PROPOSED CHARTER AMENDMENT
WHEREAS, the City of Santa Monica owns and operates Santa Monica Airport ("the Airport"), and significant controversy exists about the Airport’s future and the future use of the 227 acres that comprise the Airport land;
WHEREAS, the Airport is one of the oldest general aviation airports in the country; dating back to the 1920's, when the City acquired the Airport and Airport land and aviation was in its infancy;
WHEREAS, over the decades since the City acquired the Airport, aviation, the City, and the Airport's surroundings have all changed dramatically;
WHEREAS, when the City acquired the Airport, it was a simple landing strip surrounded by agricultural fields;
WHEREAS, prior to and during World War II, the Airport became home to Douglas Aircraft, and it became the City's major employer and the country’s foremost aircraft manufacturer;
WHEREAS, during the war years, the City supported the war effort by leasing the Airport to the federal government; Douglas employees worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week, producing military aircraft; and the property around the airport was developed as housing for Douglas Aircraft's tens of thousands of workers;
WHEREAS, homes in those residential neighborhoods adjacent to the Airport were built close to the Airport's boundaries on three sides, with some only 300 feet from the runway ends;
WHEREAS, the end of the World War II brought significant changes: the lease to the federal government ended, control of the Airport premises was returned to the City, Douglas Aircraft left the City, and jet aircraft traffic came to the Airport;
WHEREAS, with Douglas Aircraft's departure and the advent of noisy jet aircraft, the community's interests and the aviation community’s interests diverged; and the relationship between neighbors and the Airport became highly contentious;
WHEREAS, during the ensuing decades, Airport neighbors sued the City claiming that aircraft noise had ruined their quality of life; Airport tenants sued the City claiming that the City’s regulatory efforts had damaged their businesses; and the federal government sued the City claiming that City regulations, intended to shield neighbors from adverse Airport impacts, violated federal law;
WHEREAS, the controversies lasted for many years and were, eventually, temporarily resolved through the adoption of 1984 Settlement Agreement between the City and the federal government; it resolved all then-pending legal disputes and obligated the City to continue to operate the Airport until 2015, when the settlement agreement will expire;
WHEREAS, in the last 25 years, as business jet, flight training, and other operations increased, so did Airport neighbors’ complaints about air pollution, noise, and safety risks;
WHEREAS, in recent years, with expiration of the 1984 Agreement and other contractual obligations approaching, growing numbers of residents have demanded closure of all or part of the Airport; and their demands increased when a terrible accident at the Airport claimed four lives last year, including the lives of two well-known community members;
WHEREAS, the City has worked in various ways to address residents’ concerns about adverse Airport impacts, including through the adoption of policies and regulations and the implementation of various voluntary programs, all intended to curtail noise and air pollution and to enhance safety;
WHEREAS, the federal government and aviation community have strongly opposed the City’s regulatory efforts and litigation has ensued, calling into question the City's ability to protect its residents and other Airport neighbors from adverse Airport impacts and to protect itself against liability claims;
WHEREAS, in response to this dilemma, the City has undertaken a lengthy Airport visioning process to identify the concerns of members of the local and aviation communities and to explore all alternatives for the Airport's future, including alternatives other than the extremes of maintaining the status quo, which is unacceptable to community members, and Airport closure, which is unacceptable to the federal government and the aviation community;
WHEREAS, despite the City's substantial efforts to identify a range of alternatives, including any possible compromises, the community remains intensely polarized, with many residents and other Airport neighbors demanding that the Airport be entirely or partially closed and that the land be rededicated to another use which would protect and promote public general health, safety and welfare;
WHEREAS, with the 1984 Agreement about to expire and other federal obligations at or near expiration, the controversy has escalated; and the City Council has indicated that, unless adverse impacts are substantially reduced, the City will have no alternative as Airport proprietor and responsible owner other than closing to aviation use either the entire Airport or a significant portion of the Airport, which was transferred to the City by quitclaim deed after World War II;
