Torrance Mayor and City Council Urged to Follow Letter of Law

“Every year, the City of Torrance, without FAA permission, appropriates out of the Airport Fund millions of dollars for non-airport purposes?an estimated total of at least $60 million to date. ” 3/18/2004
Hon Mayor & Members of the City Council
John W. Fellows III, City Attorney
City of Torrance
3031 Torrance Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90503

I am writing in a good faith effort to urge the Mayor and Torrance City Council to abide by its contractual agreements with the FAA and to prevent further breeching of those agreements.

Airport sponsors who received airports under the Surplus Property Act are obligated by their agreements to comply with a number of restrictions. Unlike obligations under the Airport Improvement Program and some restrictions under the Surplus Property Act, there are obligations, which ?run with the land? and have no expiration. The first obligation concerns the use of that surplus property.

?Property conveyed under the Surplus Property Act must be used to support the development, maintenance and operation of the airport. If not needed to directly support an aviation use, such property must be available for use to produce income for the airport. Such property may not be leased or rented at a discount or for nominal consideration to subsidize non-airport objectives. Airport property cannot be used, leased, sold, salvaged, or disposed of for other than airport purposes without FAA approval.? (Source: FAA?s ?Guide to Airport Sponsor Obligations?).

In two separate letters, the FAA has officially advised the City that it remains subject to this obligation.

Over the last 30 years, there has been a waiting list for airport tie down spaces and/or hangars. The list has varied in length from 70 to over 300 individuals/companies. The current hangar waiting list, dated 3/11/2004, numbers 84 people who have been waiting as long as 13 years for a hangar.

We believe that the City of Torrance has breeched its agreement with the Federal Government by leasing 5 acres of airport property to South Bay Autohaus for auto parking. We also believe that the plan to build a four story parking garage on another parcel of airport property for use by Power Ford represents yet another breech. This inappropriate use of airport property prevents the building of new hangars, which according to the Airport Master Plan is the intended use for this land. These parcels are the only remaining undeveloped areas of the airport on which hangars could be built. These properties are sorely needed for aviation hangar construction and the FAA has not approved the planned inappropriate use.

All of those on the waiting list (including twenty members of this Association) have been directly, substantially and adversely affected by the City?s noncompliance with the above obligation.

The second obligation concerns the utilization of airport revenue.

The city is obligated ?[t]o apply revenue derived from the use of airport property toward the operation, maintenance, and development of the airport. Diversion of airport revenue to a non airport purpose must be approved by the FAA.? (Source: FAA?s ?Guide to Airport Sponsor Obligations?).

Every year, the City of Torrance, without FAA permission, appropriates out of the Airport Fund millions of dollars for non-airport purposes?an estimated total of at least $60 million to date. As a result, Torrance Airport does not have nighttime security; does not have an airport manager, the hangar facilities we do have are deteriorated and remain in poor condition; the runways and taxiways are decomposing and have been given only a ?fair? rating by Caltrans (which for the past two years has recommended that they be resurfaced to prevent collapse) and the City claims it cannot afford to build new hangars to satisfy the clear demand that exists.

Perhaps the most shocking evidence of the resulting adverse effects of the City?s policy on the safety of all users of Torrance Airport was the recent mid-air collision of two helicopters and the aftermath of this event. The continuing diversion of airport funds and draconian City policy has resulted in a reduced fire fighting capability of the airport?s First Response truck to practically zero. Once, it had excellent foam application capability and airport personnel were well trained to use the equipment. Now the truck only has six hand-held fire extinguishers and personnel receive only rudimentary training. This has placed the safety of all who use Torrance Airport at greater risk.

All airport users, including those of us who pay fees and rentals to the City, have been directly, substantially and adversely affected by the City?s noncompliance with this obligation.

In an effort to mitigate these violations and their adverse effects on airport users, I urge appropriate officials of the City of Torrance to meet with our representatives and the FAA Regional Airports Division Manager as soon as possible to agree on a course of action that will bring the City into compliance with its agreements.

We look forward to your rapid response to set a date for this meeting. Please call me.

Sincerely,

Barry Jay, President
Torrance Airport Association

cc:
Marion C. Blakey, FAA Administrator
Woodie Woodward, FAA Assoc Administrator for Airports
Mark McClardy, FAA WP Region Airports Manager
Phil Boyer, President AOPA
California Pilots Association

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