AOPA financed deceptive ballot initiative petition filed shortly after City Council defeat!

As predicted by CASMAT more than a month ago, the national aviation lobby organization AOPA, has pushed ahead with filing their deceptive attempt to handcuff the City and prevent it from gaining control of its own property.  The initiative was filed just two days after the Council unanimously approved a staff report recommending elimination or closing all or part of the airport and repurposing the land for low intensity use such as a park.  Amazingly enough, AOPA was able to announce the fact that the initiative was filed with the City clerk long before any other news outlet found out.

Actually, it is not amazing because AOPA itself, as the earlier CASMAT post clearly shows, is bankrolling this effort to dupe Santa Monica’s citizens into giving up their one and only chance to fix the lack of park space in this city.  The initiative is carefully (if transparently) crafted to play on the public feelings regarding the Hines project by pretending that the airport is somehow similar.  It absolutely is not as Council remarks at the meeting make abundantly clear.

No doubt they figure that if they incentivize paid signature gatherers by $2 or more a signature (Update 4/26: currently the amount is $4/signature and increasing as their time deadline approaches), they would be happy to lie to the electorate, and for perhaps as little as $30,000, AOPA hopes to find 10,000 suckers in the Santa Monica electorate that will believe their outrageous lie that Council intends to develop the land and create a new Playa Vista.  It is our understanding that it takes the signatures of 15% of the electorate (say 9,000 signatures + 1,000 to handle invalids) for an initiative to alter the City charter, and that is exactly what they plan on doing.

To see how ridiculous this is, see the video below where the Council members make abundantly clear that such a thing cannot happen, and explicitly direct staff that only low-intensity uses such as a park are to be allowed on any land freed up as the airport footprint is reduced.

Here are a few explicit public quotes by the Council when instructing staff on what is and is not allowed for land released at the airport:
Kevin McKewen:  “The other thing I want to address, I’ll call it a ‘canard’, is that if the Council wants to close the airport, the only possible reason is to approve huge development on that site.  I think former mayor Mike Feinstein sussed out the politics of that pretty well – nobody would last here on the dais if they planned to do that!  I also thought it was curious that one of the airport proponents said that Chicago shut down Meigs field and now there is wind whistling through the brush, nothing happening there.  I guess there is no development pressure in Chicago.”
Kevin McKeown: “Part of my motion will make clear that my intent, and I hope the whole councils is that we are looking only at low impact, low intensity use on this site.  Frankly its not an appropriate site for the kind of development that might be appropriate in other parts of our city or the region, there is no mass transit anywhere near this site”

Kevin McKeown: “The second part of the motion has to do with the future use of the airport land.  When we adopted the current LUCE there were a few parts of town we left out deliberately, and the airport was one of them.  … This is part of the staff recommendation that we now begin to develop an airport concept plan based on low intensity use for the reasons that I’ve given and for others, and that in doing that concept plan we take into account that the quitclaim parcel may fall uncontested into our hands in 2015, so lets make some plans for that”

Bob Holbrook: “Most of you probably know that Douglas Aircraft started over near Wilshire Boulevard, and that the location of that early plant is Douglas Park today … I don’t think we should give up the fight, I think the people of Santa Monica expect us to fight for them and fight for the property that belongs to the City”

Pam O’Connor: “I did want to address some of the comments that were made, the alarmist statements about there is some plot that this airport land is to be developed into a Century City.    I don’t think the guiding principle is wether  people here would be re-elected or not, I think the principle is what we as the community develop in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).  The underlying principles in that document are that development will go into strategic locations, and again the underlying principle is, as Council member McKeown alluded to, is that it has to be connected with transportation, you are making decisions on land use tied with transportation.  There is no transit, no rail line going to this area, no rail line in any kind of county plan to go to this area.  This is not going to be served in any future decades by transit, so it is a low impact development, if there is any, that would be on these lands if we are doing that.  And frankly the main other reason is, these are public lands, the public lands are owned by the people of Santa Monica, and it will be the people of Santa Monica who ultimately decide how to use it.”
Pam O’Connor: “But again, in general, based on the guidance of the community coming together on the LUCE and the use of our other public lands, it would have a good public purpose, it would not be being sold off to developers for high rise development or any other kind of development, so that is just alarmism, just not good form as far as I’m concerned.”

