Aviation Lobby Screams “foul” as City Considers Alternative to Deceptive Ballot Proposal

SMOActing on the City Attorney’s advice, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously voted at its meeting Tues., June 24 to draft a ballot measure that would allow the City to continue to manage its municipal airport (SMO) while subjecting future development on airport land to voter review.

The measure will compete with an initiative sponsored by the Washington D.C.-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). That measure, masquerading as a local anti-development effort, seeks to wrest control of SMO from the City by requiring elections to approve any change in the use of airport land to non-aviation purposes.

The City Council already is on record to keep the city-owned land in low-density use, but at their Tuesday evening meeting council members explored ways to give voters the right to approve future plans for the airport land.

City Attorney Marsha Moutrie told the council the aviation lobby measure would prevent the City from managing its properties at SMO that it currently leases to both aviation and non-aviation businesses. Also according to Moutrie, the measure would cripple the City’s ability to protect the health, safety and welfare of both residents and other neighbors affected by aviation activity at SMO.

The AOPA has ironically named its local front organization “Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions,”  although its measure does NOT deal with development at the airport, and approximately 95% of its funding has so far come from the AOPA. The AOPA initiative only allows for a vote on closing the airport; once the airport is closed, the measure provides no controls on future development. No Santa Monica community groups have supported the AOPA initiative and many oppose it.

The council asked the City Attorney to prepare a proposal that that would address concerns about development, while allowing the City to continue to manage the airport. The AOPA, obviously concerned that voters will realize the aviation lobby is the real “special interest,” not city residents, is already crying foul.

The AOPA claims that “Santa Monica voters launched” the petition drive for its initiative, but the fact is, as shown in public filings, that the AOPA hired Arno Political Consulting and an army of signature gatherers from outside of Santa Monica to get signatures for its proposal, paying them as much as $20.00 per signature.

AOPA continues to claim that closing SMO would kill 1,500 jobs. In fact, fewer than 200 jobs at SMO are aviation-related. While after aviation operations ceased aviation jobs would likely follow the jets and other planes to other airports, more than a thousand non-aviation jobs would remain on the current airport campus, and the City could lease vacated aviation properties to new productive and environmentally-friendly businesses. 

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Related News Stories:

Dissecting a Press Release (The Healthy City Local, Jun 27, 2014)
Council considers rock, hard place on SMO measure (SM Daily Press, Jun 27, 2014)
Both Sides of Airport Debate Say They Support Residents (SM Lookout, Jun 27, 2014)
City Hall Seeks Competing SMO Voter Initiative (Santa Monica Mirror, Jun 27, 2014)
Santa Monica City Council Refines Airport Ballot Measure (SM Next, Jun 27, 2014)

NOTE: In a Santa Monica Lookout article dated June 27, Council member Kevin McKeown suggests that a more appropriate name for “Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions” would be “People Who Want To Keep The Airport Absolutely Unchanged Because It Benefits Us Personally”. Well said!

6 thoughts on “Aviation Lobby Screams “foul” as City Considers Alternative to Deceptive Ballot Proposal

    1. John Post author

      Dan – This post contains nothing but reporting of verifiable facts and the links to help you confirm those facts. You may not like the facts, but they are exactly as stated.

  1. William L. Koch

    One wonders if those committed to the closure of SMO ever fly commercially. If airports like SMO are closed to pave the way for other forms of land use, the pressure on other airports will grow. When some Santa Monica kid needs an organ flown in from far away, that family will be grateful for the geographic proximity of this airport. When there is a natural disaster, this airport will enable relief services to arrive locally, when perhaps the roads are not the first choice of transport. When busy business VIP’s decide where to locate a new division, airport proximity is often a deciding factor. Public parks are swell, but they can facilitate none of the above.

    SMO is no minor airport. If you are opposed to what SMO provides the community, I suggest you show moral courage: Never fly. Ever. Take a bus, a train, a car, or walk, but avoid aircraft. Shutting down your local airport and putting the burden on other communities can only be justified if every one of you agree to keep yourselves on the ground until the day you are in it.

    1. John Post author

      One wonders why a resident of Vermont would care so much. You trot out all the usual fears as justification. As to the organ delivery, see “http://casmat.org/2014/03/the-drones-are-coming.html”.

      As to natural disasters, Santa Monica has two of the busiest freeways in the world going through it, it has costal access, and there are 12 airports within 25 miles, Van Nuys is a mere 14 miles away (a 20 minute drive). Wealthy businessmen can just as easily use any one of these.

      SMO is an industrial relic left over from the unique history of the Douglas Aircraft plant that once was there. As a result, SMO is more closely surrounded by houses than any other airport in the country. Other nearby airports would be glad to have SMO business, and unlike SMO they do not have houses right next to the runways.

      This argument is not about the merits of General Aviation in general, it is about getting rid of a particular GA airport that should not be there. Total economic output from aviation at SMO amounts to 0.2% of the City’s economy. Few will notice when it is gone, but many will benefit from the great park that will likely replace it.

  2. Bridget -- Santa Monica resident and Airport Supporter

    SMO is not an “industrial relic” — that is just plain misleading. It serves an an important relief airport — a fact that is overlooked by the NIMBYs fighting to close the airport.

    SMO is an important resource that many Santa Monica residents want to keep.

    The belief that SMO is a “GA airport that should not be there” is not a fact, and is not shared by many people.

    “Few will notice when it’s gone.” is not a fact. It is a preference of the writer.

    Anyone who lives in the vicinity of the airport has moved in when the airport was already in existence, so to complain about the airport when they had a choice to live near it is self-serving.

    Let’s put it to a vote. If the majority of Santa Monicans want to see the airport closed, so be it. And they can then fight the FAA. The airport belongs to all of us, not just the people who chose to live near it, and are now fighting to close it.

    1. John Post author

      As a principal in a film company based in New York, one wonders how you can be a resident of Santa Monica.

      As to your points, they are simply false. The residents don’t want to keep SMO, they haven’t since 1981 when the City formally announced its intent to close it.

      It is a fact that SMO is incompatible with a residential neighborhood, it is the most closely surrounded airport in the country due to its unique history.

      The only ones that will notice when it is gone are the neighbors who will no longer have to put up with the noise, pollution, and accidents.

      Those that moved in to the area since 1984 have always known that the airport was going to close (per the 1984 agreement with the FAA) on July 1, 2015. The very idea that this might not be the case is a new one. The aviation businesses at SMO have also known this for the last 30 years. For them to now complain and try to stop it is the only thing that is self-serving in this issue.

      There are now two initiatives on the ballot. The AOPA ballot will loose. The airport will be fully or partially closed (after innumerable legal battles no doubt), and thanks to the City’s initiative (which will prevail), the land released will by default be used for parks, playing fields and recreational uses to benefit all City residents, not just a privileged few. Any other development or use will require a vote of the people. It will be written into the City’s charter! The people will have control over future development, unlike for the AOPA initiative.

      Unlike aviation lobbyists, the people of this City are far more concerned about development than they are about the continuation of aviation at SMO. The City initiative is squarely targeted at giving them a real controlling vote over land development. The AOPA initiative is squarely targeted at maintaining the aviation status-quo and says nothing on development.

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