City of Santa Monica Voter Approval of Airport Development Initiative, Measure D (November 2014)

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See also: Competing City of Santa Monica Airport Development Council-Referred Question, Measure LC (November 2014)
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A City of Santa Monica Voter Approval of Airport Development Initiative, Measure D 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 defeated.

This initiative measure would have amended the city charter to require voter approval in a citywide election before any change in the use of land at the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) to non-aviation purposes, or that closes or partially closes SMO. The signature petition campaign was headed up by a group called the Santa Monicans For Open And Honest Development Decisions and supported by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). The airport proponents drafted and filed the initiative, gathered signatures and began a campaign to garner the support of voters in response to a proposal floated by the airport's board of commissioners and the city council in March of 2014 to work towards downsizing and eliminating the city's airport.[1]

Election results

City of Santa Monica, Measure D
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No14,68858.81%
Yes 10,288 41.19%

Election results via: Los Angeles County Clerk and Recorder

Background

Lawsuit

Status: Ruled against plaintiffs and in favor of initiative proponents, allowing the measure to stay on the ballot.

After initiative supporters filed their proposed law, a group of Santa Monica citizens opposed to the initiative petition and represented by attorney Jonathan Stein filed a class-action lawsuit against the initiative backers, alleging that the proposed initiative was illegal and that circulators deliberately deceived voters in order to collect signatures.[2]

Stein said, “We believe the [group of petitioners] seeks the signatures only by demonizing the City Council (and Santa Monica residents whom it represents) [acting] as vicious special interests, curried lapdogs, voracious consumers, and seekers after supernormal profits. We refuse to see our community riven in twain by this broadsword of deceit.”[2][3]

In an explanation of his lawsuit, Stein wrote:[3]

The reason the AOPA Petition is so outrageous is it seeks to hide the provisions that would preserve below-market aviation leases before they expire by their terms. It would preserve sales of jet fuel (ultrafine particulates) and propeller leaded fuel (airborne lead particles). The AOPA Petition says it is to prevent overdevelopment of Airport Land. But a thorough reading shows otherwise.

[...]

The courts are a natural and frequently-used branch of government when citizens are faced down in such a cynical fashion and other officials refuse to act. The goal of the lawsuit is simply to force the petitioners to amend the AOPA Petition and then re-circulate it in a lawful form after the final judgement of the Court.[4]

—Jonathan Stein

Both this lawsuit and another were rejected by the court.[5]

Santa Monica Airport

Alleged conflicting interests

Some airport supporters accused two officials of having a conflict of interest with regard to the fate of the Santa Monica Airport. Christian Fry, vice president of the Santa Monica Airport Association and a supporter of the initiative protecting the airport, filed a formal complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission accusing airport commissioners David E. Goddard and Stephen Mark of acting according to self interest in their efforts to shut down the SMO. Both commissioners own property on the west side of the airport runway. According to some realtor estimates, property in this area, called Sunset Park, could rise in value by between 20 percent and 25 percent if the airport ceased operation. Those behind the complaints against the commissioners said that both the houses of Goddard and Mark are worth nearly $1.5 million, making it very profitable for each if the airport were to close down. An excerpt from the formal complaint said, "Their financial conflicts of interest are clear. This blatant abuse of their official positions by Goddard and Mark must stop."[6]

Goddard and Mark denied the accusations, saying that the fate of the airport affects the property of over eight thousand residents and concerns such a broad sphere of public benefit that it contains no conflict of interest under state law, and that the City Attorney of Santa Monica told them that they do not have a conflict.[6]

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot appeared as:[7]

Shall the Santa Monica City Charter be amended to require the City to continue to operate the Santa Monica Airport in a manner that supports its aviation uses unless the voters approve the Airport's closure or change in use, and until that voter approval occurs, the City shall be prohibited from imposing additional restrictions on aviation support services to tenants and airport users that inhibit fuel sales or the full use of aviation facilities?[4]

Title

Below is the official ballot title prepared by the city attorney:[8]

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.[4]

Summary

Below is the official ballot summary prepared by the city attorney:[8]

This measure would add a new provision to the City Charter requiring voter approval of certain decisions about the Santa Monica Municipal Airport. Voter approval would be required before a City decision to close or partially close the airport could become effective. Voter approval would also be required before any City decision could become effective to change the use of land, which is now used for the airport or for related aviation services, to non-aviation uses. The measure defines "voter approval" as a majority of those voting in a general municipal election voting "yes" to approve the City decision.

