Court Lifts SMO TRO, Clearing Way for Runway Shortening

 - October 17, 2017, 12:34 PM

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California yesterday lifted a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the City of Santa Monica, clearing the way for the city to shorten the runway at Santa Monica Airport from 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet.

Santa Monica airport director Stelios Makrides hailed the decision of the court to dissolve the TRO and deny a petition for a preliminary injunction, saying the order “affirms that the legal complaints raised lack merit.” Makrides said that the airport plans to begin work on the runway-shortening project within the next week.

The court had made that decision after the city pushed for an expedited court review. The city originally had planned to begin work on the runway shortening on October 9, but later pushed that off to October 18.

Airport neighbor Kate Scott and pilot James Babinski had requested the TRO and preliminary injunction, arguing the city failed to comply with public hearing requirements in moving forward with the runway-shortening project in concert with a settlement agreement with the FAA earlier this year. The settlement agreement paved the way for the runway-shortening project, along with the ability for the city to shutter the airport altogether by the end of 2028.

The court agreed to the TRO, determining that Scott and Babinski would “likely prevail at trial on the merits of their claim.” The court also had noted that the city had failed to file opposition before the TRO.

But after then, the city sought—and received—an expedited review. Santa Monica filed nearly 1,400 pages of documents to bolster its case, saying it has complied with applicable laws and that Brown Act public hearing requirements do not apply to the settlement agreement since that agreement does not require any action to be taken.

After review, the court focused on hearing requirements for runway shortening, saying that a hearing is not mandated since it does not involve land acquisition. The court further disagreed that the runway shortening would harm safety, citing evidence of the city’s safety expert and the FAA.

The court granted petitions of the Santa Monica Airport Association, Aircraft Owners and NBAA to file amicus briefs. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and NBAA similarly filed a joint brief stressing that the status quo will not impose additional harm to the city while the case over the future of SMO is fully heard in court. But if the city is permitted to move forward with plans, they told the court, the damage could be irreparable and have ramifications throughout the Los Angeles region.


In other words, the TRO was BS.

Not at all. The court rulings were inconsistent. The TRO was issued based on the settlement agreement, but yesterday's decision focused on runway safety. It's a bit puzzling, actually.