Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SMO in the News - April 2014

The following articles relating to SMO have appeared in the press during April 2014:

Non-residents seek local support for initiative (Santa Monica Dispatch, April 21, 2014)
Residents advised not to sign airport-related initiative (SM Dispatch, April 20, 2014)
SMRR Says No to Airport Ballot Initiative (Santa Monica Lookout, April 17, 2014)
SMO Supporters ... Uniting SaMo…Against Ballot Proposal (SM Next, April 16, 2014)
SMRR opposes pro-airport ballot initiative (Santa Monica Daily Press, April 16, 2014)
SMRR opposes deceptive aviation industry initiative (Airport2Park.org, April 16, 2014)
Letter: Setting the record straight (Santa Monica Daily Press, April 14, 2014)
Group to challenge SMO initiative effort (Santa Monica Daily Press, April 14, 2014)
Letter To The Editor: Why I'm In Favor Of Keeping SMO (Santa Monica Mirror, April 14, 2014)
Ballot Initiative to Preserve SMO to Face Legal Challenge (SM Lookout, April 14, 2014)
Letter: The truth on drones (Santa Monica Daily Press, April 13, 2014) - TAKEN DOWN by SMDP
Letter: Santa Monica Airport serves a purpose - 2 (Santa Monica Daily Press, April 10, 2014)
City Hall wants appeal in airport suit (Santa Monica Daily Press, April 9, 2014)
Open letter to Dianne Feinstein regarding SMO (Cal Pilots, April 8, 2014)
Ballot Initiative to Preserve SMO Moves Forward (The Lookout, April 8, 2014)
Letter: Drones the way to go (Santa Monica Daily Press, April 4, 2014)
Update: Initiative Process Sought To Alter Santa Monica Strategy (SM Mirror, April 4, 2014)
JetSuite CEO Discusses His Operations At SMO (Santa Monica Mirror, April 3, 2014)
New Petition Circulating to Turn Bergamot Area Into Airport (Santa Monica Next, April 1, 2014)
SMO To Be Converted Into Great Park For Marijuana (Santa Monica Mirror, April 1, 2014)
Activists bulldoze Santa Monica Airport (Santa Monica Daily Press, April 1, 2014)
Shackled to Jets Forever? (Santa Monica Dispatch, April 1, 2014)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Aviation industry files deceptive initiative to preserve SMO for their own use

Santa Monica, CA – The battle over the future of Santa Monica Airport intensified this week as a national lobbying organization for the aviation industry filed a proposed initiative with the Santa Monica City Clerk that would handcuff the City of Santa Monica’s efforts to plan for the future of the City’s land at the airport. Anti-airport resident organizations immediately began recruiting volunteers to halt the ballot initiative.
“As soon as the City Council voted last week to begin a process to possibly reclaim our land from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots’ Association (AOPA), the lobbyists for the aviation industry, made their move, coming up with a ballot initiative that pretends to be against development at the airport, but is actually designed to prevent Santa Monica from shutting the airport down or even limiting aviation operations,” said Michael Salazar of Airport2Park.org, the organization residents formed last year to turn the airport land into a great park.
“The initiative was filed by three Santa Monica residents (one of whom is a lawyer for a law firm that specializes in ballot measures), but it was obviously orchestrated by AOPA, which promoted the initiative on its website within minutes of filing of the paperwork with the Santa Monica City Clerk. The initiative says that it’s to prevent development at the airport,” Salazar said, “but in fact AOPA wants to stop a planning process the council began last week for the express purpose of ensuring that the airport land will never be intensively developed.”
“If they can fool enough people into signing it, it’ll be on the ballot in November, and the aviation industry will flood Santa Monica with money to get it passed. If it does pass, Santa Monica could be handcuffed to corporate jets forever. The initiative would change the City Charter to benefit just a few people. We’ve got to stop this big lie.”
The initiative purports to give residents the right to vote on changes to the airport, but this is a right they already have. Any action the City Council takes regarding the airport can made be subject to a referendum if 10% of registered voters sign petitions. This was recently demonstrated in Santa Monica when the Residocracy organization obtained enough signatures for a ballot measure that would rescind the council’s approval of an unpopular development.
Salazar said that the real purpose of the initiative is to handcuff the City from running the airport in any way that the aviation businesses there don’t like. Section 2(b) of the initiative says that the City won’t “impose additional restrictions on providers of aviation support services to tenants and airport users and inhibit the sale of fuel of the full use of aviation facilities,” and additionally gives the right to “any person with a beneficial interest in the operation” of the airport to sue the City to enforce the initiative. This could mean, among other things, that the City would have to continue 30-year-old leases to aviation tenants at below market, subsidized rents.
Airport2Park.org and anti-airport groups like Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic (CASMAT) and Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP) have joined together to combat the misinformation AOPA and its signature gatherers will be spreading. “The claim that closing the airport will mean ‘high-density’ development is an outrageous lie,” said Salazar. “At its hearing last week, the council specifically instructed staff to initiate a ‘concept plan based on low-intensity use’ for the airport. Council members unanimously opposed any high-density development at the airport should it be closed. The most likely outcome is a great park, which Airport2Park has shown can be funded without money from developers. The AOPA is masquerading its petition as preventing overdevelopment when it is in fact their tool to keep jets and planes flying over local homes, creating noise and pollution, and threatening health and safety. It’s really a ‘Kill the Park’ initiative.”
For information on Airport2Park’s and other organizations’ plans to counter AOPA’s petition and initiative, contact Airport2Park at airport2park@gmail.com.
Meanwhile, tell all your friends about this deception.  The more people that know about it, the harder it will be for them to fool people into signing their petition.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The drones are coming!