Also, unless the voters approved closure of the airport, and until that decision became effective, the measure would require the City to continue operating the airport in a manner that supported its aviation purposes and would prohibit the City from imposing upon aviation services providers new restrictions that would inhibit the sale of fuel or the "full use" of aviation facilities.

Additionally, the measure includes a retroactivity provision. It states that any City decision about the airport that is made after the filing of the Notice of Intention to Circulate the initiative petition (but before the election), and that would required voter approval under the measure, would be ineffective unless approved by the voters.

Finally, the measure includes provisions for enforcement and defense of the measure, severance of any invalidated provisions, and the possibility of another measure on the same subject and the same ballot.[4]

—Santa Monica City Attorney[8]

Full text

The full text of the initiative is below:[9]

SMOInitiativefull.JPG

Competing measure

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

The city council requested a draft of a competing measure that the council ultimately decided to put on the November ballot alongside the citizen initiative. The measure--Measure LC--would require voter approval for any development decisions on the airport land, but would leave the fate and governance of the airport in the hands of the council. The council discussed the proposed draft during its July 8, 2014, meeting. 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 citizen initiative and approved their own competing measure for the ballot as well.[10][11][12]

In a report on the proposed initiative and the possibility of putting forward their own rival measure, city officials said, “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.”[11]

Support

Note: Those who supported this measure opposed the competing council-referred measure also on the ballot.

Supporters

A group called the Santa Monicans For Open And Honest Development Decisions was behind the initiative petition to put this measure on the ballot.[1]

The group's chief supporter was the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).[13]

Arguments in favor

Proponents 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.[14]

Lauren McCollum, one of the citizens who filed the 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.”[14]

Campaign finance

As of June 10, 2014, the most recent campaign finance disclosure statements from the group behind the initiative showed contributions of $59,977 and expenditures amounting to $144,577, most of which was spent on signature gatherers to put the initiative on the ballot and legal services. The group's largest donor was the AOPA, which donated at least $56,000 and $1,000 in non-cash contributions. About another $3,000 had been contributed in cash contributions, and the committee listed debts of $90,993. The group's largest expenditures went to Arno Political Consulting, which is the company that ran the signature collection, and the political law firm Reed and Davidson.[15]

Opposition

CasmatSantaMonica2014.jpg

Opponents

A group called the Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic (CASMAT) was opposed to the continued operation of the airport.

A campaign called Airport2Park calling for the shut down of SMO was also started.[16]

The Steering Committee of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) voted to oppose the initiative.[17]

The following other neighborhood groups voted to recommend that their members not sign the petition: Friends of Sunset Park, Ocean Park Association, Mid-City Neighbors, Ocean Park Association, Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition, Pico Neighborhood Association, and Northeast Neighbors.

Arguments against

A2PSantaMonica.gif

Critics of the initiative said that it protected the airport even though it was in the best interests of the residents to have it shut down. Those who wanted to see the airport downsized or eliminated pointed to complaints of pollution, noise, traffic and general disruption from residents living nearby. Opponents also said that property value for homeowners surrounding the SMO would skyrocket if the airport property was turned into a park or some other more suitable development.[2]

Those speaking out against the initiative also stated that the proposed law, if read carefully, reveals broad effects that go beyond simply preserving the airport. They argued that the initiative would keep the airport from adjusting to changing prices and technology. They also posited that it 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.”[2]

Speaking of the far-reaching effects of the AOPA-backed initiative, city officials said:[11]

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.[4]

—Santa Monica City statement[11]

Reports and analyses

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis was prepared for Measure D:[9]

BALLOT 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 AVIATION SERVICES AT THE AIRPORT

This measure, placed on the ballot by a petition signed by the requisite number of voters, would add to the City Charter a requirement that voters approve certain potential City actions relating to the Santa Monica Airport. Voter approval would be required before a decision to close or partially close the Airport could become effective and before changing the use of the Airport land to non-aviation uses.

Also, unless the voters approved Airport closure, the City would be required to operate the Airport "in a manner that supported aviation purposes" and would be prohibited from imposing new restrictions on aviation services that would inhibit either the sale of aircraft fuel or the "full use" of aviation facilities.

