SMO — City Council’s ballot measure, which is designed to compete with a pro-airport measure, is taking form.
Three plans for dealing with future development of the land were put forward by council members last week and anti-airport activists like bits and pieces of all the ideas.
City attorneys will, in theory, bring back all three options for council’s consideration next week.
It should be noted that none of the council members stood staunchly behind their ideas; they were adding them to a pile.
It should also be noted that the ideas might look different after city attorneys craft them to stand up to legal scrutiny. But, for the ease, of communication we will associate them with the council members who put them forth.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown suggested that future development remain off-limits until a land-use document, a Specific Plan, is developed. Residents would vote early, determining the basic framework for the plan, which would ultimately be developed by council through a public process.
Councilmember Ted Winterer also called for the creation of the Specific Plan, formed by council through a public process. But Winterer asked the residents be allowed to vote at the end, giving them the power of final approval.
Councilmember Gleam Davis suggested that developments proposing anything other than parks, playing fields, or the existing land-uses be put to a public vote.
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a national aviation advocacy group, financially backed the pro-SMO measure, which could restrict council’s ability to close some or the entire airport and make other changes without a public vote.
Council’s measure would have to receive more votes.
“The most important thing about the city language is that it contains a clear vote for the community on any future development,” said John Fairweather, who’s heading up Committee for the Local Control of Santa Monica Airport Land (CLCSMAL). “The staff language presented did not contain such a vote, but the Council was very clear that the final language must do so. All three of the suggestions meet this criteria.”
Davis’ option would likely beat the AOPA initiative resoundingly, he said.
“The feedback I’ve received so far is that (Davis’ option) is by far the most appealing since it is so clear and simple, and it makes for a killer 5-second pitch,” Fairweather said.
Winterer’s option, he said, is what the community has been asking for and would also be an easy win for CLCSMAL.
McKeown’s option, he said, gives the least away in terms of council power and allows the most flexibility.
“This is what one would do ideally were we not under the AOPA gun right now,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is this later ‘flexibility’ that people are so suspicious of, and which is most easily exploited by the AOPA PR machine to feed conspiracy fears and so derail the council measure.”
In the end, he said, any of the proposed options could be acceptable depending on the language used by city attorneys.
Jonathan Stein, an attorney representing Sunset Park Anti-Airport (SPAA), noted that language in McKeown’s suggestion would prove legally challenging.
“The Ted Winterer idea is most like the SPAA suggestion,” he said, “which was:
‘Voter approval shall be required on a Specific Plan for the Airport property. The term ‘voter approval’ means a majority of the voters in a general municipal election voting ‘Yes.’ The Specific Plan shall emphasize parks, playing fields and related recreational and cultural amenities.’
“With that said,” he continued, “I think Gleam came up with a better idea conceptually.”
Frank Gruber, who involved with both CLCSMAL and Airport2Park but spoke only for himself, was moved by council’s testimony.
“Oddly enough, even though I came in to the meeting pushing the vote on a Specific Plan proposal (now Ted Winterer’s proposal), hearing the debate I got nervous about the possibility that people would not understand what ‘Specific Plan’ means and AOPA would use that confusion against the city’s initiative,” he said. “So I’m leaning towards a combination of the McKeown and Davis proposals — but it has to be crystal clear that there will be no new development beyond parameters approved by voters in advance. ”
Martin Rubin, director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), railed on the AOPA-backed initiative and agreed with council’s decision to put forward a competing measure.
“Councilmember Ted Winterer’s comments at the Council meeting come closest to hitting the nail on the head,” he said. “To gain the trust of Santa Monica voters, the City’s version of this Initiative must contain crystal clear specific language that will include the right of voter approval for any development of the airport land.”
Council will likely pick an option next week.