Santa Monica Airport (File photo)

CITY HALL — City Council is getting closer to a final ballot measure designed to compete with one put forth by advocates of the Santa Monica Airport.

At Tuesday’s meeting council members asked city attorneys to return with three options — each differing in the way they’d handle potential development of the land — in hopes of retaining some control over the future of the airport.

The pro-airport measure, which is financially backed by the national aviation advocacy group Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), would require a public vote for many future changes to the land — changes that can currently be made by the council, including full or partial closure.

They collected 15,700 signatures, which are being scrutinized by the Los Angeles County Registrar. If 15 percent of registered Santa Monica voters are found to have signed the initiative, it will be placed on the ballot in November.

Numerous community groups have come out against the measure calling it, and its paid signature gatherers, deceptive.

Council’s measure would attempt to compete with the AOPA-backed measure. If council’s receives more votes it could nullify the other.

Much discussion has gone into crafting council’s measure because A) it must technically compete with the other measure, requiring it to address similar issues and B) get more votes than the other measure, requiring language that will sway voters.

City attorneys suggested a measure that would leave open council’s ability to close all or part of the airport. Their measure would also prohibit development of airport land until council adopts a plan for regulating land uses in the area. In this suggestion, residents would not get to vote on future land uses.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown said he’d like to see a measure that would allow residents to vote early in the planning process.

“Not at the end of the preparation of the multi-year plan … but that the vote be on something simple and clear, not conceptual, but land use,” he said.

Councilmember Gleam Davis suggested a measure that would require a vote on “basically anything other than the development of parks, public open spaces and public recreational facilities, the maintenance and replacement of the present size of existing permanent structures, and the continuation of existing arts and education uses.”

This would give those advocating on behalf of council’s measure, she suggested, an easy pitch: There won’t be any intensification of use at the airport without a vote of the people.

“I want to make it clear that I’m not saying that that’s what I want and that’s the only thing I’m voting for,” Davis said.

Councilmember Ted Winterer put forth the third idea, which, like the city attorneys’ suggestion, would prohibit development of the land until a specific plan for the area is developed. Unlike the attorneys’ suggestion, the specific plan would require a vote from the people.

“I do the understand the attorney’s concerns about tying the hands of future councils,” Winterer said, “but frankly the other initiative that we’re trying to counter ties the hands of future council’s and we’re sort of between a rock and a hard place.”

City attorneys will bring the options back for council’s consideration at the July 22 meeting. The county has until July 23 to verify the signatures submitted by airport advocates. If the AOPA-backed measure fails to bring in enough signatures council may decide not to add its measure to the ballot. If the county takes until July 23 to report the results of its count, council may wait the extra day before making a decision.

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