WHEREAS, in response to the Council’s indication of concern that it may have no choice other than closing all or part of the Airport to protect the health, welfare and safety of residents and to protect the City from liability claims, aviation interests have prepared and circulated an initiative measure that is intended to protect the status quo and their interests;
WHEREAS, that initiative measure includes a preamble consisting of "findings" about the Airport that many community members find incomplete, deceptive or simply untrue
WHEREAS, the substantive provisions of the measure proposed by aviation interests would require voter approval to close the Airport, and also to change aviation uses at the Airport, or even to impose additional restrictions on Airport lessees who provide aviation services; thus the measure would serve the aviation community's interest in preserving the status quo at the Airport but would severely limit the City Council's ability to prudently manage the Airport and Airport land;
WHEREAS, because it would circumscribe the City Council's authority to regulate uses of the Airport property through lease provisions and other means and would deprive the Council of whatever authority it has to close all or part of the Airport, the aviation interests' ballot measure would deprive the City Council of its current ability to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents;
WHEREAS, the Council wishes to take all possible steps to preserve its ability to protect the community;
WHEREAS, whatever the future of the Airport, the City is committed to basing decisions about the future use of the Airport land on complete and reliable information and on an inclusive public planning process that considers and appropriately balances all competing interests;
WHEREAS, such a process would assess the costs and benefits attendant upon various uses of the Airport land, including continuing the Airport use, reducing the amount of land devoted to that use, or making a different use of all or part of the Airport land;
WHEREAS, as part of this process the City would assess the environmental and economic impacts of these options and, based on the results of that assessment will develop a recommended specific plan for the Airport land;
WHEREAS, in order to ensure community support for the plan and also to preserve its own ability to protect residents health, safety and welfare, it is necessary for the Council to propose its own, competing amendment to the City Charter, which, if adopted by more votes, would override and nullify the measure proposed by aviation interests;
WHEREAS, the Council intends that its measure should strike a balance between preserving the Council's authority to protect the community against harmful airport impacts but also assure the community that the Airport will not be overdeveloped in the future;
WHEREAS, to accomplish these goals, the Council wishes to offer the voters a competing measure that would require preparation of a specific plan for future use of the Airport land, if and when the land is no longer devoted to aviation uses, and would specify that the plan must be developed so as to ensure compatibility with surrounding uses and preservation of residents' qualify of life;
WHEREAS, because this initiative measure addresses the same subject matter as the initiative measure that has been circulated by aviation interests, it is the Council's intention that if this ballot measure receives more votes than the their initiative, this measure shall prevail and the other shall be nullified in all respects, even if the aviation community's measure also receives a majority affirmative vote.
Section 1. The following section shall be added to Article VI of the Santa Monica City Charter:
640. Regulation, Management and Closure of Santa Monica Airport and Future Use of Airport Land.
Subject only to limitations imposed by law, the City Council shall have full authority, without voter approval, to regulate use of the Santa Monica Airport, manage Airport leaseholds, condition leases, and permanently close all or part of the Airport to aviation use.
If all or part of the Airport land is permanently closed to aviation use, no new development of that land shall be allowed until the voters have approved limits on the uses and development that may occur on the land. However, this section shall not prohibit the City Council from approving the following on Airport land that has been permanently closed to aviation use: the development of parks, public open spaces, and public recreational facilities; and the maintenance and replacement of existing cultural, arts and education uses.
Section 2. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this measure is for any reason held to be unconstitutional or otherwise legally invalid by a decision of any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity and force of the remaining portions of this measure. The City Council hereby declares that it would have placed this City Charter amendment before the voters, and the voters declare that they would have adopted this Charter Amendment and each portion thereof regardless of the fact that any portion may be subsequently declared invalid.
