Calling a proposed ballot initiative that would over-ride the City Council’s efforts to examine the closure of the Santa Monica Airport “all about perpetuating private benefits at the airport,” the influential Santa Monicans for Renters Rights is urging its members to not sign the petition that would place the initiative on the fall ballot.

The SMRR Steering Committee took action at its April 12  meeting on a motion  made by former Santa Monica mayor Dennis Zane, to formally oppose the initiative.

Zane commented in a statement released by Airport2Park, “This initiative, although cloaked in rhetoric about the rights of the people, is really all about perpetuating private benefits at the airport. While it is too early for SMRR to support one future use of the airport land over another, it is urgent that SMRR oppose this initiative that would cut off planning for that future.”

The announcement by SMRR comes on the heals of an announcement by Jonathan Stein and Associates that a group of advocates are mounting a legal challenge to the proposition noting that much of the language of the initiative consists of baseless accusations of corruption against the City Council.

Santa Monica’s advocacy community is coalescing around the idea that Santa Monicans are capable of deciding the future of the airport without big-monied outside interests help.

Before voting, the SMRR Steering Committee heard a presentation from Airport2Park representatives Frank Gruber and former Santa Monica mayor Michael Feinstein.

The City of Santa Monica is required to operate the airport under an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The city claims this agreement expires on July 1 of next year, while the FAA claims both that the current agreement doesn’t expire until 2021 and that previous agreements require the city top operate the airport as an airport forever. However, the City Council is already beginning to work on proposals for closing all (or part) of the airport.

Just two days after the City Council voted to look into options for closing the airport (or part fo the airport) and rezoning the reclaimed land. On March 27, the aviation industry, represented by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), filed an initiative with the Santa Monica City Clerk that would stop Santa Monica from planning for non-aviation uses of the airport land, or even from changing the terms of its current leases with airport tenants that also expire July 1, 2015. The rents under these leases are only a small percentage of current market-rate rents. 

Airport2Park representative Frank Gruber said in response to the action by the SMRR Steering Committee, “We at Airport2Park are extremely gratified by the SMRR Steering Committee taking this quick action on the aviation industry’s initiative. There is no political group in Santa Monica with deeper grassroots than SMRR.”

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