City of Santa Monica Airport Development Council-Referred Question, Measure LC (November 2014)

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See also: Competing City of Santa Monica Voter Approval of Airport Development Initiative, Measure D (November 2014)
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A City of Santa Monica Airport Development Council-Referred Question, Measure LC ballot question was on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California where it was approved.

Measure LC was designed to require voter approval for any alternate or new developments on the airport land, except parks, open space and recreational areas, but would leave the fate and governance of the airport in the hands of the council. The city council referred this measure to the ballot in response to a citizen initiative proposed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) seeking voter control over both the operation and governance of the airport, as well as use of the airport land. This measure and the citizen initiative were competing measures, which means, if both had been approved, the one with the most "yes" votes would have been enacted and the other would have been rejected.[1]

The council discussed the proposed draft of this measure during its meeting on July 8, 2014. The council members needed to agree on and approve a measure by no later than their July 22 meeting in order to qualify it for the fall ballot. At the July 22 meeting, the city council officially rubber-stamped the resolution to put the citizen initiative before voters and approved their own competing measure for the ballot as well.[2][1][3]

Election results

City of Santa Monica, Measure LC
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 14,799 60.20%
No9,78539.80%

Election results via: Los Angeles County Clerk and Recorder

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot appeared as:[4]

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?[5]

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis was prepared for Measure LC:[6]

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.[5]

—Santa Monica City Attorney[6]

Support

Note: Those who supported this measure were opposed to the competing initiative measure.

Because this measure was referred to the ballot as a competing measure in response to a citizen-initiative, the most outspoken supporters were critics of the initiative. Many of the individuals, organizations and arguments listed below are listed in relation to the competing measure. It is important to note that many arguments against the competing measure were used to point voters to this referral as an alternative.

Supporters

The Santa Monica City Council referred this measure to the ballot to compete against the initiative backed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) - Measure D.[1]

Arguments in favor

Before proposing this measure as an alternative, city officials said the following in a report on the proposed initiative: “While the presently proposed measure may well have appeal to voters because it would allow them to cast their vote on a singularly important land use matter, it would also protect vested interests at the Santa Monica Airport by shielding them against council action. The proposed initiative’s express prohibition against regulating fuel sales is the clearest example.”[1]

Those speaking out against the competing initiative measure said that a careful read of the initiative revealed broad effects that went beyond simply preserving the airport. They argued that the initiative would keep the airport from adjusting to changing prices and technology, while the city measure would allow the city to maintain important control over the airport and give voters control over the ultimate fate of the SMO. They also posited that the initiative was designed to keep the price of operation artificially low, leaving larger profits for the airport. Opponents of the initiative filed a lawsuit against the petitioners, seeking to preempt the initiative before it even went on the ballot. Jonathan Stein, an attorney representing initiative opponents in court, said, “Only a thorough, thoughtful and careful reading divulges that it seeks to preserve fuel sales, existing below-market aviation leases, and the supernormal profits of leasing (City Hall’s) land at 30-year-old rates to subtenants who pay today’s fair market rates. The (petition) will be challenged in the court action and its petitioners named as the real parties in interest.”[7]

Speaking of the far-reaching effects of the AOPA-backed initiative, city officials said:[1]

If that measure passed and became effective council could be deprived of its authority to address fuel sales through leasing policies. A competing measure could preserve the council’s ability to negotiate leases with aviation service providers that would, for instance, require the provision of unleaded fuel. Thus, it is clear that the proposed initiative goes much farther than giving the voters the right to decide the airport’s future. It attempts to also deprive the council of its power as land owner to regulate the use of leaseholds and of its police power to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and neighbors unless and until the voters decide to close the airport and such decision has become effective. And, that would likely be years from now.[5]

—Santa Monica City statement[1]

Opposition

This measure was referred to the ballot as a competing measure in response to an initiative, on the ballot as Measure D, seeking to require voter control of the airport's continued operation. The most outspoken opponents of this measure were the supporters of the competing initiative. Most of the individuals, organizations and arguments below are related to that initiative. It is also important to note that, since the measures were mutually exclusive, arguments in support of the competing initiative were arguments in opposition to this referral.

Opponents

A group called the Santa Monicans For Open And Honest Development Decisions was behind the initiative petition to put the competing measure on the ballot.[8]

The group's chief backer was the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which supported the competing initiative and opposed this council-referred measure.[9]

Arguments against

Proponents of the competing initiative, rather than this council-referred measure, argued that the airport was an important part of the city's history, economy and infrastructure and that voters deserved a right to have the final say with regard to its fate. Airport supporters posited that the airport helps save lives through transporting those needing emergency medical care and could be essential in the case of a citywide disaster. They also put forward a study conducted by the city hall showing that the airport injects about $275 million per year into the local economy.[10]

Lauren McCollum, one of the citizens who filed the competing initiative, said, “This Charter Amendment is an insurance policy for the citizens of this city. If the legal status of the land changes, the city can make whatever land use decisions it wants. But, it must get voter approval rather than listening to a few political insiders. The city has wasted millions in fruitless litigation with the federal government at the behest of a few pressure groups. But the courts have made it clear that the law requires the city to continue operating this land as a low-density airport.”[10]

See also

External links

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Basic info

Opposition

Additional reading

References