SMO – Filers of a petition that attempts to put future Santa Monica Airport decisions to a public vote are being sued by 11 residents.

The petition was filed by three residents just days after City Council voted to move forward with plans that could downsize the airport in 2015.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a national aviation advocacy group, back the petition, which requires signatures from more than 9,000 registered Santa Monica voters and then a majority vote later this year. They’ve given $20,000 to the cause, at least $10,000 of which was used to hire paid signature collectors.

Petitioners have been sighted in various locations throughout the city. Petitioners that the Daily Press encountered have been paid for their work.

Neighbors have long complained about the noise and pollution caused by the airport. Others fear for their safety with homes located about 300 feet from the runway.

Advocates point to the roughly $275 million generated annually for the local economy, per a City Hall-sponsored report. They say that the airport would be essential in the case of a disaster.

Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, the city’s largest political party, has come out in opposition to the petition, as have at least three neighborhood groups.

Jonathan Stein, who filed the lawsuit against the petition filers and City Hall on behalf the 11 residents, has numerous issues with the initiative.

He claims that the notion the airport “benefits the entire City of Santa Monica,” as the petition states, is false, claiming that at least one neighborhood is negatively impacted by its pollution.

He also takes issue with the idea, as is mentioned in the petition, that city documents state that redevelopment of airport land would “likely result in high-density development.”

Council members were emphatic in their belief that high-density development would not make sense in the area.

The petition also conflates council’s ability to act on the airport with their ability to develop the land, Stein said. One initiative can’t ask the voters to make two decisions, he said.

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