Santa Monica airport ballot on its future. (Worth watching great spoof video by its opponents)

In California, Santa Monica municipal airport is situated right in the heart of the suburbs, with flight paths right over thousands of homes. There are serious questions about the effects of the airport’s operations on public health and quality of life.  In 2015 an operating agreement between the FAA and the City of Santa Monica will expire.  There is now to be a public ballot about the airport’s future, and whether it should continue its lease as an airport, or if all or part of it could be used for a large park, or for more housing.  Many Santa Monica residents and city officials favour closing the airport or substantially reducing its aviation operations. Other residents, private jet owners and flight school operators see it as an economic engine. Opponents of the airport being allowed to continue have produced a good, short spoof video – on YouTube – putting their point across. Worth watching.  There are two choices in the ballot, “D” is for Democracy, put forward by the private jet owners, but for complicated reasons, those anti-airport are against this. They want the “LC” is for Local Control option instead – all a bit complicated. But enjoy the video !


Great spoof video on YouTube at

The Great Santa Monica Airport Controversy, An Idiots Guide

(The anti-runway people want the LC option, not D).

Supporters of closing Santa Monica Airport lose round in court

AUGUST 24, 2014

Santa Monica Airport…..Aircraft line the tarmac at embattled Santa Monica Airport, which is once again the target of lawsuits to determine its future.

Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging November ballot measure to protect Santa Monica Airport from closure

In a setback for opponents of Santa Monica Airport, a Los Angeles judge has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged a November ballot measure to protect the facility from closure.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin threw out the case filed in May by an anti-airport group that claimed Measure D was misleading, poorly vetted by city officials and violated the state Constitution and elections code.

The initiative, which is backed by a coalition of airport supporters and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., would require voter approval to shut down the airport, alter its land use or restrict aviation-related activities.

Lavin, who ruled Tuesday afternoon, said there was no evidence that the city clerk violated the elections code, that the measure’s wording was false or that the city attorney was incompetent in the preparation of the measure’s title and summary.

The judge also held that the anti-airport faction failed to cite any legal authority prohibiting the City Council from advancing the ballot measure and that one of the suit allegations should be addressed after the election.

Lavin noted that the plaintiffs sought to impede the initiative process and force the city to abandon its neutral and ministerial role in processing ballot measures.

Attorney Jonathan Stein, who represented the anti-airport group, said he disagreed with the judge and that the substance of the allegations was not heard.

He said he would appeal the decision and pursue a second lawsuit he recently filed with similar allegations. Stein noted that the Council “ended up being a cheerleader for the AOPA” though it supports closing the airport.

In addition to the aircraft owners association, the defendants included the Santa Monica city clerk, the Santa Monica City Council and the Santa Monica city attorney.

“Regardless of the wisdom of AOPA’s ballot measure, the lawsuit was misguided and an unnecessary distraction,” said Santa Monica Deputy City Atty. Ivan Campbell. “We are pleased with the result, but it was a needless waste of public resources and time.”

Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions, a sponsor of the ballot measure, also criticized the case.

“It’s clear that opponents of Measure D will try anything to prevent voters from speaking,” said David Shaby, an attorney and member of the pro-airport group. “But it’s just adding to the cost and delays we’ve seen from frivolous litigation. Why are they so afraid of the voters deciding?”

Lavin’s decision gives Santa Monicans, the city and the AOPA the right to seek their legal fees and court costs from the plaintiffs. Members of Santa Monicans said they are seriously considering it while city officials have yet to decide.



Landing on the ballot: 2 Santa Monica Airport measures

Brian Watt
July 25 2014  (Santa Monica blog)

Neighbors of Santa Monica Airport have complained about noise from the aircraft taking off and landing, and they post signs asking pilots to fly quietly.

Voters in Santa Monica will play air traffic controllers in November, as two competing measures regarding the Santa Monica Airport will appear on the ballot.

The Santa Monica City Council this week finalized language for a measure that would give the city more control over the airport – including the ability to close it – though a public vote would be required for any major redevelopment. It will appear on the ballot this way:

Shall the City Charter be amended to: 1) prohibit new development on Airport land, except for parks, public open spaces and public recreational facilities, until the voters approve limits on the uses and development that may occur on the land; and 2) affirm the City Council’s authority to manage the Airport and to close all or part of it.

