By Daniel Larios
September 30, 2014 – Santa Monica’s most vocal anti-airport group announced Monday that it is backing three slow-growth advocates in November’s highly contentious City Council race.
Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), a decade-old group that advocates for the closure of the Santa Monica Airport, endorsed incumbent councilmember Kevin McKeown and Planning Commissioners Richard McKinnon and Sue Himmelrich after their performance at the group’s September 22 candidates forum.
The three candidates “were the clear choices for endorsement to represent Santa Monica residents on the City Council,” CRAAP officials said in a statement.
“The Council that will provide direction with regard to the future of Santa Monica Airport as well as addressing over-development in Santa Monica.”
The three endorsed candidates on the CRAAP slate, which is identical to that of the slow-growth group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC), welcomed the endorsement.
“The Airport makes no economic, social, environmental or safety sense,” McKinnon told the Lookout Monday. “I've consistently called for SMO closure and to ban development on the site. I think this endorsement reflects my consistent call for its closure.”
Himmelrich told the Lookout that she is “particularly honored by the CRAAP endorsement because it reflects my steadfast commitment to address all residents' issues in Santa Monica, not simply those issues that affect me, my neighborhood, or my causes.”
"Santa Monica Airport seen from above is an aircraft carrier afloat in a sea of homes,” McKeown told the Lookout. “No one would ever put it there now, with inadequate runway buffers, closer to more homes than any other airport in the country.”
The endorsement could carry particular weight on November 4, when Santa Monica voters will be faced with two dueling measures that will help determine the fate of Santa Monica’s century old airport.
Missing from CRAAP’s slate is former Lookout columnist and anti-airport activist Frank Gruber, a leading figure in Airport2Park, an anti-airport organization that wants to replace airport land with a park.
Gruber, a former Planning Commissioner, had been endorsed by CRAAP in his 2012 bid for City Council
He is also active in the campaign to defeat Measure D -- which would require voter approval on changes made to the airport -- and pass Measure LC that would retain control with the Council.
Gruber declined to comment on the group’s endorsement.
CRAAP Director Martin Rubin told the Lookout he was surprised Gruber wasn’t chosen, but that his stance on development may have played a role.
“We made our endorsement based on input from members to get a sense of what they’re feeling,” Rubin said. “With a few exceptions, every member chose the same three candidates. I was surprised that Frank wasn’t in the top three.
“A lot of it is the development issue,” Rubin said. “His views on development affect some people’s opinions. He sees his views on development as fair and a lot of people aren’t in agreement about that.”
Gruber, an advocate for more housing development in strategic locations, has the backing of such anti-airport figures as Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic (CASMAT) Chair John Fairweather, Cathy Larson and Vivien Flitton.
As expected, all three endorsed candidates support Measure LC and oppose Measure D.
Said McKeown, “I played a major role in rewording the Local Control Measure LC to make sure it was unequivocal about retaining our right to close the airport without the possibility of any development not approved by a vote of our residents, who own the land."
As part of the endorsement process, a two-part pledge was sent out to the group’s top six candidates McKeown, McKinnon, Himmelrich, Gruber, mayor Pam O’Connor and former mayor Mike Feinstein.
The pledge asked if they would bring an item to the City Council that would require posting warning signs for dangerous chemicals on the observation deck at the airport under State Proposition 65.
The pledge also asked if the candidates would place a recommendation by the Santa Monica Airport Commission to limit air pollution from aircraft operations at Santa Monica Airport on the council agenda.
O’Connor was the only one not to sign the pledge, according to Rubin.
“The choice of three became clear when we polled several members,” Rubin said. “Candidates' views on development and traffic influenced the decision.
“There is an apparent nexus between the influx of private jet traffic back in the mid 1980's at SMO with the commencement of over-development and the accompanying gridlock west side traffic,” he added.
During the group’s three-hour candidates forum last week, twelve of the 14 candidates came out in favor of closing the Santa Monica Airport and supporting Measure LC.
The two other candidates, Whitney Scott Bain and Terence Later, have both come out against closing SMO. (“Council Candidates Face Tough Questions at Slow-Growth Forum,” July 30, 2014)