Citing “jurisdictional grounds,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to review the 2017 secretly negotiated backroom deal between the FAA and the city of Santa Monica that allowed the city to immediately shorten the runway and will allow the city to close the airport at the end of 2028.
According to the court, the settlement agreement between the city and the FAA was not a final FAA order over which the court had jurisdiction, so it cannot review the arguments that the FAA’s decision to agree to the settlement was a violation of federal law.
Joining the case as an amicus party (“friend of the court”), AOPA participated in the litigation to protect the public’s right to challenge the city should it not comply with the few remaining obligations that survived the settlement agreement, including the requirement that the city continue operating the airport ahead of the potential 2028 closure and keep it accessible to the public under reasonable conditions.
“The court’s refusal to review a case so significant as Santa Monica is disappointing. The FAA exceeded its authority in making this backroom deal and the public has a right to challenge airports that disregard their legal obligations,” said AOPA General Counsel Ken Mead. “AOPA expects the agency to fairly consider issues relating to the operation of the airport going forward to ensure that the Santa Monica Airport fulfills its role as a critical component in the national transportation infrastructure for as long as it is an airport.”
As part of the negotiation between the city and the FAA to reduce jet operations and appease neighbors, the city shortened the runway from 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet last December. The changes were made despite the fact that the majority of Santa Monica residents are neutral or positive toward the airport. In addition, the airport creates jobs and generates revenue for the city. Closing it would only lead to real estate development, additional ground traffic on already over-crowded highways, pollution, and a lower quality of life for residents.
“The Santa Monica Airport is and will continue to be an important part of the national air transportation system,” affirmed AOPA President Mark Baker. “Especially in the case of natural disasters, the field is an important asset that the city needs to protect. We will continue to fight for its survival, despite the shortsighted efforts of the current city council.”