Section 3. This measure is intended to compete with, prevail over, and nullify all provisions of any other charter amendment placed on the same ballot that relates to the subject of the Santa Monica Airport, including the measure by proponents Lauren McCollum, Nikos Kokotakis and Flora Yin, who requested a ballot title and summary on March 26, 2014 for a proposed initiative which they stated would require voter approval before the City could redevelop Airport land.Back to Top
CITY ATTORNEY'S IMPARTIAL ANALYSIS
BALLOT MEASURE AMENDING THE CITY CHARTER TO PROHIBIT NEW DEVELOPMENT ON AIRPORT LAND, FOLLOWING AIRPORT CLOSURE, UNTIL AFTER THE VOTERS HAVE APPROVED LIMITS ON USES AND DEVELOPMENT AND TO PRESERVE COUNCIL'S EXISTING AUTHORITY TO MANAGE, REGULATE, AND CLOSE THE AIRPORT
This measure, placed on the ballot by the City Council, would amend the City Charter to restrict new development of Santa Monica Airport land if the Airport is closed or partially closed. Specifically, new development would be prohibited until after the voters have approved limits on the uses and the development that may occur on the land. The measure includes an exception to the prohibition that allows parks, public open spaces and public recreational facilities to be developed on the land without voter approval. And, the cultural, arts and educational uses that now exist on the Airport could be maintained and replaced without voter approval.
Additionally, while the Airport remains open, this measure expressly preserves the authority of the City Council, acting as Airport operator and proprietor, to regulate and manage the Airport and Airport leases and uses, and to close all or part of the Airport. This authority is and would remain subject to constraints imposed by law. The extent of those constraints is disputed.
This measure is expressly intended to compete with, prevail over, and nullify all provisions of a competing measure on the same ballot sponsored by aviation interests. Unlike that measure, this one does not require a vote of the people to close the Airport or to restrict aviation fuel sales or the use of aviation facilities. However, this measure does require that parameters for Airport development following closure must receive voter approval before new, non-recreational development can occur on the land. Since the City's General Plan for land use requires preparation of a Specific Plan for future use of the Airport land, the parameters established by the voters would govern the content of the Specific Plan.Back to Top
ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF MEASURE LC
A YES on Measure LC modifies the City Charter to ensure Santa Monica voters, not Special Interests, determine the future of our Airport land.
And it is our land!
In the 1920’s, our grandparents approved a bond issue dedicating it as a park. Now, almost 100 years later, we have the opportunity to prevent development and advance that vision of parkland with a YES vote on Measure LC.
Unfortunately Special Interests – national aviation lobbyists – have qualified a competing Measure for the ballot (Measure D). This is just a cynical attempt to fool you into locking-in their status quo access to your airport land.
Don’t be tricked.
This ‘decoy’ ballot initiative is yet another in a long line of outsider attempts to control our Airport parkland. The Federal Government, aircraft corporations, shopping center developers, and now, national lobbyists, all have manipulated the system to divert Santa Monica from realizing our grandparents’ dream for this land – a public park for recreational use.
While we’d like to imagine an expansive park where families enjoy trees, grass, playfields, the reality for this land and for Santa Monicans today is quite different.
In the last two decades, the Santa Monica Airport has seen a 350% increase in noisy and air polluting private jet traffic. Since 2000, 26 planes associated with the airport have crashed (killing 36). These planes are flying over what should be quiet, dedicated open space accessible to everyone looking for respite from overdevelopment, traffic and noise.
Which would you prefer?
As the City prepares to take ownership of our Airport in 2015, this may be your last chance to ensure special interests don’t win again. Vote to reaffirm the wisdom of this land purchase Santa Monicans made themselves almost a century ago. Smart then, even smarter now.
Vote YES on Measure LC.
/s/ Maryanne LaGuardia, former Regional Commissioner of AYSO
/s/ Neil Carrey, Former Chair of Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission
/s/ Zina Josephs, President – Friends of Sunset Park
/s/ Ted Winterer, City Councilmember; former OPA President
/s/ John Fairweather, Chair – CLCSMAL; founder – Airport2Park, CASMAT
REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF MEASURE LC
Politicians put Measure LC on the ballot to confuse the simple question posed by Measure D: Should voter approval be required before City politicians and pressure groups can redevelop 227 acres of low-density airport land?
We say YES to VOTERS DECIDE. Politicians say NO. That’s why they wrote Measure LC
Notice how their argument for Measure LC hides that fact. They conceal Measure D’s true intent – to let politicians redevelop 227 acres of land -- by placing the words “without voter approval” down in the fine print.
