The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place on the November ballot a measure that would affirm its authority to close down Santa Monica Airport after 2015.
The City’s ballot initiative, designed to counter a measure sponsored by national aviation interests to prevent any changes to the airport, would require voters to approve future uses of the 227-acres of City-owned land should the airport close.
Councilmember Gleam Davis, while noting that she was generally opposed to the idea of “ballot box planning,” pointed out that the City is in “a very unique situation” as it faces “a ballot measure that has apparently qualified for the ballot that seeks to … wrest control of what happens at the airport away from the City.”
After several lengthy discussions, the City Council approved language that preclude any new development of the airport land, “except parks and public recreational facilities… until the voters have approved limits” on the land’s future uses.
As read from the dais by Councilmember Kevin McKeown, the question that will be put to voters by the City Council is as follows:
“Shall the City Charter be amended to: 1) prohibit new development on airport land, except for parks and 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?”
The decision to include the component about voters deciding the future uses of the airport land came in large part due to the fact that the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association (AOPA) has advertised its initiative as an anti-development measure.
Using Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions as a mouthpiece, APOA has claimed that, should the airport close, the Council would put high-density development at the site, despite the fact that the Council, often divided on questions of development, has united against the AOPA initiative.
L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents the neighborhoods east and south of the airport celebrated the decision.
“Last night, the Santa Monica City Council gave voters a choice between a dangerous airport and using that land for something that would actually benefit the community, like a park or open space,” Bonin said in a statement released Wednesday.
Last Thursday, the L.A. County Registrar announced that the AOPA-sponsored ballot measure had received the requisite number of signatures required – just over 9,000 – to qualify for the November ballot.
AOPA began its drive to put an initiative on the November ballot after the City Council voted unanimously to take steps to shut down the airport in 2015, when the City’s 1984 agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration officially expires.