Santa Monica Lookout
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Rivals Trade Jabs Regarding Economic Impact of Santa Monica Airport

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Michael Feinstein for Santa Monica City Council 2014

Frank Gruber for Santa Monica City CouncilHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

September 30, 2014 -- Leaders of the campaign opposing the aviation interests-sponsored Measure D say they have the smoking gun proving the Santa Monica Airport does not give the local and regional economies a boost. However, Measure D backers say this evidence actually shows the airport is “a leading generator of economic activity for the city and the region.”

This debate began at last week’s City Council meeting when the governing panel was approving a contract with HR&A Advisors for consultation unrelated to the airport. During the discussion, Councilmember Ted Winterer asked City Manager Rod Gould to summarize a study HR&A had done in 2011 on the economic impact of the airport.

Gould responded, “The study indicated that contrary to conventional wisdom that Santa Monica Airport’s contribution to the regional [and city] economy was far smaller than had been imagined."

He added that HR&A partner Paul Silvern had likened the tax and employment impact of the airport to a “medium-size strip mall.”

The Lookout News’ review of Silvern’s presentation on the study to the council in October 2010, which can be viewed on the City’s website, did not find the “medium-size strip mall” statement. However, Silvern did say the airport provided the number of jobs equal to a mall “two-thirds the size of Santa Monica Place.”

Silvern also said that because of the diverse types of businesses on the airport property, the jobs “and the direct economic output associated with that economic activity has a higher ripple effect on the city’s economy than other forms of development that you’re used to seeing.”

HR&A’s study, which can also be found on the City’s website, concluded the airport has an annual direct output of $187.5 million into the local economy. An additional $87.7 million goes into the economy due to the ripple effect, according to HR&A.

A few days after Gould shared his recollection of the meeting from nearly three years ago, Measure D opponents quoted him in a press release titled “Economic Impact Claim for SMO Debunked -- Again.”

“This should finally put to rest the Big Lie that the city and the region get an economic boost from dangerous and unhealthful flight operations that actually benefit very few people,” said John Fairweather, chair of Committee for Local Control of Santa Monica Airport Land. “It’s a gold mine only for the business jet and aircraft owner lobbies.”

Committee for Local Control of Santa Monica Airport Land is also campaigning to support Measure LC, which was placed on the November ballot by the council and would keep many airport decisions in the hands of city officials.

Measure D, which earned its place on the November ballot through a signature drive (that its opponents said was done through misleading methods) would require voter approval for making most changes to the airport, including full or partial closure.

After the Lookout contacted the campaign in favor of Measure D/opposition to Measure LC on Monday to comment on the press release, it responded with a release of its own to answer what it called "desperate, simplistic and false claims by anti-Santa Monica Airport activists."

“Santa Monica Airport is one of the city’s leading economic generators, and anti-airport activists funded by City-connected real estate developers are using lies and deceptive claims in an attempt to prevent voters in Santa Monica from being able to decide whether to close the airport and redevelop it for other purposes,” said campaign leader John Jerabek.

He continued, “Opponents of Measure D have deliberately spread falsehoods about the airport and Measure D because they can’t win a debate on the truth. Measure D is simple and straightforward. Santa Monica voters will have the right to approve any scheme to close the airport to redevelop 227 acres of low density land. Period."

The idea that opposition to Measure D is a scheme by City officials and development interests to bring significant development to the airport property has been a major argument in the campaign for the proposal.

Others have said the development argument is misleading, noting that the actual text of the petition to get Measure D on the ballot does not mention development.

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