A city-sponsored ballot initiative has passed in Santa Monica, California. Measure LC, which leaves the future of Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) in the hands of the city council, passed with 59 percent of voters saying “yes” with 90 percent of precincts reporting. At the same time, voters rejected a separate AOPA-supported measure that would have given control of the airport’s future to voters.
“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. “But that doesn’t mean SMO is closing or that we’re giving up on it. Despite yesterday’s vote, the city still needs to comply with federal requirements to keep the airport operational and AOPA will continue to work with airport advocates to defend and protect this valuable and historic field.”
While the city must continue to operate the airport under its existing agreement with the FAA, they have previously tried to strangle flight operations with exorbitant landing and rental fees, and several council members have received financial backing from local developers, leading to fears that the council will work to close the airport to allow industrial and office development on the airport site. Measure D would have given city voters the power to make that decision.
“If development happens, we’ll see hundreds, even thousands, of additional vehicle trips through the area every day,” said Dunn. “And that would bring exactly the kind of congestion Santa Monica residents want to avoid.”
An AOPA-supported initiative known as Measure D would have required voter approval before the city could make airport land available for nonaviation uses or close or partially close the airport. It also would have required the city to continue to operate the airport “in a manner that supports its aviation purposes” and stipulates that the city cannot impose new restrictions that would “inhibit the sale of fuel or the full use of aviation facilities.”
Only 43 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of Measure D. Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions, which sponsored Measure D, submitted more than 15,500 signatures to the Santa Monica city clerk in June to get the measure placed on the ballot.
Through the years, various city council members have been involved in efforts to close the airport and redevelop the property. Tactics used by airport opponents have included attempts to restrict aviation uses of the airport, lawsuits, and selling sections of airport land.
If the city council continues to move in the direction of closing the airport and redeveloping the land, they will have to determine how Santa Monica residents would pay for the multi-million dollar environmental cleanup requirements, how to deal with the added traffic and congestion nightmare associated with development of the airport site, and how it would recoup the $250 million in annual economic impact and 1,500 lost jobs, currently generated by the airport. All of which will happen on the backs of Santa Monica taxpayers.
The association has long fought to keep historic Santa Monica Municipal Airport open. The airport, which occupies 227 acres in the heart of Santa Monica, is not only a significant economic engine for the community but is also a bellwether for more than 200 other airports established under similar federal land agreements following World War II. Santa Monica Municipal Airport also acts as a vital general aviation reliever airport for nearby Los Angeles International and other airports in the congested LA Basin.