SpaceX’s plan to build components for its Starship and Super Heavy boosters at the Port of Los Angeles is dead — again.
Elon Musk’s company gave notice to the port on March 27 that it was backing out of a lease to locate a research, development, manufacturing and recovery facility at a dilapidated structure on Terminal Island.
SpaceX gave notice just over a month after harbor commissioners approved a 10-year lease with two 10-year extensions on Feb. 21. The agreement was later approved by the Los Angeles City Council.
The lease would have allowed SpaceX to off set lease payments by making improvements to the 12.4-acre property. The site is not far from SpaceX’s headquarters and main manufacturing facility in Hawthorne.
It’s the second time SpaceX has left the Port Los Angeles at the altar. The company had a permit in 2018, but terminated the agreement. SpaceX approached officials about a new lease early this year.
SpaceX is testing Starship prototypes at its Boca Chica facility, which is located in south Texas near the Mexican border. It is possible the production facility slated for Los Angeles will be built somewhere in Texas.
The letter, signed by SpaceX CFO Bret Johnson, gave no reason for ending the lease. However, the letter’s date — March 27 — indicates the decision might be related to Musk’s anger at California officials over the state’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Johnson sent the letter four days after Musk’s Tesla Motors shut down most operations at its facility in Fremont, Calif., in response to an Alameda County Health Department order to limit the spread of the virus.
The shutdown came a week after the county had ordered Tesla and other non-essential businesses to shut down. Musk disputed that Tesla was a non-essential business.
SpaceX operations in Hawthorne were not impacted because the company was deemed essential.
Musk lashed out at Alameda County and California state officials, calling their shutdown and stay at home orders “fascist” and accusing them of forcibly imprisoning people in their residences in violation of their Constitutional rights.
In May, Musk reopened the Tesla plant in defiance of a Alameda County order to stay closed until health officials reviewed and approved Tesla’s plan for preventing the spread of COVID-19 among its workforce.
County officials said an approved plan was part of the guidance included in a state order allowing manufacturing facilities to reopen. Musk ignored them, reopened the facility and filed a lawsuit against the county that was later dropped.
Musk vowed to move Tesla headquarters out of California and to not expand the company’s activities in the Golden State. He subsequently had talks with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner about relocation options.