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Anti-Airport Group Loses Second Lawsuit; Appeal to Follow

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Michael Feinstein for Santa Monica City Council 2014Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

August 26, 2014 -- This past Friday marked the second day in less than a week that an anti-Santa Monica Airport faction lost a lawsuit aiming to keep the aviation interests-backed Measure D off the November ballot.

The faction’s attorney Jonathan Stein told The Lookout on Monday that he was drafting an appeal of Friday’s decision issued by Judge Joanne O'Donnell so it could be heard before this Wednesday’s deadline to make changes to Los Angeles County ballots.

O’Donnell dismissed all the allegations in the suit, although several of them were rejected because of the decision released earlier in the week on the related lawsuit (“Santa Monica Airport Foe Fights Legal Setback,” August 22, 2014).

Backed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Measure D calls for a requirement of voter approval to make most changes at the 227-acre airport property, including closing the aviation facility. It qualified for the ballot after 9,800 signatures were collected from registered voters.

Proponents say Measure D would allow Santa Monica residents to have a say on the future of an important property that could be developed if the airport closes. Opponents say it’s a scheme to keep the airport open indefinitely.

Among the defendants in both lawsuits were City officials, but Stein said the City Attorney’s Office should have been sympathetic with his clients’ claims. He said the office has not supported them because it is “pro-AOPA."

“The City Attorney’s Office’s view is that their job is to protect special interests rather than listen to what they consider to be the nagging complaints from residents,” Stein said.

Stein has made the allegation of City staff’s pro-airport agenda at several council meetings. No City official has publicly responded to this allegation. However, City Attorney Marsha Moutrie is a Measure D critic and recommended the council place the rival Measure LC on the ballot.

Attorney David Shaby, who sits on the board of pro-Measure D campaign committee Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development, said Stein was exercising his right to free speech by filing an appeal. But Stein, Shaby said, “does not recognize the sanctity of the airport supporters' right to free speech.”

“Measure D merely puts the fate of the Santa Monica airport in the hands of the voters and not in the hands of the pro-development City Council,” Shaby said. “Mr. Stein wants to close the airport because he is betting that his property prices will skyrocket if he is successful.”

Shaby continued, “The airport supporters believe that the airport has popular support among the voters … If Mr. Stein truly believed that he had popular support, he would not be trying so hard to keep the decision out of the hands of the people.”

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