After a brief delay, plans to shorten the runway at Santa Monica Airport will move forward, according to city officials.
A letter by Santa Monica Airport Director Stelios Makrides sent to media Tuesday confirmed that a temporary court order preventing the city from shortening the runway was lifted and construction is scheduled to start on October 18.
“US District Judge Ronald Lew has now dissolved the temporary restraining order and denied a preliminary injunction,” Makrides wrote in his letter Tuesday. “The court’s order affirms that the legal complaints raised lack merit and means that the prior court order halting runway construction has been lifted.”
Makrides’ letter continues on to say that the runway shortening project will “commence within the next week.”
Shortening the runway is the first step to eventually close the entire 227-acre airport. After decades of battling with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the federal agency reversed its opposition in January and reached an agreement with the city of Santa Monica, allowing the local jurisdiction to completely close the airport after December 31, 2028.
The agreement, which the Santa Monica City Council accepted with a 4-to-3 vote, also gave the city authority to immediately shorten the runway from its current length of nearly 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet, which will drastically reduce the amount of jet traffic that can use the airport.
Opposition to the deal came from Councilmembers Sue Himmelrich, Kevin McKeown, and Tony Vazquez, but not because they believed that the airport should stay open. Instead, they felt the city should fight to close the airport sooner.
When the city announced the agreement with the FAA — after decades of litigation — it came as a surprise to many (more details about the decades of legal battles between the FAA and the city can be read here).
At the time, City Attorney Joseph Lawrence noted that such an agreement was, in fact, “unprecedented” because no other city in the U.S. has secured permission from the FAA to close an airport within their jurisdiction.
Most recently, a 12-acre section of the airport along Bundy Drive was reclaimed by the city, and officials have since been working on turning it into an expansion of Airport Park. Ultimately, advocates hope the same fate awaits the entire 227-acre parcel.