In a recent blog post, Frank Gruber, among his arguments for SMO closure, allowed that:

There’s no question that the most appealing uses of the airport are the Angel’s Flight medical flights. But given that there are other airports nearby, and given the benefits of the great park that replace the airport, are they sufficient reason to keep the airport open?

It is true that this, as far as I can see, is the only plausible argument left in support of Santa Monica Airport’s continued existence.  But even this argument has flaws.  Now don’t get me wrong, the fact that these pilots donate their time and aircraft to ferrying people and organs around is worthy of nothing but praise, but this is the year 2014 and we have to take a fresh look even at this.

As we have all seen in the news, once the FAA gets out of its bureaucratic logjam, the use of drones to deliver packages directly to people’s houses is already in the works by the likes of FedEx, drug stores, Pizza chains, Amazon and many others.  How much more important and how much faster would it be to deliver organs and blood by drone.  The era of drone delivery of critical human organs direct to the hospitals that need them will be here in less than a couple of years - far sooner than all this squabbling over SMO will be sorted out.  We got this guys, the drones will do it.

A drone can deliver direct to the hospital itself, it would not get to SMO and then get stuck in grid-lock trying to get the vital organ out of Santa Monica to UCLA, USC, or wherever else it is going.

A drone is quieter, it uses less fuel, causes less pollution, can fly immediately any hour of the day or night.  The list of benefits is considerable, so we can be quite sure that within a couple of years, that is how all organs will be delivered.  Nothing else makes any sense in this day and age.

That just leaves the issue of flying financially distressed patients themselves.  If it is an emergency situation, other organizations deal with that, and Angel Flights specifically excludes emergency uses and I quote "We fly patients to and from scheduled medical treatment. Patients are required to be ambulatory (able to walk and get in and out of the aircraft with little to no assistance) and be medically stable." So we are actually talking about people who are in what we might call a time-critical situation, not an emergency.  Flights are limited to less than 1,000 miles (because of the aircraft types involved).  Also on the Angel Flight West web site it states:

“We require at least one week to coordinate the flight once complete paperwork is received.”

So, if it takes a week or more to arrange, then of course, if it is important, the fastest way to get there is by a commercial flight if you can afford it, but some people may not be able to afford it and I suppose that is the niche that the service fills.

