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Both Sides of Airport Debate Say They Support Residents

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 27, 2014 -- Aviation interests who want nearly all Santa Monica Airport decisions to go before voters are repeating their earlier claim that opposition from City officials is due to a plan for major redevelopment on the property. Anti-airport activists and a City Council member say the allegation is not true.

A press release was issued this week from a group called Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions in opposition to the City Council’s instruction on Tuesday to the City attorney that she and her staff draft a ballot measure to compete with one sponsored by the group and financially backed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

“This new tactic is a charade, just the latest attempt by City politicians to achieve their development plans while keeping voters out of it,” said John Jerabek, board member of Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions, according to the press release.

While the group’s proposal calls for a requirement that nearly all changes to the airport receive voter approval, the City’s measure would only have residents decide on full closure of the facility and future development on the property, which is owned by the Santa Monica government.

Although the City’s measure would give voters an opportunity to decide on development of the property, Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions maintains it is an attempt to keep residents out of the discussion.

“Our message for City politicians is clear,” said Jerabek, according to the press release. “If the City has a plan for 227 acres of the most valuable land on the Westside, let them get it approved by Santa Monica voters. It’s that simple.“

Airport2Park, a group that wants a park built on the airport property, issued a press release saying Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions is actually being dishonest.

“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,” Airport2Park wrote. “The AOPA, obviously concerned that voters will realize the aviation lobby is the real ‘special interest,’ not city residents, is already crying foul.”

City Councilmember Kevin McKeown had challenging words for Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions in an email response to a question from The Lookout.

“The special interests who profit from squatting on land owned by Santa Monicans clearly hope voters won’t notice that the only place ‘development’ is addressed in their efforts is in the deliberately deceptive name of their committee, which more properly should be ‘People Who Want To Keep The Airport Absolutely Unchanged Because It Benefits Us Personally.’”

He continued, “Our community initiative will not only specify real limits on development at the airport, which the AOPA measure does not, but allow us to continue on whatever path our community supports to deal with airport safety and air quality concerns.”

The people behind the AOPA-supported measure say they collected thousands more signatures than the amount required to qualify for the ballot. County officials are determining if there are enough.

The council must approve the City’s measure at its July 22 meeting for it to qualify for the November ballot. The City attorney is expected to present proposed language to the council at the July 8 meeting.

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