The Ninth District Appellate Court will hear arguments from Santa Monica officials on the controversy surrounding the city’s decision to prohibit certain aircraft from using its municipal airport on Wednesday, November 19th in Pasadena.
Santa Monica is seeking judicial relief in the appellate court following a lower court ruling that forbade the city from implementing an ordinance that would ban larger, faster jets from Santa Monica Airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) filed a restraining order against the city on April 28th after the ban was passed to prevent the ordinance from taking effect.
The ordinance was passed unanimously on April 25th.
City officials have stated that, due to the fact that there are no runway safety measures in place, the possibilities are imminent that an airplane can overrun the runway and land in one of the residential neighborhoods that surround the airport.
Residential homes lie within 300 feet of the airport runway.
The FAA has offered a variety of safety measures, which airport authorities and runway safety advocates say are insufficient to prevent potential overruns.
Santa Monica legal authorities believe that their case before the appellate judges is strong.
“The city thinks that its legal position is the correct legal position,” said Santa Monica assistant city attorney Joseph Lawrence.
On April 28th, U.S. District Judge George H. Wu granted the FAA the order, which prevented airport officials from banning Category C and D airplanes, typically among the faster planes that use the airport.
“The city argues that because it has not filed a petition, the exclusive jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit [Court] has not taken effect,” Wu wrote in his verdict. “While that may be true, this court has jurisdiction to consider the procedural or substantive merits of the interim order. The statutory scheme plainly rests with the Department of Transportation, the FAA, or the city if it files a petition with the Court of Appeals.
“Thus, until the city files a petition with the Washington, D.C. or Ninth Circuit, jurisdiction over the matter remains at the governmental agency level.”
Wu upheld his earlier ruling at a hearing on May15th.
Airplanes that travel with an approach speed of 121 knots or greater, but less than 141 knots, are listed under Category C. Category D airplanes have speeds of 141 knots or greater, but less than 166 knots, according to the FAA.
The airport ban and the subsequent legal wrangling have led some Santa Monica residents to challenge the incumbent councilmembers who are running for reelection in November.
Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), a grassroots organization that has been strenuously lobbying city officials to conduct air quality studies in neighborhoods adjacent to the airport, has held a variety of candidate forums for City Council and has endorsed four challengers — Susan Hartley, Linda Piera-Avila, Jerry Rubin, and Ted Winterer.
“These four candidates will bring back to the City Council the energy and direction needed to address the environmental and quality-of-life issues that Santa Monica residents are growing more upset with every passing day,” said a statement by Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP) director Martin Rubin, who is the brother of Jerry Rubin.
“CRAAP cannot in good conscience endorse any of the incumbents who have over the past four years been unwilling, or unable to take an aggressive stand regarding air pollution from jet traffic at the airport,” the organization director added.
The incumbent members who are running for reelection are Mayor Herb Katz, Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom and City Councilmembers Bobby Shriver and Ken Genser.
Martin Tachiki, a former Santa Monica deputy city attorney who recently retired, believes that there is a valid case to be made in support of the airport ordinance with the appellate court.
“The city feels very strongly that our airport needs safety measures and mitigation for the safety of the airport operators and our residents,” he said. “And we feel very strongly that this position needs to be pursued at both the legislative and the judicial level.”
The City Council also feels that the city has a solid case.
“We’re going to be arguing safety, which I think is a very good argument,” Katz added.
Martin Rubin concurs.
“The safety issue is a no-brainer,” he said. “There are several recent examples that things do go wrong on airport runways.
“There’s no margin for error at this airport.”
The FAA declined to comment for this story.