But lets be honest, if it takes a week or more to organize a flight, then adding 10 minutes to the flight time by going to Van Nuys is not a big deal.  But wait a minute, the flights are coming from the rest of the US, in other words inland, so that means Van Nuys and most other local airports are actually closer than Santa Monica, the flight time would be less.  So now the entire justification for SMO hangs on perhaps a difference of 15 minutes of road travel time for a person that is not in an emergency situation, and has waited over a week in any case for the flight.  Of course, nobody would time a flight to arrive just before their non-emergency appointment, that would be silly given the transportation mode, so they either come the night before or many hours earlier, just to be safe.  In other words 15 minutes of driving time is an irrelevance, it doesn’t matter much where they arrive - by definition this isn’t an emergency.

So we can see that when we examine this argument, while on the surface we are empathetic, the reality just doesn’t justify keeping SMO open.  Keep up the good work though, just do it from a nearby airport that makes more sense.

Let us all thank the amazing pilot volunteers of Angel Flight and similar for everything they have done, but the drones have got the organ/blood thing, and we can all plainly see that using your great work as a justification to keep SMO open makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

AOPA financed deceptive ballot initiative petition filed shortly after City Council defeat!

As predicted by CASMAT more than a month ago, the national aviation lobby organization AOPA, has pushed ahead with filing their deceptive attempt to handcuff the City and prevent it from gaining control of its own property.  The initiative was filed just two days after the Council unanimously approved a staff report recommending elimination or closing all or part of the airport and repurposing the land for low intensity use such as a park.  Amazingly enough, AOPA was able to announce the fact that the initiative was filed with the City clerk long before any other news outlet found out.

Actually, it is not amazing because AOPA itself, as the earlier CASMAT post clearly shows, is bankrolling this effort to dupe Santa Monica's citizens into giving up their one and only chance to fix the lack of park space in this city.  The initiative is carefully (if transparently) crafted to play on the public feelings regarding the Hines project by pretending that the airport is somehow similar.  It absolutely is not as Council remarks at the meeting make abundantly clear.

No doubt they figure that if they incentivize paid signature gatherers by $2 or more a signature, they would be happy to lie to the electorate, and for perhaps as little as $30,000, AOPA hopes to find 12,000 suckers in the Santa Monica electorate that will believe their outrageous lie that Council intends to develop the land and create a new Playa Vista.  It is our understanding that it takes the signatures of 15% of the electorate (say 9,000 signatures + 3,000 to handle invalids) for an initiative to alter the City charter, and that is exactly what they plan on doing.

To see how ridiculous this is, see the video below where the Council members make abundantly clear that such a thing cannot happen, and explicitly direct staff that only low-intensity uses such as a park are to be allowed on any land freed up as the airport footprint is reduced.

Here are a few explicit public quotes by the Council when instructing staff on what is and is not allowed for land released at the airport:

Kevin McKewen:  "The other thing I want to address, I'll call it a 'canard', is that if the Council wants to close the airport, the only possible reason is to approve huge development on that site.  I think former mayor Mike Feinstein sussed out the politics of that pretty well - nobody would last here on the dais if they planned to do that!  I also thought it was curious that one of the airport proponents said that Chicago shut down Meigs field and now there is wind whistling through the brush, nothing happening there.  I guess there is no development pressure in Chicago."

Kevin McKeown: "Part of my motion will make clear that my intent, and I hope the whole councils is that we are looking only at low impact, low intensity use on this site.  Frankly its not an appropriate site for the kind of development that might be appropriate in other parts of our city or the region, there is no mass transit anywhere near this site"

Kevin McKeown: "The second part of the motion has to do with the future use of the airport land.  When we adopted the current LUCE there were a few parts of town we left out deliberately, and the airport was one of them.  ... This is part of the staff recommendation that we now begin to develop an airport concept plan based on low intensity use for the reasons that I've given and for others, and that in doing that concept plan we take into account that the quitclaim parcel may fall uncontested into our hands in 2015, so lets make some plans for that"

Bob Holbrook: "Most of you probably know that Douglas Aircraft started over near Wilshire Boulevard, and that the location of that early plant is Douglas Park today ... I don't think we should give up the fight, I think the people of Santa Monica expect us to fight for them and fight for the property that belongs to the City"

Pam O'Connor: "I did want to address some of the comments that were made, the alarmist statements about there is some plot that this airport land is to be developed into a Century City.    I don't think the guiding principle is wether  people here would be re-elected or not, I think the principle is what we as the community develop in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).  The underlying principles in that document are that development will go into strategic locations, and again the underlying principle is, as Council member McKeown alluded to, is that it has to be connected with transportation, you are making decisions on land use tied with transportation.  There is no transit, no rail line going to this area, no rail line in any kind of county plan to go to this area.  This is not going to be served in any future decades by transit, so it is a low impact development, if there is any, that would be on these lands if we are doing that.  And frankly the main other reason is, these are public lands, the public lands are owned by the people of Santa Monica, and it will be the people of Santa Monica who ultimately decide how to use it."