As the Santa Monica Daily Press reports, that measure will go “head to head” with one supported by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and other proponents of keeping the airport open. Its ballot title:

An initiative measure amending the City Charter to require voter approval in order to close all or part of the Santa Monica Airport, change use of the airport land, or impose new restrictions on fuel sales or use of aviation facilities.

The vote will take place against the backdrop of Santa Monica’s ongoing battle with the Federal Aviation Administration for control over the airport’s land. After a judge threw out a city lawsuit in February, the City Council approved a plan to continue pursuing control over the airport and look for options for closing it in July of 2015.

Many Santa Monica residents and city officials favor closing the airport or substantially reducing its aviation operations, but some other residents, private jet owners and flight school operators see it as an economic engine.



Path Set For Potential Closure Of Santa Monica Airport


The exact future of Santa Monica Airport (SMO) is still in the balance. Yet, after nearly four hours of public testimony Tuesday evening, one thing appears relatively certain: SMO, if ever shut down, would not become Century City West.

Just the same, the Santa Monica City Council gave direction just before midnight on Tuesday to essentially find a way to either limit SMO’s current operations or shut down the airport completely.

Council members unanimously voted to direct City staff to develop an airport concept plan based upon low-intensity use and new leasing guidelines.

With the vote, City Hall will continue to look into ways of how to assert control of SMO and take steps leading to potential closure of some or the entire airport by July 1, 2015.

The council direction also could lead to the shortening of the runway and ensure the City-owned property does not give way to high-rise or other majorly dense development.

How the council directions will ultimately play out remains to be seen, yet it was made clear by City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie that council members would not be making a final determination of the airport’s future at the March 25 meeting.

“We can’t close the airport now,” Moutrie told her colleagues. “This is contingency planning. We don’t know what opportunities we’ll have in the future.”

Moutrie added the legal battle involving Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could potentially take years to resolve.

City Hall received about 200 emails addressing the airport’s future in anticipation of the council’s meeting, Moutrie said. There were at least 101 chits submitted to City Clerk Sarah Gorman.

Leading off the public testimony was State Sen. Ted Lieu, who represents Santa Monica in Sacramento and is running to succeed Henry Waxman in representing the City in Washington, D.C.

“We are at a significant crossroads. I am here to urge you not renew [the airport] lease. We are experiencing higher levels of air pollution because of this airport. There are so many good uses for that land,” Lieu told council members.

Another civic leader, Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, urged his Santa Monica colleagues to make every effort to shut down SMO.

“There was a time when an airport in this place made a lot of sense. There is another time now. This is one of the most dense populations in the region,” Bonin told council members. “This airport is now in a place that produces noise and safety hazards and pollution.”

While two elected officials pushed for the closing of SMO, a wide variety of perspectives were shared with the council during public testimony.

There was no clear majority of speakers favoring or closing the airport. Those who spoke in support of keeping the airport operational cited its economic benefits and necessity for natural disaster survival.

For example, a few speakers pointed out the airport is an economic engine bringing the City an estimated $250 million of economic activity.

“I think it’s going to be a regrettable action in the long-term,” the first speaker after Ted Lieu told the council if it goes through with closing the airport.

Others warned the council of how a closed airport could become the ultimate land-grab for developers.

Another point rose to the council: advancements in aircraft technology would significantly reduce air and noise pollution.

A few speakers cautioned against those who proposed replacing the airport with a park, opining the Great Park, which replaced the El Toro Air Base in Irvine, is a “ghost town.”

Still others said SMO is a great community asset, stating they spend quality time with their respective children at the airport.

A pilot told council members if SMO was shut down, the flight path to LAX Airport a few miles to the south would be altered and 747 jets could fly about 2,500 feet above Santa Monica en route to the international airport.

Indeed, it has long been contended by SMO supporters that LAX traffic coming in from the north and west is forced to travel east toward downtown Los Angeles before making a u-turn toward the international airport.

Those who spoke against SMO – some of whom lived underneath the flight path – told council members the planes flying over their respective homes were too loud and posed a significant safety threat.

“People would be shocked if they knew what we had to deal with,” Ellen Brennan told the council of the noise levels residents living directly under the flight path.

One resident who lives under the flight path told council members every time a plane takes off, she wonders if it would “make it.”

“It’s like living in Tel Aviv with the suicide bombers,” Venice resident Judy Russell told the council, describing living under the flight path as “terrorism.”

Airport opponents cited recent plane crashes, including the one claiming the life of a local developer in September 2013, as evidence of the threat to safety posed by SMO’s users.

