Voters Deal a Blow Against Santa Monica Airport

** Santa Monica Airport**

Santa Monica Airport (SMO) supporters were dealt a heavy blow by voters this week as Measure D was defeated with 58 percent voting no. The measure was designed to transfer power over major decisions affecting the Santa Monica Airport from the city council to local voters. The Santa Monica City Council has made no secret of its desire to close the airport and redevelop the 227-acre property.

The results came as a surprise to AOPA's vice president of airports, Bill Dunn, who has been fighting to keep SMO open for more than two decades. "The benchmark survey in the end of September showed Measure D polling at 68 percent positive and the city's competing LC polling at 33 percent positive," Dunn said in an interview with Flying.

While Measure D failed, Measure LC, which was brought forth by the city, passed. What this means is that the City Council maintains full control over the airport, subject to constraints imposed by law. Voters agreed that the City Council should have full authority "without voter approval, to regulate use of the Santa Monica Airport, manage airport leaseholds, condition leases, and permanently close all or part of the Airport to aviation use." Measure LC does, however, limit the city from developing the land into anything but parks or public land use, and the "maintenance and replacement of existing cultural, arts and education uses," unless a public vote supports other uses.

Dunn maintains that published arguments in favor of Measure LC included several pieces of false data. One example of flawed information included in the measure is the following statement: "In the last two decades, the Santa Monica Airport has seen a 350 percent increase in noisy and air polluting private jet traffic." Dunn said jet traffic has in fact decreased and according to statistical data published by the FAA, the total operations at the airport have decreased from 215,250 in 1993 to 95,607 in 2013. Total 2014 numbers are expected to be even lower as the City Council implemented a significant raise in landing fees in mid-2013.

Despite the defeat, Dunn vows that AOPA is "in this to stay in this" and the battle is far from over for SMO. He urged the local airport supporters, which he felt were energized by the ballot measure, to continue showing their support for the airport by attending Santa Monica City Council meetings. "They've got to be going to these meeting and standing up and saying what's on their minds," Dunn said.

"This is not the beginning of the end for the airport in any way, shape or form," Dunn said. "It just changes the dialogue."

While the Santa Monica city council believes it can start shutting down parts of the airport as soon as next summer, the FAA still maintains the city is obligated to continue operating the airport in perpetuity.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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