On Tuesday, June 10, the City of Santa Monica filed its latest salvo in its continuing battle with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the ordinance banning larger, faster Category C and D aircraft at Santa Monica Airport (SMO).
The FAA had gone to Federal District Court in Los Angeles and obtained a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ordinance on May 16, requiring SMO to permit Category C and D aircraft to use the Airport for the duration of the FAA’s suit against the City. On May 22, the City appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting in San Francisco, and applied to the Ninth Circuit for an order staying the preliminary injunction so as to permit immediate enforcement of the ordinance.
On June 3, the FAA filed written opposition to the City’s application for the stay, and on June 10 the City filed its written reply to that opposition. The Ninth Circuit will rule on the stay application on the basis of these written submissions, but there is no fixed schedule for a ruling on stay applications.
Whether the stay application is granted or not, the City’s appeal from the preliminary injunction will go forward through formal briefing and oral argument before the Ninth Circuit rules on the merits of the case. The anticipated ruling on the stay application will only determine whether the City’s ordinance can be enforced while the litigation is pending.
The FAA asserts that the City did not have the legal authority to adopt the ordinance prohibiting the use of SMO by category C and D aircraft. Among other things, it references a grant for airport improvement projects accepted by the City in 1994; the grant requires the City to operate the property for 20 years, until 2014. The City received a payment in 2003 at the conclusion of the projects funded by the 1994 grant. The City Attorney’s office argues that this was not a new grant and does not extend the City’s obligations to operate the Airport until 2023 as asserted by the FAA.