The Hines development agreement was rescinded at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, meaning the referendum on the proposed mixed-used project will avoid being placed on the Nov. 4 ballot. However, voters could potentially be determining the fate and future of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO).
One pro-SMO group has already filed paperwork with City Hall to have a ballot measure placed in front of voters in November, hoping to take away from the City Council the power to decide whether or not the airport land ever becomes redeveloped out of the hands of the City Council.
Proponents of the ballot initiative stated in their Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition the measure would seek 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 Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assoc. (AOPA) backed the push behind the ballot measure. Three individuals signed their names to the filed petition – Lauren McCollum, Nikos Kokotakis, and Flora Yin – and argued SMO is an economic benefit to Santa Monica.
“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.”
In light of the filing by McCollum, Kokatakis, and Yin, another group filed a lawsuit last week against the AOPA.
Attorney Jonathan Stein confirmed in an email to the media that 11 plaintiffs – all Santa Monica voters – filed a complaint against McCollum, Kokatakis, Yin, City Clerk Sarah Gorman, City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie, and the City Council.
However, in an email to the council, City staff, community leaders, and members of the media preceding the filing of the complaint, Stein stated the legal action was not intended to vilify Santa Monica’s elected and government officials but instead focused on the three individuals who filed for the ballot measure on behalf of AOPA.
The complaint, among other things, hoped to prevent the initiative from being certified or validated by City Hall and, therefore, keeping AOPA’s desired measure off the Nov. 4 ballot.
Just a few days after the complaint was filed, which only listed the full names of three of the 11 plaintiffs, the City Council unanimously voted to direct City staff to draft a potential amendment to Santa Monica’s Charter.
Brought to the dais by Mayor Pam O’Connor, Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day, and Council member Kevin McKeown, the direction asks City staff to come back to the dais with Charter amendment stating the future use of SMO land “would require voter approval for any significant change in the use of the land but which would protect the City Council’s discretion to manage the Airport.”
The possible Charter amendment would also allow the Council to maintain its authority in limiting or terminating particular land uses and leases “in order to protect community health and welfare and the environment.”