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In 2015, the City of Santa Monica's settlement agreement with the FAA concerning the airport expires.
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In 2015, the City of Santa Monica's settlement agreement with the FAA concerning the airport expires.

News, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Airport

News Update

Update: Initiative Process Sought To Alter Santa Monica Airport Strategy

Posted Apr. 4, 2014, 8:52 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

The 2014 Election could prove to be one of the most significant votes in Santa Monica history. Voters could potentially be deciding the fates of two significant properties come Nov. 4: the Hines development at the old Papermate site at 1681 26th Street and Santa Monica Airport (SMO).

A coalition of residents gathered enough signatures in March to call for a referendum to reverse the Hines development agreement (DA) approved by the Santa Monica City Council in February.

Nearly two weeks after the coalition submitted more than 13,000 signatures to Santa Monica City Clerk Sarah Gorman, another three people visited her office March 27 to file a “Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition” to begin the initiative process and challenge the City Council’s plan to potentially shut down SMO as early as next year.

Gorman confirmed the trio who visited her office last week was Lauren McCollum, Nikos Kokotakis, and Flora Yin.

Last week’s filing came less than 48 hours after the Santa Monica City Council unanimously adopted a plan to look into how SMO could either be shut down or have its operations significantly cut.

The initiative could result in a ballot measure, giving voters a chance to amend the City Charter and take the power to decide whether or not the airport land ever becomes redeveloped out of the hands of the City Council.

Accordingly, the process differs from the Hines DA referendum, where the City Council adopted a new law and residents gathered enough signatures to have that law vetoed.

In its filed Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition, the proponents stated the initiative seeks to put the decision of whether the land SMO sits on would be redeveloped in the hands of the voters because council members and special interest groups “have sought to convert the Airport to many different uses, including housing, a campus, a transit center and other schemes that would increase density and create new problems.”

“The City of Santa Monica has stated … it does not have the resources to develop and maintain such a valuable property for low-density use, like a park,” McCollum, Kokatakis, and Yin stated in their Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition. “A City report says that once closed, Airport land would likely be redeveloped for higher density uses, bringing more traffic, noise and air pollution.”

Interestingly enough, Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor and Santa Monica Councilman Kevin McKeown both said at the March 25 council meeting if SMO were indeed shut down, it would remain a low-density project and the land where the airport sits would not be converted into “Century City West.”

Even more, there is a coalition of residents – – who seek to have SMO converted into a regional park.

Still, the three petitioners stated in their notice Santa Monica’s leaders could not be trusted to make the right decisions about the future of SMO, hence the City Charter should be amended in order to allow voters to decide the fate of the airport’s land.

“The City’s recent approval of a large high-density development completely disregarded the concerns of nearby residents and the people of Santa Monica,” McCollum, Kokatakis, and Yin stated. “It is clear from [the] statements and … actions [of the City Council] that the politicians can’t be trusted to maintain a low density land use.”

The three petitioners also stated SMO is an economic benefit to the City of Santa Monica. Closing the airport, the petitioner stated, would result in lost jobs and tax revenue.

“Santa Monica Airport and Business Park are low density, valuable community land uses that generate business, jobs and tax revenue for the City,” McCollum, Kokatakis, and Yin stated in their Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition. “Closing the Airport would mean a loss of significant revenue, shutting down businesses, and terminating hundreds of good family-wage jobs.”

It remains to be seen how a potential ballot initiative would be impacted by federal agreements governing SMO.

California Elections Code section 9203 governs the Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition.

With the notice of intent already on file, the next step would be for the City Attorneys office to draft a ballot title and summary. Once the language is complete, proponents of the ballot initiative must publish the notice of intent at least once in a newspaper.

Upon publication, the initiative’s proponents may begin circulating a petition for signatures.

The petitioners have a 180-day window to collect signatures equal to 15 percent of the total number of registered Santa Monica voters. By comparison, had to acquire signatures from 10 percent of registered Santa Monica voters within 30 days.

Post a comment


Apr. 4, 2014, 9:40:15 am

Robert Donin said...

Residocracy+Proposed Initiative+Out of order and not in the best interest of city leaders and residents.

Apr. 4, 2014, 9:43:59 am

JohnF said...

