A U.S. district court judge for the Central District of California has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) which has given Santa Monica Municipal Airport (KSMO), and the people fighting for it, another chance. Granted in response to an emergency application, the TRO orders a temporary halt to the runway construction project. The project, organized by the City of Santa Monica, will reduce the runway from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet. The destruction was originally scheduled to begin October 9, making the October 8 TRO a very last-minute save.
In issuing the TRO, the judge directly noted the validity of safety concerns raised in the application, which pointed out the risks posed to both pilots and people in the surrounding neighborhoods by the lower flight paths created by shortening the runway. The ruling also acknowledges that allowing the runway to be altered before the issue is resolved could create a situation without fair legal remedy if this case goes to court and is decided against the city.
The application was submitted by a flight student and a resident of a neighborhood near the airport. In order for it to have been granted on an emergency basis, one of the legal requirements is that the court must be convinced that the case is likely to succeed based on its merits—meaning, in this case, that it currently looks like the individuals who filed the application have a sound legal argument for halting the project, at least temporarily.
This particular argument hinges on the fact that the City of Santa Monica never held the legally required public hearings for “acquisition of runway protection zones” and “realignment of an existing runway.” The City of Santa Monica has until October 13 to file a response with the court. The plaintiffs then have until October 18 to reply to the city’s response. From there, the court will hold a hearing to decide if the runway shortening project will remain on hold while the case goes to trial.
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