Pam O'Connor: "But again, in general, based on the guidance of the community coming together on the LUCE and the use of our other public lands, it would have a good public purpose, it would not be being sold off to developers for high rise development or any other kind of development, so that is just alarmism, just not good form as far as I'm concerned."

Kevin McKeown: "If I may say briefly, I just want the community to note that mayor O'Connor and I do not always agree on development issues, but we absolutely agree on this one.  I think you've heard tonight that some of the people who want to keep the airport plan to scare you into voting against the airport being turned into something better out of fear of development, and I hope that what you have observed here tonight a commitment which I hope is shared by all the Council members that the airport in never going to be some high rise development when I said that the airport concept plan should focus on low intensity use, thats exactly what I meant and I said it very deliberately"

Pam O'Connor: "Right, and I'll just add that that conforms with out LUCE that says we do allow development in Santa Monica but it is in strategic locations protecting 96% of the City and focussing it in limited areas"

CASMAT reached out to other Council members that did not get an opportunity to express their position on land use during the meeting.  The following are the stated positions that we received back (so far):

Gleam Davis: "A final determination about the specific future of the airport land will require an extensive community process.  However, the airport abuts residential neighborhoods and is not adjacent to a transit center.  Therefore, as the Council unanimously agreed, any future development of the airport land should be low intensity and low density."

Ted Winterer: "Anything other than low rise, low density development at the SMO site makes no sense whatsoever as the area is bordered by single family residences, is already heavily congested and is not served now or in the future by mass transit. Furthermore, I believe we could convert at least most of the acreage to a park -- we haven't even begun to explore the prospects for help financing the costs from nonprofits and other government entities."

Tony Vazquez: "As a home owner in sunset park and one of the founding members of the Ahwahnee principles and smart growth advocate I would never support another Playa Vista Project at the Santa Monica Airport site. My goal would be to advocate for more open space and low density development use at the SMO site because sunset park already has many "F" intersections to deal with."

Any way you do the math, the fact is the entire premise behind this initiative is false and deceptive.

The truth is that these people don't care two hoots about Santa Monica, they care only that their long-subsidized, polluting, money loosing, and dangerous hobby is allowed to continue at the expense of the health, safety and wellbeing of the people in Santa Monica and the surrounds.  They don't care that the City council is doing what the people asked for, they don't care that Airport2Park is backed by just about every local residents group in the City, they don't care about Santa Monica, they don't care about development, and they don't care about local residents, Santa Monica or otherwise.  They only care about their hobby.

It is up to all of us now, no matter where we live in the City, to show these national lobbyists that we are not suckers, and we won't be duped and manipulated in this way.

Link: Here is a copy of this deceptive filing with the City Clerk.  It was filed at the City Clerk's office at 2:16 PM today.  At 3:13 PM Google reported that the story was posted on the AOPA web site.  It takes Google a while to notice things, so that was pretty fast for an organization that claims to have nothing to do with it!  Not even the City itself found out that fast!  AOPA's post clearly had to already be written before the petition request was even filed!  And remember, they have publicly denied involvement - not the first time they've been caught lying and meddling.

We will certainly be posting a lot more on this subject, and we will of course be organizing widespread opposition to this outrage.

We are going to kick their butts on this one and it begins today!

Who exactly are the three individuals that AOPA has put up to filing this petition?  Well one of them is Lauren McCollum who is a local pilot that applied in 2012 to be an airport commission member:

She is a property developer!  I wonder why a property developer would be concerned about development?  Can you say busted?