This initiative is backed by the Airline Pilots and Owners Association, a national aviation lobby - they are trying to handcuff the City to keep the jets flying forever. Here are a few explicit public quotes by the Council when instructing staff on what is and is not allowed for land released at the airport: Kevin McKewen: "The other thing I want to address, I'll call it a 'canard', is that if the Council wants to close the airport, the only possible reason is to approve huge development on that site. I think former mayor Mike Feinstein sussed out the politics of that pretty well - nobody would last here on the dais if they planned to do that! I also thought it was curious that one of the airport proponents said that Chicago shut down Meigs field and now there is wind whistling through the brush, nothing happening there. I guess there is no development pressure in Chicago." Kevin McKeown: "Part of my motion will make clear that my intent, and I hope the whole councils is that we are looking only at low impact, low intensity use on this site. Frankly its not an appropriate site for the kind of development that might be appropriate in other parts of our city or the region, there is no mass transit anywhere near this site" Kevin McKeown: "The second part of the motion has to do with the future use of the airport land. When we adopted the current LUCE there were a few parts of town we left out deliberately, and the airport was one of them. ... This is part of the staff recommendation that we now begin to develop an airport concept plan based on low intensity use for the reasons that I've given and for others, and that in doing that concept plan we take into account that the quitclaim parcel may fall uncontested into our hands in 2015, so lets make some plans for that" Bob Holbrook: "Most of you probably know that Douglas Aircraft started over near Wilshire Boulevard, and that the location of that early plant is Douglas Park today ... I don't think we should give up the fight, I think the people of Santa Monica expect us to fight for them and fight for the property that belongs to the City" Pam O'Connor: "I did want to address some of the comments that were made, the alarmist statements about there is some plot that this airport land is to be developed into a Century City. I don't think the guiding principle is wether people here would be re-elected or not, I think the principle is what we as the community develop in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE). The underlying principles in that document are that development will go into strategic locations, and again the underlying principle is, as Council member McKeown alluded to, is that it has to be connected with transportation, you are making decisions on land use tied with transportation. There is no transit, no rail line going to this area, no rail line in any kind of county plan to go to this area. This is not going to be served in any future decades by transit, so it is a low impact development, if there is any, that would be on these lands if we are doing that. And frankly the main other reason is, these are public lands, the public lands are owned by the people of Santa Monica, and it will be the people of Santa Monica who ultimately decide how to use it." Pam O'Connor: "But again, in general, based on the guidance of the community coming together on the LUCE and the use of our other public lands, it would have a good public purpose, it would not be being sold off to developers for high rise development or any other kind of development, so that is just alarmism, just not good form as far as I'm concerned." Kevin McKeown: "If I may say briefly, I just want the community to note that mayor O'Connor and I do not always agree on development issues, but we absolutely agree on this one. I think you've heard tonight that some of the people who want to keep the airport plan to scare you into voting against the airport being turned into something better out of fear of development, and I hope that what you have observed here tonight a commitment which I hope is shared by all the Council members that the airport in never going to be some high rise development when I said that the airport concept plan should focus on low intensity use, thats exactly what I meant and I said it very deliberately" Pam O'Connor: "Right, and I'll just add that that conforms with out LUCE that says we do allow development in Santa Monica but it is in strategic locations protecting 96% of the City and focussing it in limited areas" CASMAT reached out to other Council members that did not get an opportunity to express their position on land use during the meeting. The following are the stated positions that we received back (so far): Gleam Davis: "A final determination about the specific future of the airport land will require an extensive community process. However, the airport abuts residential neighborhoods and is not adjacent to a transit center. Therefore, as the Council unanimously agreed, any future development of the airport land should be low intensity and low density." Ted Winterer: "Anything other than low rise, low density development at the SMO site makes no sense whatsoever as the area is bordered by single family residences, is already heavily congested and is not served now or in the future by mass transit. Furthermore, I believe we could convert at least most of the acreage to a park -- we haven't even begun to explore the prospects for help financing the costs from nonprofits and other government entities." Tony Vazquez: "As a home owner in sunset park and one of the founding members of the Ahwahnee principles and smart growth advocate I would never support another Playa Vista Project at the Santa Monica Airport site. My goal would be to advocate for more open space and low density development use at the SMO site because sunset park already has many "F" intersections to deal with." Any way you do the math, the fact is the entire premise behind this initiative is false and deceptive. The truth is that these people don't care two hoots about Santa Monica, they care only that their long-subsidized, polluting, money loosing, and dangerous hobby is allowed to continue at the expense of the health, safety and wellbeing of the people in Santa Monica and the surrounds. They don't care that the City council is doing what the people asked for, they don't care that Airport2Park is backed by just about every local residents group in the City, they don't care about Santa Monica, they don't care about development (one of them even is a real estate developer, another a lawyer from a firm specializing in ballot initiatives), and they don't care about local residents, Santa Monica or otherwise. They only care about their hobby. It is up to all of us now, no matter where we live in the City, to show these national lobbyists that we are not suckers, and we won't be duped and manipulated in this way. Link: Here is a copy of this deceptive filing with the City Clerk. It was filed at the City Clerk's office at 2:16 PM. At 3:13 PM Google reported that the story was posted on the AOPA web site. It takes Google a while to notice things, so that was pretty fast for an organization that claims to have nothing to do with it! Not even the City itself found out that fast! AOPA's post clearly had to already be written before the petition request was even filed! And remember, they have publicly denied involvement - not the first time they've been caught lying and meddling.

