A city sponsored ballot initiative — Measure LC — has passed in Santa Monica, Calif., leaving the future of Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) in the hands of the City Council.
The measure passed with 59% of voters saying “yes” with 90% of precincts reporting Tuesday. At the same time, voters rejected a separate measure — Measure D — 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, vice president of airports for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). “But that doesn’t mean SMO is closing or 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, it has previously tried to strangle flight operations with exorbitant landing and rental fees, leading to fears that the council will work to close the airport to allow industrial and office development on the airport site, AOPA officials note.
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.”
Measure D would have required voter approval before the city could make airport land available for non-aviation 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% of voters cast ballots in favor of Measure D. Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions, which sponsored the initiative, 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.
AOPA has long fought to keep historic SMO 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, AOPA officials say. SMO also acts as a general aviation reliever airport for nearby Los Angeles International and other airports in the congested LA Basin.