Last week, a U.S District Court of Appeals rejected a pro-Santa Monica Airport organization’s attempt to immediately halt a consent decree to close SMO by 2028, which would dramatically curb jet traffic in the interim by shortening the runway.
But the losers in May 4 appeals court ruling are far from discouraged (“Circuit Court Denies Injunction to Halt Implementation of Santa Monica Airport Closure Deal,” May 5, 2017).
The reason: The court also decided the consent decree was worthy of a more in-depth review, and so sent the litigation by the National Business Airport Association (NBAA) to a separate “merits panel” of judges.
Bringing in a merits panel “makes clear that the court holds steadfast on the need for a thorough and fair hearing about this unprecedented situation,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen.
The consent decree between the City of Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) caps decades of battling between the two over SMO’s future (“City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028,” January 28, 2017).
The City, besieged by complaints from SMO neighbors, said the airport should have already been shuttered.
The FAA, which manages the nation’s airport operations, said no. The decree closes the airport by December 31, 2028 — much later than the anti-SMO camp wanted — but also includes measures to drastically curtail air traffic there in the interim.
It ends the lawsuits that long entangled both parties.
But the January 28 agreement — narrowly approved by the City Council on a Saturday behind closed doors — has spurred more animosity.
NBAA’s first filing was submitted February 13 (“Aviation Groups Challenge Santa Monica Airport Closure Deal,” February 15, 2017).
It asked the appeals court to review the underlying legality of the agreement, arguing the FAA “failed to follow established procedures when issuing the settlement order, including consideration of its detrimental effects to operators and businesses at the airport, and to the National Airspace System,” Bolen said.
The FAA subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the petition.
On March 6, the NBAA filed for a court stay against the FAA, and an injunction against the City of Santa Monica to restrict any interim efforts to shorten SMO’s runway pending court review of the consent decree’s legality (“National Aviation Group Asks Court to Delay Reducing Santa Monica Airport Runway,” March 8, 2017).
Other parties in both filings include the Santa Monica Airport Association, a longstanding proponent for maintaining the airport’s current operations; two airport-based businesses, Bill’s Air Center, Inc. and Kim Davidson Aviation, Inc.; and Redgate Partners, LLC and Wonderful Citrus, LLC, two operators that frequently use SMO.
The City did not comment on the issue going to a merits panel.
It is also being sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by a student pilot and certified pilot at SMO for allegedly violating the 1953 Brown Act in deciding the decree in executive session in an unusual Saturday session.
City officials deny the allegations (“New Lawsuit Seeks to Invalidate Santa Monica Airport Consent Decree,” May 9, 2017).