They make empty promises about parks that would cost untold millions. They say they can build so-called “recreational facilities” -- with parking lots of course -- with no vote. Then they say we might get a vote on whatever high-density schemes they come up with.
But one thing is guaranteed: they will close the airport, 175 businesses that employ 1,500 and redevelop 227 acres of land “without voter approval.”
Measure LC is intended to mislead you. VOTE NO on Measure LC.
Measure LC will deny you the right to vote on the most important land-use decision in Santa Monica history. 227 acres of wide open airport land prevents high density development. And building height restrictions for miles around the airport keep high-rise canyons like Century City from happening here.
We should demand honesty from these politicians and their allies. You have a right to vote – period.
Please vote NO on Measure LC.
And let VOTERS DECIDE by voting YES on Measure D.
Winston Cenac, Ocean Park Resident
John J. Jerabek, Resident of Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood
Mr. Jeff Faeth, Resident of Ocean Park
Christian Fry, Resident of Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood
Deidre Powell, Resident of North of Montana
ARGUMENT AGAINST MEASURE LC
DON’T BE FOOLED BY THE POLITICIANS’ INITIATIVE. Please VOTE NO on MEASURE LC.
The politicians want to redevelop 227 acres of low-density Santa Monica Airport land without voter approval. That’s what their dishonest measure is about.
The insiders at City Hall have been opposed to voters deciding the future of this land from the beginning. They have publicly said so!
So they wrote Measure LC in response to Voters Decide Initiative – Measure D – that gives you the right to vote before they can redevelop the airport.
The Politicians’ Initiative (Measure LC) is intended to mislead.
They deliberately omitted THREE MAGIC WORDS in their ballot question and hid them in the text. The words are “without voter approval.” Measure LC still allows politicians to close the airport and begin a long redevelopment fight “without voter approval.”
They try to deceive by saying we can vote on some things but not others. They say you will have a voice on their high-density plans. Then they make false promises about parks. But on the real issue – redeveloping 227 acres of land – the politicians, not the voters, are left in control.
Very clever. Better read the fine print!
Don’t leave the most serious land use decision in Santa Monica history to politicians alone. Vote No on Measure LC.
The Voters Decide Initiative -- Measure D – is honest and straightforward. It gives YOU the power to decide, not just the politicians.
Santa Monica Airport hosts 175 businesses employing 1,500 people and contributes $250 million to our economy. The Airport prevents high-density development and protects us from high-rise canyons like Century City because of building height restrictions for miles around the airport.
Don’t be fooled by politicians’ political games. VOTE NO on Measure LC.
Then please Vote Yes on Measure D -- the Voters Decide Initiative!
/s/ Winston Cenac, Ocean Park Resident
/s/ John Jerabek, Resident of Wilshire Montana
/s/ Mr. Jeff Faeth, Resident of Ocean Park
/s/ Christian Fry, Resident of Wilshire Montana Neighborhood
/s/ Deidre Powell, Resident of North of Montana
REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT AGAINST MEASURE LC
Their clever promises and fear mongering aside, the hard truth is that only your Measure LC YES vote and your Measure D NO vote will ensure airport land Santa Monica citizens purchased for parkland in the 1920’s will finally be back in the hands of Santa Monicans, not controlled by outside special interests.
Don’t be tricked by the lawyered-up wording of Measure D that pretends to give you control over this land.
It says what it says no matter who ‘interprets its real meaning’.
In reality, despite their “champions of democracy” claims, private jet pilot lobbyists have crafted binding legal language in Measure D that – if passed - ensures their status quo control of our land: unrestrained jet landings and take offs, continued sales of jet fuel and loose regulation of noise and pollution.
Meanwhile no community discussion, no parks, no playfields, no open space…and no quiet.
No interpretation of Measure D language changes the legal reality that it would take some future imagined election with a voter turnout of historical proportions to allow Santa Monicans the actual say on what happens to our airport land.
