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Squadrons organize in election campaign over the future of Santa Monica Airport

Neighbors of Santa Monica Airport have complained about noise from the aircraft taking off and landing, and they post signs asking pilots to fly quietly.
Neighbors of Santa Monica Airport have complained about noise from the aircraft taking off and landing, and they post signs asking pilots to fly quietly.
Ken Scarboro/KPCC

Santa Monica residents will consider two rival ballot measures this fall regarding the future of Santa Monica Airport, and backers of each are preparing for what could be a costly ground war.

The presidents of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and National Business Aviation Association are expected to speak tonight at a Town Hall-style gathering at Justice Aviation,  a flight school and aircraft rental service at the airport.  The two national associations are the main financial backers of a successful effort to get "Measure D" on Santa Monica's November Election Ballot. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, each has spent more than $100,000 on the initiative. 

As reported a month ago, Measure D would change the City Charter to require a public vote on major decisions involving the airport, including: closing all or part it, changing how airport land is used, or imposing new restrictions on fuel sales or use of aviation facilities.

The rival initiative, Measure LC, would give the Santa Monica City Council the authority to make most big decisions, though it would require a public vote on any commercial development of the airport’s land.

The language of Measure LC was drafted by the City Council, with strong support from a vocal group of Santa Monica residents who want to close the airport or seriously reduce jet take-offs and landings.  They kicked off their campaign last week with an event at Mount Olive Lutheran Church. A press release said the event drew more than 200 attendees and featured remarks from Santa Monica City Council members Ted Winterer and Kevin McKeown and Los Angeles City Council member Mike Bonin, who represents LA areas adjacent to Santa Monica Airport.   

As of last week, the campaign in support of Measure LC hadn't raised any money. Organizers told the Santa Monica Daily Press they hoped to raise $250,000, but they also expected to be "outspent handily" by the backers of Measure D. 

The ballot battle also made its way into the courts.  Some residents, led by attorney Jonathan Stein, who lives near the airport, filed two lawsuits against Measure D and city officials.  The lawsuits claimed the language of Measure D was misleading and that city officials failed to vet it properly. Last week, two different Los Angeles Superior Court judges dismissed all of the first lawsuit and most claims of the second, as the LA Times reported.

Many neighbors of the Santa Monica Airport are weary of airplane noise and pollution, while others see it as an important economic engine and a convenient place to land and house a private plane. While the two November ballot measures are backed by opposing forces, Santa Monica voters aren't being required to choose between them.  The voters are free to support or reject both measures.