Apr. 4, 2014, 10:12:28 am

ian said...

Way to go Mirror. Nothing like publishing a story a week late. Nice to know you are on top of things — NOT!

Apr. 4, 2014, 10:36:27 am

Tori said...

Shitting down buisnesses?

Apr. 4, 2014, 10:48:17 am

Donald said...

There are only 311 registered pilots in *ALL* of Santa Monica and less than 300 (mostly NON-residents) who fly out of SMO on any given day, yet they want to control and tie up the airport and FORCE a city wide charter change (FUNDED BY AOPA, THE NATIONAL PILOTS ASSOCIATION) that will trigger a city wide election for _ANY_ change to the airport that will effect them. What privileged treatment for a few rich folks! Contrast that with the 70,000 daily Big Blue Bus users who get NO city subsidies and NO special treatment. Just say no! DON’T SIGN this bogus petition.

Apr. 4, 2014, 11:42:07 am

Mike said...

When do LA residents get a say in this? More than half of the airport perimeter borders Los Angeles. We take the brunt of the pollution and don't share in any economic benefits. When do we get a vote?

Apr. 4, 2014, 11:48:46 am

Jerry McCutcheon said...

Instead trying to kill the airport Santa Monica should be trying to turn a local industry with high paying jobs. If Santa Monica will require 3 bladed props on high horsepower engines the excessive noise will be eliminated.

Apr. 4, 2014, 12:31:08 pm

JohnF said...

Jerry, Santa Monica has a voluntary program to offset costs for any noise mitigation device including mufflers and advanced propellors. The offset has been on the table now for year, and not a single person has applied. Unfortunately the FAA controls what happens in the air, and the City is unable to mandate such devices. Given the complete intransigence of the aviation community at SMO to such mitigation, we are now left with no alternative but to push for closure.

Apr. 4, 2014, 3:18:37 pm

Bill Worden said...