Kevin McKeown: “If I may say briefly, I just want the community to note that mayor O’Connor and I do not always agree on development issues, but we absolutely agree on this one.  I think you’ve heard tonight that some of the people who want to keep the airport plan to scare you into voting against the airport being turned into something better out of fear of development, and I hope that what you have observed here tonight a commitment which I hope is shared by all the Council members that the airport in never going to be some high rise development when I said that the airport concept plan should focus on low intensity use, thats exactly what I meant and I said it very deliberately”

Pam O’Connor: “Right, and I’ll just add that that conforms with out LUCE that says we do allow development in Santa Monica but it is in strategic locations protecting 96% of the City and focussing it in limited areas”

CASMAT reached out to other Council members that did not get an opportunity to express their position on land use during the meeting.  The following are the stated positions that we received back (so far):
Gleam Davis: “A final determination about the specific future of the airport land will require an extensive community process.  However, the airport abuts residential neighborhoods and is not adjacent to a transit center.  Therefore, as the Council unanimously agreed, any future development of the airport land should be low intensity and low density.”

Ted Winterer: “Anything other than low rise, low density development at the SMO site makes no sense whatsoever as the area is bordered by single family residences, is already heavily congested and is not served now or in the future by mass transit. Furthermore, I believe we could convert at least most of the acreage to a park — we haven’t even begun to explore the prospects for help financing the costs from nonprofits and other government entities.”

Tony Vazquez: “As a home owner in sunset park and one of the founding members of the Ahwahnee principles and smart growth advocate I would never support another Playa Vista Project at the Santa Monica Airport site. My goal would be to advocate for more open space and low density development use at the SMO site because sunset park already has many “F” intersections to deal with.”
Any way you do the math, the fact is the entire premise behind this initiative is false and deceptive.
The truth is that these people don’t care two hoots about Santa Monica, they care only that their long-subsidized, polluting, money loosing, and dangerous hobby is allowed to continue at the expense of the health, safety and wellbeing of the people in Santa Monica and the surrounds.  They don’t care that the City council is doing what the people asked for, they don’t care that Airport2Park is backed by just about every local residents group in the City, they don’t care about Santa Monica, they don’t care about development, and they don’t care about local residents, Santa Monica or otherwise.  They only care about their hobby.
It is up to all of us now, no matter where we live in the City, to show these national lobbyists that we are not suckers, and we won’t be duped and manipulated in this way.
Link: Here is a copy of this deceptive filing with the City Clerk.  It was filed at the City Clerk’s office at 2:16 PM today.  At 3:13 PM Google reported that the story was posted on the AOPA web site.  It takes Google a while to notice things, so that was pretty fast for an organization that claims to have nothing to do with it!  Not even the City itself found out that fast!  AOPA’s post clearly had to already be written before the petition request was even filed!  And remember, they have publicly denied involvement – not the first time they’ve been caught lying and meddling.
We will certainly be posting a lot more on this subject, and we will of course be organizing widespread opposition to this outrage.
We are going to kick their butts on this one and it begins today!
Who exactly are the three individuals that AOPA has put up to filing this petition?  Well one of them is Lauren McCollum who is a local pilot that applied in 2012 to be an airport commission member:
She is a property developer!  I wonder why a property developer would be concerned about development?  Can you say busted?
Flora Yin is an attorney at Reed & Davidson, LLP an LA law firm specializing in politics and in particular, and I quote:

  • Challenging and Defending
  • Drafting Ballot Arguments
  • Petition Circulation Legal Compliance
  • Qualifying Initiatives, Referenda and Recalls
  • Structuring Entities to Support and Oppose Ballot Measures
  • Title and Summary Process
Well it should be pretty clear who AOPA is paying to conduct and craft this atrocity.  Can you say busted?  No concerned citizen here.
Nikos Kokotakis is an actor  and judging from his bio, he is going to be the front guy for this initiative and the one who’s job it is to put a human and sympathetic face on it.  He is also a fan of flying.  Seems like they’ve got the whole team assembled.  Let the games begin!
Tell everyone you know.  The more people that know the truth about this before the signature gatherers reach their goals, the harder it will be for them to con people into signing.  At $4 a signature, they are highly motivated!
Update 3/28: Supporters of SMO File Paperwork for Ballot Initiative (SM Lookout, Mar 28, 2014)
Update 3/38Desperate Times, Desperate Measures, Desperate Companies that Rent Corporate Jets (The Healthy City Local, Mar 28, 2014)