FAA?s Guide to Airport Sponsor Obligations states:
?Airport property cannot be used, leased, sold, salvaged, or disposed of for other than airport purposes without FAA approval.?

FAA Order 5190.6A, Airports Compliance Handbook, 10/1/1989, requires:
?Any release, modification, reformation or amendment of an airport agreement must be based on a written request signed by a duly authorized official of the airport owner.?

Cognizant FAA officials in the Western Pacific Region Airports office report they have no written request for release of this property from these restrictions.

Reason 4: This project may expose the City to steep financial penalties. Ignoring these obligations can be costly, as the City of Pensacola, FL, recently discovered. The Pensacola Regional Airport was transferred to the City of Pensacola in 1947 under the same terms and conditions as apply to the Torrance Airport. On March 1, 2004, Pensacola agreed to pay $80,000 annually because it had built city tennis courts on airport property. The FAA also required the city to relocate recreational ball fields from airport property. Pensacola, like the City of Torrance, ignored their obligations for years.

Reason 5: This misuse of Airport property prevents building of badly-needed aircraft hangars.
I have been flying from this airport for over 30 years. During all of that time, there has been a waiting list for tie down spaces and for hangars. The hangar waiting list is currently over 80 people, some of whom have been on the list over four years. During my 30 years, the list has varied in length from 70 to over 300. I waited over 7 years and was only assigned a hangar when the City built several dozen new hangars. They were filled immediately and more are needed! Storage for cars can be built anywhere in the city?aircraft hangars and FBO offices can only be built at the airport.

Reason 6: The proposed use is not consistent with the Airport Master Plan. The Airport Master Plan reserves this area for airport hangars and FBO offices, which are sorely needed. The Master Plan was approved by the citizens of Torrance and should govern development at the airport.

In summary, the Commission should NOT approve this lease. It is not good for the airport. It is not good for the city?s taxpayers. It violates federal agreements and potentially exposes the City to steep financial penalties.

I request that this document be made a part of the official record on this topic and be included in the minutes of this meeting.

Thank you.

Jim Gates