Measure Granting Voters Approval of SMO Redevelopment Fails

 - November 6, 2014, 12:55 PM
Santa Monica, Calif., voters defeated an initiative placing the fate of Santa Monica Airport in the hands of a public vote once federal authority over the historic airfield expires. However, they did approve an initiative to leave that decision to city council members.

Voters in Santa Monica, Calif., opted to leave any decision regarding the redevelopment of Santa Monica Airport (SMO) to members of the city council once federal oversight of the historic airfield expires. They also defeated an initiative to allow a public vote on its future.

By a reported margin of 59-41, voters on November 8 defeated Measure D on the city ballot, which would have allowed voters to decide whether the city could make airport land available for non-aviation purposes. Results showed even stronger support for the city-backed Measure LC, granting the council authority to make that determination.

“This was not a referendum about the airport itself, but rather the matter of who should determine its fate,” Santa Monica Airport Association (SMAA) vice president Christian Fry told AIN. “Unfortunately, they chose to leave that decision to politicians.”

Fry pointed to what he termed “totally inaccurate” statements by airport opponents intended to sway votes towards Measure LC, including unsubstantiated claims about the proliferation of jets at SMO.

“We had a total of 95,152 operations last year, and jets represent only around 15 percent of them,” he said. “On average, that’s less than 20 aircraft per day. The idea that we are overrun with jets is factually untrue. You need only look at the information on the city’s website to see that.”

Additionally, Fry noted that Santa Monica’s intensive noise-abatement strategy led to 132 noise violations, a relatively small figure when compared with total operations. Those same restrictions also limit the size of aircraft operating from SMO.

“Furthermore, our airspace serves as a protective dome, keeping the floor of the LAX Bravo at 5,000 feet,” he added. “Removing SMO would trade something like 17 little jets per day, with hundreds of larger airliners flying at lower crossing altitudes.”

Alphabet Groups Respond

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) sponsored the Measure D petition, and contributed just shy of 75 percent of the approximately $800,000 raised toward efforts to preserve SMO. Measure LC backers raised a fraction of that.

“We are tremendously disappointed that the city council will be able to continue business as usual when it comes to attempts to close and redevelop the airport,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports, “[b]ut that doesn’t mean SMO is closing or that we’re giving up on it.”

The FAA maintains it has never relinquished control over airport land, but a lawsuit filed by the city against the agency asserts that the city’s obligation to maintain it as an airport expires June 30, 2015, following a one-year extension to a 1984 operating agreement with the federal government.

Airport supporters counter that city officials last received federal grants for the airport in 2003, a timeline requiring them to keep SMO open until at least 2023.

“It is unfortunate that the ballot initiative outcome allows Santa Monica city officials to continue their long-standing attempts to close their community airport, which fly in the face of their legal obligations and disregard the importance of the airport as a general aviation gateway to Southern California,” added NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.

SMO proponents have accused city officials of employing a “starvation strategy,” in Fry’s words, by turning away new aviation businesses and allowing existing lease agreements to lapse without renewal. Despite the recent setback, Fry maintains that efforts to preserve SMO will continue as before.

“This has always been a long-term battle, and even if [Measure] D had passed we’d still be doing much the same work we’re doing now,” he said. “We’re confident we have peoples’ attention.”


Marty's picture

Measure D proponents touted polls and survey results claiming 70% of Santa Monica voters were in favor of keeping Santa Monica Airport.
Some how they convinced 15, 000 registered SM voters to sign a petition to put D on the ballot, but were unable to muster half that number to vote for D. That despite spending $800,000 on their campaign.
Why? Because the campaign was full of lies and deceit, and the money spent only tarnished aviation in the eyes of Santa Monica residents.

I realize the desire to keep all airports open at all costs but sometimes it is of value to pick and choose situations. Santa Monica Airport is a very unusual situational airport. It was not made for anything more than small prop planes.

Its runways are too short and the buffer zones over two thirds shorter than what is required by the FAA, with no available space to annex. There are residential homes, preschools, elementary, and middle schools so close to the airport that they abut the airport directly. Because of this situation the levels of air pollution from the jets can't dissipate but instead directly affect the residential neighborhood homes that are at times almost 50 feet from the jet exhaust.

The homes are not wanting the airport to close to increase property value, it really isn't going to change things since property value is already impossibly high. Also the city and those in support of limiting jet airport operations have no interest in allowing any land development at the airport, so this is not an issue.

Proposition D, while very very cleverly crafted, when the smoke cleared became all too clear to all Santa Monicans. This was particularly when no organization endorsed it and conversely 100s of organizations endorsed the proposition giving the City of Santa Monica the mandate to help mitigate jet activity at the airport. When the people saw what proposition D was actually about, it left a bad taste in the mouth of many regarding the actions of the AOPA and NBAA.

It is amusing how aviation twisted situation - non-Santa Monica people come to Santa Monica, paid $20 for EACH signature to collect enough to place a measure in the ballot. So, who you are to dictate us (Santa Monicans) what to do? Go to your own city and propose any measure you like! Do not try to impose your opinion on other people, who (surprise!) have their own opinion. We had 3 years-long airport visioning process. During this process an independent organization interviews people regarding airport. Pilots were invited! Nevertheless - 86% interviewed were against airport or for its substantial reduction. This is a voice of the people of Santa Monica. City Council already voted in favor of closing airport - 20-30 (?) years ago. This decision is still enforced, nobody cancel it.