Airport or development
I read with amazement the column by Mr. Barry Brewer. I could almost hear some close-the-airport “spin doctor” saying in the background, “Let’s see if we can convince the people of Santa Monica that the decision about the airport is actually a decision between the airport and a park.”
The Santa Monica City Council has already gone on record saying that the City does not have enough money for another park after having spent $43 million on Tongva Park. After a park is built, they need to repair things that go wrong, care for the plants, keep it clean and patrol it. That costs even more money. If you believe that those 227 airport acres could eventually be a park, you are sadly mistaken and naive. If the airport were to go away, what would inevitably come afterwards is massive development.
Mr. Brewer also tries to set up an “us versus them” situation when he writes about “…the wealthy one percent who fly private jets…and the privileged few who can afford flying lessons and ownership of the private planes that are parked at the airport.” The airport is being run for just the one percent? More outrageous “spin.” Mr. Brewer has conveniently forgotten that the consultants hired by the city (Rand Corporation and HR&A Associates) reported that the airport contributes $275 million a year to the local economy and is one of the top ten employers in the city with nearly 1,500 jobs. I suspect some of the folks who work at the airport and at airport-related companies would fall about laughing at being described as the “one percent.” Mr. Brewer is simply trying to fabricate a story that might help his case.
Most readers know that we need the airport not only for the many benefits it provides but also as a block against the development that will surely come if the airport goes away. The airport supporters have put forward a Voters Decide ballot measure that will let the people decide but the airport-closers hate it. Why? Because they don’t want the people (us) to decide; they want the Council to decide since they believe that the Council will close the airport if possible even if the majority wants it.
When I was young, my father told me not to just listen to what people say; watch what they do. Watch what they do. When I watch what the City Council does in relation to property, I see that almost invariably the Council supports development. Not reasonable development that falls within the City’s planning guidelines on such things as height, density, setbacks, sufficient parking, limited new traffic trips to an area but development that always breaks those rules. A recent local newspaper article reported that there were over thirty development projects before the City Council and every one of them did not meet the city planning guidelines in one or more ways, yet they were still submitted. Why? Because the developers know that the City Council will agree to the development and give them a waiver if they provide some dubious “community benefit.” The Council has accepted money for years from developers and they must pay them back — see some of Bill Bauer’s past columns for the details.
You would think after the Council’s defeat on the Hines project and the revolt by the artists at Bergamot Station that the Council might listen to the citizens about their bad development decisions but no; they just carry on, helping the developers gut our city. The airport is needed as an airport but also, and just as importantly, as a block against more development. The park idea is meant to distract us from that.
The City’s proposed transfer-tax increase is an unfair way to fund affordable housing and putting it on the ballot in a city where two-thirds of the residents are renters reeks of underhanded politics.
C’mon, city leaders and council members. You cannot honestly believe that it’s right to allow renters with “no skin in the game” to approve an additional tax on homeowners, who are already paying hefty property taxes, as well as parcel taxes for school-district and community-college bonds, storm water cleanup, clean beaches and the like. Just because homeowners may have built up equity in their properties is not a good reason to gouge them when they sell, even if the purpose is admirable.
Many younger people moving into Santa Monica, especially those working in the tech industry, are affluent, but prefer renting over owning. Under this proposal, they contribute nothing while seniors whose homes may be their nest eggs when they retire, decide to downsize or must move into assisted-living get fleeced with a $9,000 or more tax bill. Fair? I guess that’s only in Pomona.
Building affordable housing may be the right thing to do but this is the wrong way to fund it. This tax hike should take a hike.
Let the people vote
Some vocal proponents of closing the Municipal Airport are lately exhibiting very obvious signs of panic and confusion and a disturbing proclivity for subverting the democratic processes upon which our nation was founded and has thrived for more than two centuries.
Proposition D is now on the November ballot in Santa Monica, having qualified with a comfortable margin of signatures of registered voters and in spite of widespread poll blocking tactics and attempts at intimidation including two SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) lawsuits.
This measure has two simple, easy to understand, parts: Firstly, it will require a simple majority vote of Santa Monica voters (those people who show up at the polls and actually vote, as you would assume) to approve any major land use change at Santa Monica Municipal Airport including closing all or part of it; Second, in lieu of such a vote, the city must continue to provide essential aviation services, e.g. fuel sales.
It is a straight-forward measure that assures that, as long as the citizens want an airport, it shall be run properly, and safely, and will not continue to be used as a political “football” subject to the whimsy of the City Council. It makes no imposition of a public vote upon the day-to-day managing of the airport property nor its daily operations.
We are, quite frankly, astonished that this idea elicits such fear and trepidation in some individuals that they would attempt to deny their fellows the right to vote on the single largest land use question in the city’s history. Evidently, they do not share, as we do, in the belief that the citizenry is capable of reading and comprehending the question being put before them. These elitists seem desirous to save the citizens from the consequences of their own choices by denying them a choice at all. That is not democracy as we understand it.
This frantic, usurpatory, and unbecoming behavior of a small minority of malcontents only reinforces our belief that they, like we, believe that the majority of citizens wish to keep their airport for any number of good reasons and will affirm those desires come November 4. If we set those beliefs aside for the moment, we do still know one thing for certain; regardless of your position on the airport, it should be your individual right as a voter to decide and no one else’s.