The overall effect of this measure would be to reduce the City Council's authority over use of the Airport and of the Airport land that is now used for aviation purposes. The measure would take away from the City Council any ability to close or partially close the Airport or to change Airport land uses. Thus, the measure would insulate the Airport against closure or change by imposing a new requirement of voter approval, and it would protect aviation-related use of the Airport land until that requirement was fulfilled. Likewise, aviation services currently provided by private businesses at the Airport would be protected until after a vote to close the Airport.

The measure could limit the City Council's ability to address environmental concerns and adverse impacts of Airport operations for however long the Airport remains open. For example, the measure could preclude potential City efforts to reduce air pollution and related health concerns through new limitations upon the sale of aircraft fuel.

It is unclear whether the measure would interfere with the City's day to day Airport administration, including administration of Airport leases. If it limits City administration of the Airport, the measure could be legally invalid under the California Constitution, which prohibits initiatives on administrative matters. The voter-approval requirement of the measure may also be somewhat unclear; however, the term "voter approval" should be interpreted to mean approval by a simple majority of those actually voting. This interpretation appears in the City Attorney's impartial summary of the measure, which was not challenged; and the proponents have agreed in writing that they intend only to require a majority of those voting, rather than a majority of all registered voters.

The measure includes a retroactivity provision. It purports to make the measure's requirements of voter approval retroactive to March 27, 2014, when the proponents filed notice of their measure's circulation. This provision could nullify City Council decisions about the Airport made between the March filing and the general election in November. The measure also includes provisions on remedies, severance and competing measures and on the same ballot.[4]

—Santa Monica City Attorney[9]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

After several different proposals to downsize or close down SMO and use the land for other purposes were put forward by officials, airport proponents began collecting signatures to put this initiative on the November 4, 2014, election ballot to protect the airport against any major changes without voter approval in a citywide election. On June 10, 2014, initiative petitioners submitted 15,700 signatures. The county elections office had until July 29 - 30 business days from the submission - to ascertain whether, among the signatures turned in, there was a minimum of about 9,100 valid signatures, which amounted to the required 15 percent of registered city voters needed to qualify an initiative for the city ballot. On July 17, 2014, the Santa Monica City Clerk and the Los Angeles Registrar of Voters announced that more than enough of the submitted signatures were valid, certifying the initiative for the ballot. During their July 22, 2014, meeting, the city council members, faced with little choice, rubber stamped a resolution to put this initiative on the November ballot. The council also approved their own competing measure for the ballot.[14][18][10]

As of June 10, 2014, the latest campaign finance disclosures for the petitioning group showed contributions of $59,977 and expenditures amounting to $144,577, most of which was spent on signature gatherers to put the initiative on the ballot and legal services. The group's largest expenditures went to Arno Political Consulting, which is the company that ran the signature collection, and the political law firm Reed and Davidson.[15][14][18]

See also

External links

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Suggest a link

Support

Opposition

Additional reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Santa Monica Mirror, "What Say you? Closing Santa Monica Airport," March 29, 2014 (dead link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Santa Monica Daily Press, "Group to challenge Santa Monica Airport initiative effort," April 14, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jonathan Stein, "Full explanation of lawsuit against initiative," accessed June 30, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. Santa Monica Daily Press, "Initiative Updates: SMO opponents lose both lawsuits," August 28, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 Los Angeles Times, "Foes of closing Santa Monica Airport accuse city officials of conflict," June 28, 2014
  7. Santa Monica Elections Office website, "Santa Monica November 4, 2014 notice of election," archived July 28, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Santa Monica Elections Office website, "Ballot Title and Summary of Initiative," accessed June 30, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Santa Monica Elections Office website, "Notice of intent to circulate the initiative," accessed June 30, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ballotpedia staff writer Josh Altic, "Phone interview with Santa Monica City Clerk's office," July 23, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Santa Monica Daily Press, "Council to consider competing airport ballot measure," June 20, 2014
  12. Santa Monica Lookout, "Council Supports Competing Airport Ballot Measure," June 25, 2014
  13. Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association website
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Santa Monica Daily Press, "Pro-airport group files signed petitions," June 10, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Healthy City Local, "Dissecting a Press Release," June 27, 2014
  16. Airport 2 Park website," accessed June30, 2014
  17. Santa Monica Daily Press, "SMRR opposes pro-airport ballot initiative," April 14, 2014
  18. 18.0 18.1 Santa Monica Daily Press, "Pro-SMO measure will go on ballot," July 18, 2014