Flora Yin is an attorney at Reed & Davidson, LLP an LA law firm specializing in politics and in particular, and I quote:

  • Challenging and Defending
  • Drafting Ballot Arguments
  • Petition Circulation Legal Compliance
  • Qualifying Initiatives, Referenda and Recalls
  • Structuring Entities to Support and Oppose Ballot Measures
  • Title and Summary Process

Well it should be pretty clear who AOPA is paying to conduct and craft this atrocity.  Can you say busted?  No concerned citizen here.

Nikos Kokotakis is an actor  and judging from his bio, he is going to be the front guy for this initiative and the one who's job it is to put a human and sympathetic face on it.  He is also a fan of flying.  Seems like they've got the whole team assembled.  Let the games begin!

Tell everyone you know.  The more people that know the truth about this before the signature gathering starts, the harder it will be for them to con people into signing.

Update 3/28: Supporters of SMO File Paperwork for Ballot Initiative (SM Lookout, Mar 28, 2014)
Update 3/38Desperate Times, Desperate Measures, Desperate Companies that Rent Corporate Jets (The Healthy City Local, Mar 28, 2014)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thank you City Council!

At last night's City Council meeting the Council unanimously approved staff's recommendations while modifying them to clarify Council's intent, and while explicitly making clear that any land released from aviation uses would be used for low intensity uses such as a park.  Recommendations included the following:
  1. Consider and comment on the information provided in this report and by members of the public.
  2. Continue to pursue City control of the use of its Airport land.
  3. Direct staff to begin positioning the City for possible closure of all or part of the Santa Monica Airport ("Airport") after July 1, 2015, including, for instance, by preparing a preliminary conceptual plan for a smaller airport that excludes the Airport's western parcel and by preparing preliminary work plans for environmental assessment.
  4. Direct staff to continue to identify and undertake efforts by which the City might reduce adverse impacts of Airport operations, such as zoning the Airport land to require uses compatible with surrounding uses.
  5. Direct staff to increase efforts to ensure that the use of Airport leaseholds is compatible with surrounding uses by, for instance, notifying flight schools that flight school leases will be conditioned or will not be renewed after July 1, 2015 and evaluating whether and how fuel sales should be prohibited or limited to curtail adverse environmental impacts.  - This recommendation was changed by Council - see below.
  6. Revise leasing policies to maintain lease revenues so that the Airport does not again burden the General Fund by authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute five year non-aviation leases with five 1-year options to renew for up to a total of ten years and one year aviation leases with two 1-year options to renew for up to a total of three years with any renewals at the City's sole discretion. - This recommendation what changed by Council - see below.
  7. Continue to receive and assess community input on preferences and possibilities for the potential future use of the land.
One key modification made by council included directing staff to repay the disputed grant assurance money (around $250,000) to the FAA, thereby ending the dispute over the end date of this agreement which the FAA contends extends to 2023 but which the City believes ends this year.  This action also sends a clear message of intent regarding the airport's future.
Another key modification was to direct staff to replace their suggested leasing policy with a standard City non-discriminatory policy designed for "light industrial and arts space".  This change, recommended by the airport commission, ensures the City cannot be sued for discrimination, while also putting in place a mechanism for disallowing uses incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods particularly those that cause noise, pollution, or other negative impacts - exactly the kinds of things that much of current aviation activity represents.  This leasing policy must be in place before any leases are renewed.  
Thanks go to City staff, to all the Council members present, to  the volunteers that continue to work so hard towards this goal, and to all the members of the public that stayed so long into the night and spoke so eloquently.
This is a big step forward towards a great park on airport land.  We should all celebrate what happened last night, and though there is still a long path to tread, we will not stop until we have reached our goal.
Click for the video of the outstanding presentations made by the unified team of Airport2Park and other airport opponents including CASMAT, Friends Of Sunset Park, and SPAA.
Click for the video of the council deliberations leading to the unanimous vote.  You really should watch it just to see just how clear council was about low intensity land use at this site.
Council member Terry O'Day was absent for the vote, he was also absent from last April's airport specific meeting.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SMO in the News - March 2014

The following articles relating to SMO have appeared in the press during March 2014:

