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Rivals Trade Accusations of Deception in Airport Ballot Battle

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 8, 2014 -- Power to the people and don’t be misled by the tricks of the other side is the battlecry for both ends of the Santa Monica Airport debate appearing in arguments for and against the two ballot measures that will go before voters in November.

In its arguments, which were released this week, the group that favors a measure requiring voter approval for all changes to the airport and opposes a rival City-created proposal kept with its campaign message it started a few months ago that its measure would prevent high-density development from coming to the property.

“Remember, airport land protects the entire city of Santa Monica from high-rise canyons like Century City because it limits development on surrounding land from the beach to the Westside,” the group wrote. “The politicians say Santa Monica voters shouldn’t decide an issue as complex as closing the airport for redevelopment.”

Opponents have called this message misleading and a cover for what they say is the real purpose of the measure – to keep the airport open indefinitely. They note that the measure, which was approved for the ballot after 9,800 registered voters signed a petition, does not address development.

“This ‘decoy’ ballot initiative is yet another in a long line of outsider attempts to control our airport parkland,” the opposition wrote. “The federal government, aircraft corporations, shopping center developers, and now, national lobbyists, all have manipulated the system to divert Santa Monica from realizing our grandparents’ dream for this land – a public park for recreational use.”

Meanwhile, the rival measure approved for the ballot last month through a unanimous vote of the City Council, addresses development. It says nothing could be built on the property (except parks, public open spaces and public recreational facilities) “until the voters approve limits on the uses and development that may occur on the land.”

The rival measure also says the council could not be prevented from making changes to the airport, including possibly closure. There are varying legal opinions on what would happen if both measures pass, including that whichever one receives the most votes would go into effect.

Supporters of the pro-airport measure say they do not believe the rival proposal gives enough power to the voters.

“They try to deceive by saying we can vote on some things but not others,” the pro-airport group wrote. “They say you will have a voice on their high-density plans. Then they make false promises about parks. But on the real issue – redeveloping 227 acres of land – the politicians, not the voters, are left in control.”
Signatures attached to the arguments in favor of the pro-airport measure and opposing the City-created proposal are all from Santa Monica residents. None has a political or any other type of title and are listed simply as “resident.”

A list of resident supporters is a sharp contrast to how opponents have portrayed the campaign as one being funded by outside interests. As of last month, the pro-airport campaign has been supported by more than $260,000, mostly coming from the Washington D.C.-based National Business Aviation Association and the Baltimore-Baltimore-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (“Airport Supporters Raise Over $260,000 for Ballot Battle,” July 29, 2014).

Opponents noted the outside money in their arguments.
“Hardly your neighbors, this outside special interest group has everything to gain, including perpetual preservation of their sweet-deal facilities and landing rights,” opponents wrote. “What do we get? A 30 percent yearly increase in luxury jet traffic that spews air and noise pollution across our neighborhoods.”

Among those signing the opposition’s arguments were City Councilmembers Ted Winterer, Gleam Davis and Tony Vazquez as well as neighborhood activist leaders Zina Josephs and Mary Marlow.

The proponents also look to 2015, when they believe the airport can close based on the agreement signed in 1984 between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration. Others say the airport could not close any sooner than 2023 (“Santa Monica Airport Proponents Gain Star Power in Complaint,” July 4, 2014).

Many people, including City Attorney Marsha Moutrie, say airport closure will be determined in a courtroom.

Rebuttals to the ballot measure arguments are due later this month.

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