CITY HALL — While the Los Angeles County Registrar is busy verifying signatures for a pro-Santa Monica Airport ballot measure, City Council will consider a measure its own.

Council’s measure is a response to the proposed charter amendment, which is financially backed by a national aviation advocacy group.

Last week, proponents of the charter amendment that, if approved, would put future changes to the Santa Monica Airport in the hands of the voters dropped 15,700 signatures off at City Hall.

Proponents need the county and the City Clerk’s Office to verify signatures from 15 percent of Santa Monica’s registered voters in order to have the item placed on a ballot later this year.

Three residents filed the ballot initiative in March, just days after council voted to move in the direction of chipping away at the airport, including a suggestion that they reduce the size of the runway.

Numerous neighborhood groups, council members, and the city’s largest political party condemned the initiative, calling it deceptive. They claim, among other things, that the measure unfairly frames overdevelopment as inevitable in the area if the airport closes.

Eleven residents are suing the measure’s backers and City Hall for allowing it to move forward.

The pro-airport measure would prohibit land-use changes in any form for any land used for “aviation services” without voter consent.

Last month, council members asked city officials to come back with a competing ballot measure that would put the development issues in the hands of the voters while maintaining council’s ability to dictate the future of the airport itself.

“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,” city officials said in a report, “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.”

At a March council meeting, city staff presented advancements in aviation fuel that could reduce air pollution. Council suggested that City Hall could, in the future, regulate the type of fuel sold.

“If that measure passed and became effective,” city officials said, “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.”

Restrictions would go beyond fuel sales were the measure to pass, city officials said. It could also “erode or eliminate” City Hall’s ability to make SMO quieter through new aviation technology.

“Thus, it is clear that the proposed initiative goes much farther than giving the voters the right to decide the airport’s future,” city officials said. “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.”

If council agrees to move forward with a ballot measure of its own, city officials would come back with specific language next month.

 

dave@smdp.com

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