If we want to maintain our control over this precious land we’ve so long been deprived access to, you must make stand now and Vote YES on LC. That is possible because citizens, your neighbors, have worked with the City Council to put Measure LC on the ballot.
Cherish that hard work and this once in a lifetime opportunity. Vote YES on LC.
Maryanne LaGuardia, Former Regional Commissioner of AYSO
Neil Carrey, Former Chair of Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission
Zina Josephs, President - Friends of Sunset Park
Ted Winterer, City Councilmember; former OPA President
John Fairweather, Chair-CLCSMAL; founder - Airport2Park, CASMAT
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why did the City Council put Measure LC on the ballot?
The City Council put Measure LC on the ballot to preserve as much local control as possible over the Santa Monica Airport (SMO). The Council intended Measure LC to compete with Measure D, the initiative measure funded mainly by national aviation interests (the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the National Business Aviation Association). Measure D seeks to preserve the status quo at the Airport by protecting aviation-related businesses, by preventing partial or total closure of the Airport without voter approval, and by limiting the City Council's ability to regulate the activities of aviation service providers on Airport leaseholds. In contrast, the Council's competing measure (Measure LC) would preserve existing local authority so that the City Council would retain its present authority over Airport closure and so that it can continue efforts to reduce adverse impacts of noise and air pollution and to promote safety, particularly for residents and neighbors living near the ends of the runway.
How would Measure LC protect against future over-development of the Airport land if all or part of the Airport were closed?
Following closure of all or part of the Airport, Measure LC would prohibit new development of the Airport land unless and until the voters approved limits on the development of the land. The exception would be parks, public open spaces and recreational facilities, which the City Council could approve without going to the voters.
Is keeping the Airport open necessary to protect against over-development of the land?
No. Measure LC prevents new development until the voters establish limits on development. The only new things that the City Council could approve on the Airport land, without voter approval, would be parks, open spaces and recreational facilities.
Is Santa Monica Airport an income-generator for the City’s budget?
No. Until very recently, the Airport operated at a deficit. The Airport required yearly General Fund subsidies to keep operating. All told the Airport currently owes the General Fund approximately $13 Million. An economic impact study undertaken for the City showed that aviation and other non-aviation businesses on the Airport land do contribute to the local economy. However the study did not quantify the exact contribution by aviation and non-aviation businesses.
If the Airport were closed, would noise increase because commercial jets landing at LAX fly lower over Santa Monica?
Airport closure would eliminate the noise impacts resulting from current Airport operations, including impacts from patterned flying associated with flight school operations and pilot qualification. Following closure, it is possible that the FAA could allow north bound and south bound air traffic to fly lower over the City at lower altitudes. However before such a change occurred, there would need to be years of study and review. But if this change did happen, the amount of noise experienced in the City from air traffic using airspace over Santa Monica might increase. However, without knowing exactly what might occur, and given existing ambient noise levels in the City, it is too early and too uncertain to determine whether or to what degree any change might adversely impact City residents.
If Measure LC passes, how would the question of whether to close all or part of the Airport be decided?
There would be a public process for reaching a decision. At minimum, the process would fulfill all of the requirements of law and include public hearings and other opportunities for residents and all other interested parties to express their views. And, the City Council would have the ability to structure additional elements of the public process in recognition of the importance of the decision to all concerned.
If Measure LC does not pass, how would the question of whether to close all or part of the Airport be decided?
If Measure LC does not pass, but Measure D does pass, a vote of the people would be required to close all or part of the Airport.
If Measure LC does not pass, will the City Council be able to control adverse impacts of Airport operations and businesses?
If Measure D does pass, and Measure LC does not, the City Council's ability to control Airport impacts will be diminished. Under this scenario the City Council will no longer have the authority to close or partially close the Airport once the City's contractual obligations expire. Closure or partial closure would, of course, eliminate or reduce all Airport impacts. Also, depending on how Measure D is interpreted, the Council's present authority over leaseholds might be diminished. This could possibly mean, for instance, that the Council may not be able to reduce the impacts from aircraft emissions by controlling aircraft fuels sales through lease provisions.
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