Jonathan Stein’s Open Letter on Lawsuit Opposing Referendum to “Save” SMO


(Last Friday, the office of Jonathan Stein and Associates announced they were representing a coalition of advocates who will file court action against the announced ballot measure to stop efforts to close the Santa Monica Airport. Santa Monica Next obtained a copy of a letter they emailed to the city and other media outlets announcing their efforts. The letter is below. – DN.)
Dear City Council and Staff,
This office represents plaintiffs who have confirmed they will file a court action against the AOPA Petition.  Many have participated in Sunset Park Anti-Airport efforts in the 2012 election cycle and through the present.
As you know, there are thousands of Santa Monica residents in Sunset Park and Ocean Park; and their family and friends in Venice, Mar Vista, North Westdale, and West LA, all of whom support the City Council’s actions on April 30, 2014.  TheApril 30 City Council actions reflect the desires of local homeowners and residents to severely curtail home base operations at the Santa Monica Airport in July 2015, while allowing SMO to serve the national transportation grid thereafter.
The April 30 (note: we think he means the March 25 Council meeting – DN) City Council actions include (i) allowing all existing leases for jet hangers, flight schools, and rusting fuel tanks to terminate by contractual terms in July 2015; (ii) entering into new leases pursuant to a leasing policy modeled upon a nearby light industrial and studio zone; (iii) freeing 35 acres of city-owned land from Airport use; and (iv) beginning the public process for a specific plan for the entire Airport property that includes environmental remediation but excludes commercial uses.  It is these actions that the AOPA Petition seek signatures to reverse.
There are thousands more residents from all neighborhoods in our small town, who applaud the City Council’s expressed intent to dedicate $2 billion in City land to a higher and better use than luxury travel by a privileged few.  City Council members made crystal clear that their intention was to establish low-intensity uses such as parks, playing fields and other uses that can be enjoyed by all residents.  It is the future public use of this $2 billion public asset that luxury travelers behind the AOPA Petition seek signatures to reverse.
The AOPA Petition makes reckless and lawless allegations about the April 30 City Council actions and future intentions.  But its operative clauses are something else altogether.  Only a thorough, thoughtful and careful reading divulges that it seeks to preserve fuel sales, existing below-market aviation leases, and the supernormal profits of leasing City land at 30-year-old rates to subtenants who pay today’s fair market rates.  The AOPA Petition will be challenged in the court action and its petitioners named as the real parties in interest.
However, filing a lawsuit is not a simple or easy task.  In this case, the law traverses a long and winding road.  It starts with writ of mandate statutes first passed in 1872; descends into canyons of mind-numbing technicalities; and then mounts lofty passages from recent appellate court opinions.  One of those opinions five years ago subtly changed how the initiative process must be handled by the City.  And so, with reluctance, certain staff members must be named in the lawsuit.
The reason for this email is to make clear, well in advance of this journey, that plaintiffs only name the City or its officers because of these tortious legal requirements.  We believe that the City Council and staff have the residents’ interests at heart.  We believe that the April 30 City Council actions, and City staff who will carry them out, are serious about turning this $2 billion public asset into public uses such as parks and playing fields.
We step forward to file this lawsuit to stop the signature-gathering effort.  We believe the AOPA Petition seeks the signatures only by demonizing the City Council (and Santa Monica residents whom it represents) as vicious special interests, curried lapdogs, voracious consumers, and seekers after supernormal profits.  We refuse to see our community riven in twain by this broadsword of deceit.
And we feel that someone must step forward, if City staff feels that they have not the authority or energy, to challenge the AOPA Petition’s effort to perpetuate fuel sales and aviation leases that earn millions of dollars per month in supernormal profits.   If allowed to progress, the signature-gathering effort might rip our small-town community with a buzzsaw of hypocrisy.
Someone must protect children who inhale airborne lead pollutants at Santa Monica schools in the flight path, or while having dinner with their family.  Someone must protect young residents who play at ball fields and, as a result of their athleticism, inhale ultrafine particulates so tiny they travel with oxygen into the bloodstream where they may cause cancer in later years.
And someone must stop the ongoing flights of jets, when just one crash may create a fireball large enough to incinerate families while asleep in their homes.  Why is it that, in 2014, affluent communities like Santa Monica, Mar Vista and Venice must suffer these horrendous health and safety impacts as part of daily life?
And so with malice towards none, a lawsuit will be filed.  It will name the real parties in interest, the three petitioners who filed the AOPA Petition.  Based upon overlapping requirements of the Elections Code, writ of mandate statutes, and Judicial Council procedures, it will also name well-serving and earnest city officers.  Hopefully this letter will establish that our desire is to support the April 30 City Council actions.  And will establish beyond peradventure our belief in theirsincerity and good faith when they say we will all work to turn this $2 billion public asset into parks and playing fields that benefit all residents of Santa Monica, instead of a privileged few.
Jonathan A. Stein
Stein Law Group
1999 Avenue of the Stars, Ste. 1100
Los Angeles, CA  90067

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