It should be becoming fairly obvious by now that the city government in Santa Monica is broken and is not serving in the best interests of its own citizens or the citizens of nearby communities. Santa Monica itself has become gridlocked with traffic and the attendant vehicle pollution, congestion, loss of time, and noise, and it seems like the City Council is hellbent for election to see even more development in the city in spite of this fact. There is already one lawsuit and one referendum on the ballot in November aimed at short-stopping the Hines project in a desperate effort by the disfranchised citizenry to take back control of their city. This newly proposed amendment to the city charter merely codifies what has become the reality of political action in Santa Monica. What can possibly be wrong with the citizens having a direct voice in land use and development in their, once fair, city by the sea? Why shouldn't those who will need to contend with the consequences of land use and development have a say in mitigation up front instead of trying to deal with the aftermath of poorly made, and often irreversible, decisions by the City Council? Can not we be trusted with our own governing? What is wrong with direct democracy in a small city like Santa Monica? It ought to be apparent to the majority of folks in the Los angeles basin that the municipal airport here presents no palpable danger to anyone. The city streets and parks are far more dangerous places when the actuarial statistics are reviewed. Exactly one person on the ground in the neighborhoods around the airport has been killed in the last 95 years. Would anyone care to hazard a guess as to how many have died in traffic accidents, earthquakes, domestic accidents, sporting events, and crimes in that interval? What is the justification for anyone advocating holding the airport to a higher standard than the rest of this city in which it is one of the top ten revenue producers? Yes, there is often the smell of jet exhaust in the air, but no one has been able to establish a direct health hazard associated with it, just as no one has shown any health detriment in the surrounding communities due to the lead in avgas. This does not imply that no mitigation should or could be attempted, merely that there is no established clear and present danger. If the temptation represented by some of the most valuable real estate in America were to be taken away from the City Council then perhaps they could concentrate on making the airport a cleaner, quieter, safer and vastly more valuable asset to the community instead of spending their creative energies trying to hamstring it as they have been doing for these last several years. It should be realized and appreciated that the airport land development issue is not merely about the land occupied by one of the most important small airports in the United States. It is about development of the adjacent properties in all of the neighboring cities. Our airport, like all airports, projects an "imaginary surface" around its boundaries to preclude obstructions that would be hazardous to flight. Do you think it is an oversight on the part of would-be developers that there are no high-rise buildings around the airport, especially on the extended centerlines of the runway? It is not an oversight-the imaginary surface provides real protection. As it stands now closing the airport or even shortening the runway will pull this graphite rod out of the reactor and precipitate a runaway development meltdown every bit as unstoppable as Fukushima. The City Council stated at its last meeting that they just wanted control of their own property, which taken at face value, seems reasonable. But is it? There are several well known instances where the city does not control its own land, e.g. Santa Monica has no control over the land that the freeways traverse or over the land the new rail line occupies, nor does it control the air-side operations of the municipal airport. There is more than ample precedent for larger entities (the county, state, and federal governments) to over-ride local authority for the greater good- a principal that was enunciated just last week by Los Angeles City Councilman Yaroslavsky with regard to the proposed subway in Beverly Hills. The airport, although it serves Santa Monica well, is also a major part of our Southern California economy and an indispensable part of our national air transportation system. It has a 'multiplier effect" that generates far more than the 200 to 300 million dollars accruing to Santa Monica coffers directly. The recent city-commissioned studies by the Rand Corporation and HR

Apr. 4, 2014, 4:56:50 pm

Lorie R said...

Hateful Bullies love to play the victim card! It's straight out of the GOP playbook. Well John Fairweather, Mayor O'Conner, Keven McKeown, the Rubins and others are bullies drunk with money and power. Now that there is organized opposition they see that they are going to have a fight and just like all bullies, they're starting to cry. Once we put this to a vote, the people will decide what's right. It's the only fair way to do this. NOT with whoever yells the loudest or has the most money backing them.

Apr. 4, 2014, 7:14:14 pm

Martin Rubin said...

Thank you Real pilot. It's good to hear pilot respond responsibly to such disturbing comments.

Apr. 4, 2014, 7:26:20 pm

Martin Rubon said...

So much development in Santa Monica was directly related to the arrival of corporate jet traffic. Closing the airport will put the reverse thrusters (Brakes) on Santa Monica's big development.

Apr. 4, 2014, 8:27:56 pm

Evan said...

DO NOT SIGN THE PETITION. Hopefully the AOPA won't be able to find 13,000 suckers in the city.

Apr. 4, 2014, 8:55:07 pm

Neil Rubin said...

Mr. Fairweather has uncovered a shocking truth: The ballot initiative to prevent the airport from closing (unless the city's residents vote to close it) is backed by people who like using the airport and by local, regional, and national associations of people who like using airports. How tricky of these people propose an initiative to prevent the airport from closing, when secretly their real goal is to prevent the airport from closing! Where did Mr. Fairweather ever get the idea that the AOPA denied involvement in this ballot initiative? The AOPA's article published the day the initiative was filed said "AOPA has pledged to support the effort" and "AOPA has committed to offering nationwide support to the effort to protect the historic airport, which plays a significant role not only in the local economy but also in the regional and national transportation system." Where exactly are they keeping their support for this effort a secret? I have a shocking secret of my own to share: Most of the people who founded Airport2Park live next to the airport and want to close it because they don't like the noise or the sometime smell of kerosene. They care much more about closing the airport than they care about a park. They want to somehow convince the rest of Santa Monica to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a park in their neighborhood, because they think that is the only way that a community sick of over-development could possibly support closing the airport. As recently as last year, Mr. Fairweather was publishing articles and videos explaining how the airport should be rented out as commercial property, since that would create more jobs (and of course more car trips) than its current use as an airport. The AOPA is quite forthright about its motives here. It's the Airport2Park people who are being misleading about theirs.