The drones are coming! (Santa Monica Dispatch, Mar 30, 2014)
Letters: What to do with Santa Monica's airport (LA Times, Mar 30, 2014)
It's our town, our airport, our land, our decision (Santa Monica Dispatch, Mar 29, 2014)
What Say You? Closing Santa Monica Airport (Santa Monica Mirror, Mar 29, 2014)
Helicopter Pilots Endorse Initiative To Keep SMO Open (Santa Monica Mirror, Mar 29, 2014) Desperate Times, Measures, Companies .. Rent Corporate Jets (Healthy City, Mar 28, 2014)
Group wants future of SMO to be decided by voters (Santa Monica Daily Press, Mar 28, 2014)
Initiative ... Sought To Alter Santa Monica’s Airport Strategy (Santa Monica Mirror, Mar 28, 2014)
Path Set For Potential Closure Of Santa Monica Airport (Santa Monica Mirror, Mar 28, 2014)
Supporters of SMO File Paperwork for Ballot Initiative (SM Lookout, Mar 28, 2014)
SMO turmoil leaves leaseholders in limbo (Santa Monica Daily Press, Mar 27, 2014)
Residents seek control of Santa Monica's future (AOPA, Mar 27, 2014)
Letter: Not-so-friendly skies (Santa Monica Daily Press, Mar 27, 2014)
Fresh Threat To Santa Monica Airport (AVweb.com, Mar 27, 2014)
City turns its sights on the Airport (Santa Monica Dispatch, Mar 27, 2014)
Battle Over Santa Monica Airport Heats Up ... Again (FlyingMag.com, Mar 27, 2014)
Council votes to chip away at Santa Monica Airport (Santa Monica Daily Press, Mar 26, 2014)
City Council votes to keep pursuing control over airport land (89.3 KPCC, Mar 26, 2014)
NBAA Opposes Latest Attempt by City Officials to Restrict SMO (NBAA, Mar 26, 2014)
Santa Monica launches effort to shut down ... city airport (LA Times, Mar 26, 2014) - Video
AOPA challenges city to let voters decide SMO future (AOPA.org, Mar 26, 2014)
Residents Pack City Hall For Debate On Future Of SMO (CBS LA, Mar 25, 2014) - Video
Santa Monica City Council Approves Plan To Take Over Portion Of Airport (CBS LA, Mar 25, 2014)
Santa Monica to consider aggressive plan to shrink airport operations (LA Times, Mar 25, 2014)
Residents To Speak Out On Future Of SMO (CBS LA, Mar 25, 2014)
Santa Monica Airport:Background Information (Santa Monica Dispatch, Mar 25, 2014)
SMO Future To Headline City Council Meeting This Tuesday (Santa Monica Mirror, Mar 24, 2014)
Santa Monica Prepares for New Hearing on Airport’s Future (SM Lookout, Mar 24, 2014)
Santa Monica Airport Update (Santa Monica Dispatch, Mar 24, 2014)
Turning Santa Monica Airport into a local land use matter (Santa Monica Patch, Mar 23, 2014)
Airport2Park Urges City Council To Take Bolder Steps To Close Airport (SM Mirror, Mar 22, 2014)
Time to Rally Around Santa Monica Airport! (CalPilots.org, Mar 22, 2014)
AOPA urges SMO supporters to speak up (AOPA.org, Mar 20, 2014)
City Hall: Full Santa Monica Airport closure could take time (SM Daily Press, Mar 19, 2014)
Airport Commission doing its job (Santa Monica Daily Press, Mar 18, 2014)
Designing a Park by Bike, update from Airport2Park (Santa Monica Spoke, Mar 17, 2014)
Events: Airport ArtWalk, Creative Site Activation... (Santa Monica Next, Mar 11, 2014)
My Write: Anti-airport commission fumbles (Santa Monica Daily Press, Mar 9, 2014)
Airport2Park at Mar Vista Farmers Market (Airport2Park.org, Mar 7, 2014)
Letter: Dereliction of duty (Santa Monica Daily press, Mar 7, 2014)
Pilots: Don’t starve us, work with us (Santa Monica Daily Press, Mar 5, 2014)
Airport Commission recommends starving SMO (Santa Monica Daily Press, Mar 4, 2014)

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