Laura Shepard Townsend

SMO: A PARK…..or BIZ AS USUAL?

By Laura Silagi and Laura Shepard Townsend

After a flurry of litigation, in 1984, an agreement between the City of Santa Monica and the FAA was reached, which stated that Santa Monica had to operate the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) until 2015, at which time, Santa Monica would be permitted to cease airport operations. The City of Santa Monica is looking to put a park on the 227 acres of land, but lobbyist carpetbaggers have arrived with their satchels of ‘do-re-mi’ from Washington, D.C. to contest local wishes.
The ‘Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’ (AOPA) aligned with the ‘National Business Aviation Association’ (NBAA) are highly invested in making sure that the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) does not close and it will be business as usual. They have spent $280K to put their deceptive Charter Amendment measure, Measure D, on the City of Santa Monica ballot. Estimates of $1Million will be spent to get Measure D (you can remember it as – D for Deceptive) passed.
Why should Venice residents care? In case you haven’t noticed, the majority of the planes, jets and helicopters that fly over Venice, a densely populated area, are from SMO. They not only cause noise pollution, but put residents at risk in a possible crash – if one of those jets goes down, it will take out a block of houses. Ever wonder why LAX took out all of the houses west of the airport?
They also spew health hazards from the sky above, burning leaded fuel (lead in any amount is unacceptable) in prop planes as well as emissions of harmful ultra fine particulates from jet planes. Private jets are the most polluting form of transportation on the planet. All these pollutants are particularly dangerous to the vulnerable, the many schoolchildren as well as seniors. And if one of those jets goes down, it will take out a block of houses…
If you are not up on these topics, and want more information, go to the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Santa Monica Airport Committee’s report for information and documentation on the health impacts from Santa Monica Airport. (http://badair.publica.us/SMO/vnc-smo-overview.pdf) There you will learn plenty. Probably too much.
Ok, back to Measure D. If measure D passes, Santa Monica Airport will never close or be downsized because of the crafty wording by savvy consultant groups who serve only those with deep pockets. Here’s why.
Measure D, (the aviation industry measure) masquerades as a no-development, voters rights initiative requiring “voter approval” to close the airport. The measure reads in part,
“Shall the Santa Monica City Charter be amended to require the City to continue to operate the Santa Monica Airport in a manner that supports its aviation uses unless the voters approve the Airport’s closure or change in use, and until that voter approval occurs, the City shall be prohibited from imposing additional restrictions on aviation support services to tenants and airport users that inhibit fuel sales or the full use of aviation facilities, prohibit the City from imposing upon aviation services providers new restrictions that would inhibit the sale of fuel or the “full use” of aviation facilities.”
This means, changes, such as downsizing the airport, changing noise regulations, limiting hours, selling aviation fuel, changing landing fees or any other changes such as creating a park, etc. would be impossible. And closing the airport would require “a majority of the voters of the city voting ‘yes’ on a ballot measure approving such a change at a general municipal.”
There are different opinions even among the lawyers on what ‘majority of voters’ means, but in any case, after an analysis of past elections, it has been noted that it will be nearly impossible to obtain the majority of the registered voters. A vote to close SMO would require more voter participation on a single ballot issue than has ever happened in any election in the city’s history. In other words, a vote to close the airport would be nearly impossible to obtain. On the other hand, obtaining the majority of voters on the issue will be also very difficult due to the extensive moneyed political aviation lobbying. This is really a ‘keep the airport forever initiative’.
There is a competing measure we must support: Measure LC
Measure LC states,
“Shall the City Charter be amended to: (1) prohibit new development on Airport land, except for parks, public open spaces and public recreational facilities, until the voters approve limits on the uses and development that may occur on the land; affirm the and (2) City Council’s authority to manage the Airport and to close all or part of it.”
This would allow the Santa Monica City Council to control the airport while it exists. The Council could vote to downsize or close the airport and there would be no development allowed, except for parks, open spaces, recreational —until the voters voted for something else. It also means that if the FAA prevented the airport from closing, the city could still downsize it, change hours of operation, eliminate fuel sales, etc. This is clearly a better choice for those of us opposed to the airport.
It is frustrating that Santa Monicans alone can determine something that affects so many. But here is what we in Venice can do to support Measure LC.
Support Measure LC by getting involved in the following ways:
• Go to ItsOurland.org , a grass roots organization of local control, for the latest campaign news.
• Contribute money for the fight against the airport lobby.
• Walk precincts in Santa Monica and describe to residents (especially in the northern sections who are not directly exposed to SMO) our first hand experience with the airport to inform them of the level of its impacts.
Help with telephone banks.
• Reach out to anyone you know in Santa Monica and urge them to vote for measure LC and oppose measure D.
• Organize fundraising events.
It is greatly in the interests of those who live in Venice to have Measure LC pass, and as usual, we are fighting a well-funded political lobby group. Get involved and help get SMO converted into a park we can all use!
SMO - 7th and Rose

SMO

Top picture: Plane crash at 7th and Rose Ave., July 7, 1989;

Bottom picture: Plane crash at SMO hangar, September 30, 2013

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1 reply »

  1. Measure LC gives the Council control and not the people. If it passes the City Council will likely spend millions more in lawsuits against the FAA. They have lost every time they have tried this. The last lawsuit made it very clear that the U.S. Government still has an interest in the property. Then there is the issue of the Instrument of Transfer made in 1948 which binds the City to maintain SMO as aviation. That has stood iron clad for 66 years. If the City decides to close part of the airport or all of it, there is a reversion clause in that Instrument of Transfer. The property could revert back to the U.S. Government. Santa Monica received the title to the property back after WWII because they agreed to leave SMO open forever.

    Measure LC received a donation from a major developer who was then awarded a contract for the Bergamont work. LC is about development and not the airport. There is nothing that says that if LC passes the airport will close. It does give the Council free rein to over develop Santa Monica without any input of it’s residents.

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