A lawsuit filed last week on behalf of those who want Santa Monica Airport (SMO) shut down or limited in its operation was dismissed, meaning a pro-airport ballot initiative will be allowed to be presented to voters in the upcoming Nov. 4 election.
Attorney Jonathan Stein made an ex parte filing last week formally asking the City Attorney’s Office to amend certain language used in the ballot initiatives. However, a Superior Court judge dismissed that filing.
It was the second time within a week the anti-airport bloc suffered a legal blow in the latest chapter in the saga to determine the future of SMO.
An earlier filing sought to block an initiative backed by SMO interests from being officially placed on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The Los Angeles County Registrar’s deadline to finalize language for ballot initiatives appearing on the Nov. 4 ballot was Aug. 28.
At issue was the language of two initiatives expected to be on the Nov. 4 ballot. One of those initiatives – Measure D – is backed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assoc. (AOPA) and, if approved by voters, would require any future changes to the land use and zoning of SMO is subject to voter approval.
While SMO supporters state Measure D gives Santa Monica voters the power to decide the future of the airport, anti-SMO group argue the ballot initiative is a plot to keep the airport open.
A second initiative on the ballot backed by City Hall claims to challenge the measure supported by AOPA and its local group, Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions (SMOHDD). However, the court filings made by Stein claim there is misleading language within the ballot measures.
City Hall’s interest in having its own ballot initiative – known as Measure LC – is to preserve the power to determine SMO’s future within the hands of the seven-member City Council.
Stein told The Mirror – and made similar overtures at City Council meetings – that the seven-member elected panel leans in favor of keeping SMO open.
He claimed the City Attorney’s office has used “procedural barriers” to prevent hearings for him to present constitutional challenges, which Stein emphasized should instead be allowed as part of the normal functioning of the courts, of the proposed ballot measures.
“We’ve not been able to get a normal hearing on this problem,” Stein told The Mirror. “It’s clear after several months of litigation that the City Attorney used her job to protect special interests at the expense of the residents.”
On the other side, attorney David Shaby called Stein’s attempt to appeal the court’s recent decisions was “meaningless.”
“The court issued a very strong ruling. There is no legal mechanism to stop [Measure D from appearing on the ballot],” Shaby told The Mirror.
Shaby said the Measure D vote is one of the most important decisions facing Santa Monica voters this century, as the initiative will play a significant role in determining how 227 acres of open space will be used going forward.
He added the council has been inclined to support large developments and the airport is a major tool that could be used to leverage against a potential proliferation of high-rise projects in and around Santa Monica.
For example, Shaby told The Mirror that SMO is already preventing high-rise developments from being built in Venice Beach and making the stretch of beach between LAX and Pacific Palisades resemble Miami’s South Beach or Honolulu’s beachfront neighborhood of Waikiki.
The existence of two competing measures on the November ballot initially has raised the question of what would happen should both initiatives receive a majority vote.