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New Poll on the Future of Santa Monica Airport Alarms Activists

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 24, 2014 -- Recent phone calls to local households asking about the future of Santa Monica Airport has opponents of the century-old airfield worried.

The new poll, which comes about a week after a federal judge tossed City Hall’s lawsuit against the FAA to gain control of Santa Monica Airport, appears aimed at gauging voter interest in requiring the City to seek voter approval to use the 227-acre parcel of City-owned land for anything but an airport.

The survey also raises the belief, held by some, that if the airport were closed, it would be redeveloped into a large residential complex or commercial business park.

While anti-airport advocates have already come out condemning the poll as a scare tactic employed by airport supporters to prevent the City from trying to close down the airfield, no one seems to know who is actually doing the polling.

“This week I received a push poll in support of a potential measure that would prevent Santa Monica from changing SMO from aviation uses to a public park,” former mayor Mike Feinstein said in an official statement. Feinstein is associated with a group called Airport2Park, which advocates for the airport’s closure and redeveloping the land into a park.

“The measure would also permanently prevent the City from any further legal efforts to regain control of the land,” said Feinstein.

Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic (CASMAT) Chair John Fairweather said that he believes the poll may be the work of Airport Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which commissioned a poll in 2011 during the City’s Airport Visioning Process. (“Council Puts Closing Santa Monica Airport on the Table,” May 10, 2012)

The results from the 2011 poll were presented to the Santa Monica City Council during a session about the airport’s future.

A spokesperson for the AOPA told The Lookout Friday that he had no knowledge of any recent polling going on about Santa Monica Airport.

Fairweather said that AOPA also initially denied involved in the 2011 poll, which was criticized by anti-airport advocates as biased.

The Lookout also spoke to several members of the local pilot community, none of whom had any idea who might be behind the poll.

With the City’s most recent efforts to regain control of the airport from the FAA thwarted, one observer said he didn’t see why someone would bother with the polling. (“Judge Tosses Santa Monica Lawsuit Against FAA,” February 14)

Still, Fairweather sees a number of similarities between the 2011 poll and the most recent one. Fairweather published a side-by-side comparison of questions asked during both polls on his site.

“Now you've heard both sides. Should SMO be kept open or closed? Which of the following is true?” residents were asked in 2011. They were then asked to choose one of two answers: “The city is interested in open space and would build more parks if SMO were closed. The city would develop the land if SMO were closed.”

This time, residents were asked, “What would happen if the airport were closed?” And again, residents had to choose between two answers: “City officials are interested in producing tax revenue and would develop the property for commercial and other high density uses. City officials are interested in more open space and would develop the property as mostly parkland and low density recreational purposes.”

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