Apr. 5, 2014, 5:17:18 am

FredD said...

Just don't sign the petetion. It has wrong or misleading statements of fact. It is a desparate attempt to scare the public into a mistaken vote. Beware of a well-funded campaign to get the signatures.

Apr. 5, 2014, 10:51:55 am

anonymous said...

Can we all come together on one thing? Please email the Mirror and Santa Monica Police to report the threats of "anti aviation exterminator". This guy has gone too far and has threatened both sides. I am reporting him to the authorities and I hope you take a moment to as well.

Apr. 7, 2014, 11:33:57 am

Neil Rubin said...

John, as a person who works in the data analysis business, I'm sure that you can understand that an organization interested in unbiased information about public opinion is not going to want the people being polled to know who is asking the question. Knowledge of who is asking the questions is going to skew the results. Once the polling was over--and the risk of biasing the polling results was gone--the AOPA was happy to disclose that it had funded the survey. Nothing nefarious here at all.

Apr. 5, 2014, 12:22:57 pm

Perspective said...

It would not surprise me to find out that "anti aviation" is not on the side of the airport and is one of the guys from crap or airport to park-ing lot trying to instigate something. It's well documented that the Mirror hates the airport (Mirror receives ad money from anti airport entities) so of course they aren't going to remove these hateful posts. Like typical media, they're perpetuating the problem.

Apr. 5, 2014, 2:07:42 pm

Martin Rubin said...

If we are to know who is behind the comments, better all should be discussed at an open public forum.

Apr. 5, 2014, 2:24:26 pm

JohnF said...

Neil - AOPA denied having anything to do with the deceptive push poll that laid the ground work for this petition (see This denial was published in the Lookout (Feb 14) and I quote "A spokesperson for the AOPA told The Lookout Friday that he had no knowledge of any recent polling going on about Santa Monica Airport." This same cycle of public denial followed by subsequent public ownership by AOPA (Bill Dunn) also occurred in August 2011. We know for a fact that AOPA has been planning the ballot initiative for months now, and for them to act like it was initiated by Santa Monica residents and they are simply supportive of it is laughable.

Apr. 5, 2014, 4:26:02 pm

Dr. Glen Tistaert said...

Nearly everybody has opinions about stuff and I am no exception. Los Angeles County has approximately 10 million people in it now. These people are not apt to pack up their bags and go home. Instead, more and more people are going to come. To me the present traffic situation is horrendous. Given that we are congested and street traffic is going to get more congested, why would we take alternate means of transportation away? I do not know how you go about accomplishing this, but the reason we have a City Council and government people is to know how to get things done. My feeling is we should 1. Look at updating the airport and make it more functional 2. Look at building a subway system that interconnects the airport, Downtown Santa Monica, a parking facility east of Downtown SM for visitors to Downtown Santa Monica and Metro Rail + subway to the sea. 3. Use a small segment of Airport land for parking lot dedicated to air travelors and airport subway users. 4. Make both the Airport and subway available to all the people living in the area as an alternate means of transportation Something needs to be done to add to our transportation system, not subtract from it. Glen

Apr. 6, 2014, 11:17:30 am

Douglas said...

Then don't read it. Free speech can get ugly sometimes.

Apr. 6, 2014, 12:42:14 pm

Douglas said...

Touche, V ! I sure asked for that.

May. 2, 2014, 12:39:12 pm

John Phillips said...

Donald made an interesting point, that there are 311 registered pilots in Santa Monica. He faild to note that: (1) JohnF(airwealther)'s lobbying group, CASMAT, only has 28 users on its message board; (2) Martin Rubin's website only lists 68 members. (His and CRAAP websites fail to list his donor's.); (3) when I attended the meeting last year of my neighborhood group, FOSP, to vote for the board, fewer than 70 people showed up to vote.; and (4) 8,553 votes were cast in my (FOSP) neighborhood council's precincts in the 2008 presidential election. So none of you represent Santa Monica voters, do you? Why not let the little people, those who vote, tell you lobbyists what they think, rather than the other way round?

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