A professor from Loyola Marymount University stated planes flying from SMO have a significantly adverse impact on the environment.

Addressing concerns about whether SMO would be a land grab for developers, council member Kevin McKeown suggested the airport, in the event it was shut down, be used for low-impact and low-intensity use.

“The airport land will never be used for high-rise development,” McKeown said. “Frankly, it’s not the appropriate site for the kind of development that might appropriate in other parts of our City or the region. There’s no mass transit anywhere near this site.”

Mayor Pam O’Connor echoed similar thoughts, saying if SMO were shut down it would not become Century City West.

“These are public lands. The people of Santa Monica will ultimately decide how to use it. It would not be sold off to developers for high-rise kind of development. That’s just alarmism,” O’Connor said.

Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day was present during a portion of the SMO agenda item but had to leave during public testimony due to a family emergency. Accordingly, the council vote was 6-0.



Santa Monica Airport: Business asset or too close for comfort?

6.11.2013m (Explaining Southern California’s Economy)

Last week, the city of Santa Monica sued the Federal Aviation Administration over future control of the Santa Monica Airport. The federal lawsuit asks the court to declare that the city controls the airport’s land and that in 2015, its obligation to keep operating the airport ends.

According to FAA data, in September the Airport saw nearly 7,000 operations — takeoffs or landings — and many city officials and neighbors of the airport would like that activity to be far less, or none at all.

“The bottom line is everyone agrees that the status quo will not be tolerated,” Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor told KPCC.

O’Connor’s main concern is safety. The city filed the lawsuit a month after the crash of a small jet at the airport killed 4 people. The crash gave new momentum to organized campaigns to close the airport, or at least reduce its air traffic. O’Connor says the neighborhoods around the airport have also dealt with airplane noise and exhaust pollution for years.

“As jets have become faster, growth in corporate jet travel, all of that has drastically changed the impact of aviation to the people and to the area,” O’Connor said. She’s among those who believe the airport should close and become something else — like a park — but says she’s keeping an open mind as the city develops a vision for the airport’s future.

Santa Monica must first resolve an on-going dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has long maintained that Santa Monica is obligated to operate the airport indefinitely because the city acquired the airport land from the government in 1948 for free. Santa Monica believes its obligations, under a 1984 agreement, end in 2015. Its lawsuit asks the court to decide.

The possible 2015 end date puts business owners like Joe Justice in an awkward situation. He runs Justice Aviation, a flight school and aircraft rental service that has operated at the Santa Monica Airport for 22 years. He says if the airport shuts down, his and four other flight schools located there would have to move or close, in addition to the aviation companies, airplane repair and pilot supply shops and the popular Typhoon restaurant, which overlooks the runway.

Justice cites a study the city of Santa Monica itself commissioned two years ago that measured the airport’s annual economic impact at $275 million. The study also said the airport supports nearly 1,500 jobs.

“I do believe that there are businesses here located in Santa Monica with employees in Santa Monica who, if the airport closed, would probably say it’s much easier for us to have an office over in Van Nuys,” Justice says. “In the event they close this airport, they probably will see an exodus of a few businesses.”

The airport is convenient for jet-setters in places like Brentwood and Beverly Hills, but for some Santa Monicans and residents of Mar Vista and Venice, it’s a little too convenient.

They’ve had to cope with the noise from regular flyovers by single and twin engine planes. And the idea of student pilots learning to fly right above their homes is unsettling to say the least.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) says about 267 privately owned aircraft are based at the Santa Monica airport. Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger are among the celebrities known to keep planes there. The AOPA’s Bill Dunn says it’s an important alternative for private and corporate jets in the Los Angeles basin.

“So rather than a corporate operator flying into LAX or Ontario, they’re encouraged to go to Santa Monica instead, so that the airlines operate in the most efficient manner and with less traffic than normally would be if you mixed all the traffic into one airport,” Dunn says.

Dunn calls Santa Monica the most embattled general aviation airport in the country. He says because the FAA counts so much on its relief to LAX, the battle over its future will continue.



Battle over Santa Monica Airport’s future revs up

In America, Santa Monica municipal airport is situated right in the heart of the suburbs, with take off and landing routes right over thousands of homes. There are serious questions about the effects of the airport’s operations on public health and quality of life.  In 2015 an operating agreement between the FAA and the City of Santa Monica will expire. The city contends that it will then have more control over how the airport is used. But the FAA has vowed to battle to keep the airport going. There were around 105.000 take offs and landings in 2010.