City Council Candidates Show No Love for SMO

Most want it closed or severely limited; others worry about what would replace it. Two incumbents caution against rush to litigation.

Of 15 candidates for the Santa Monica City Council, nine are calling for the Santa Monica Airport to be shut down or to have its flight operations dramatically reduced not later than 2015.

Equally significant—not one of the 15, including two incumbents—is defending the airport, although one mentioned its possible use as a relief point after a natural disaster.

At a candidates forum Thursday night sponsored by Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, five of the most well-known airport opponents were Richard McKinnon and Ted Winterer, both city planning commissioners; peace advocate Jerry Rubin; former planning commissioner and local newspaper columnist Frank Gruber; and former council member Tony Vazquez.

The other four most outspoken were teacher Jon Mann; attorney Steve Duron and Bob Seldon; and civil/environmental engineer Armen Melkonians.

Somewhat more cautious were:

  • Terence Later, who wants open space and warns against the airport's 227 acres falling into the hands of developers.
  • Roberto Gomez, saying developers "are salivating," creating fertile ground for graft.
  • John C. Smith, who warned, "Don't trade one problem for another and get another Playa Vista."

Other cautions were voiced by incumbents Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day, concerned about rushing into a legal battle with the Federal Aviation Administration. Davis cited past defeats, such as the council's failed attempt to ban the fastest large jets at the airport.

"First [before 2015], we must negotiate [with the FAA]," she said, though she doubted the agency would be receptive. "Then we would consider litigation to close the airport." The key operating agreement for the airport between the city and FAA expires in 2015. The FAA says the true date is 2023.

Davis and O'Day defended city staffers, saying critics——don't have access to the City Council's closed legal sessions that are necessary for strategizing both negotiation and possible litigation with the FAA.

"We can't let them know exactly where we're going," said O'Day, a CRAAP member. "We must have all our options open."

Candidate Shari Davis, a longtime school and community activist, said she is undecided about the airport.

But closure advocates, including McKinnon, said the council needs strong new leadership so city staff will do what the council and community want.

"That won't happen if you elect the same old folks who say they'll do something and then won't," Vazquez said.

"This council has let the citizens down," Mann added. "Residents need a strong voice on the council."

"This is why so many of us are running," agreed Seldon. "If the staff is unresponsive, get rid of them," he said to applause.

Gruber said it was time for a new approach.

"This is a generational moment—we can't be weak-kneed," he said. "This is what our grandchildren... will thank us for."

Four of the council's seven seats are at stake in November, two of them with no incumbent.

Paul Rich September 14, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Closure? Get realistic. Reduce air traffic, air noise and pollution? That's a winning strategy and platform. Inevitable litigation, which will be costly, lengthy and contentious, will involve how much reduction and a potentially re-portioning / zoning for commercial use that would both benefit the public, create jobs and raise city revenue ... while be eco-friendly, not affect the horrendous rush-hour traffic going east on Ocean Park Blvd. and pass strict EPA regulations. May the best plan and candidate win.
Gaby Schkud September 15, 2012 at 03:52 AM
If we want to do the right thing in the event that the majority votes for closure, then the land should be dedicated as park land. Thus no special interest groups, no developers and this would benefit the community and our youth for generations to come. Not just the Santa Monica community, but also our surrounding neighbors.
Glenn E Grab September 15, 2012 at 04:06 PM
these candidates are just hoaxing everbody, they know it'll never happen......they're telling the habitual complainers what they want to hear...
SantaMonicaNative September 15, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I don't think the FAA would allow the closure of the Airport. It provides a safety valve for LAX and the arrogance of insisting on a closure would be a nightmare. They have deeper pockets than Santa Monica. we waste so much money litigating in this city, do we need another Lawsuit to deal with? Perhaps, some kind of agreement might be made to reduce the number of flights but closure seems unlikely. Even if you were to win, the bickering about the use of the land would be awe-inspiring. Sometimes, when you live in a democracy you don't get what you want, no matter how long and hard you scream.
Glenn E Grab September 16, 2012 at 06:21 AM
yeah, but keep screaming and whining, it's good for a laugh...
chris davies September 20, 2012 at 05:59 PM
get rid of the airport and move SMC to the location. this would allow SMC to grow in a way it needs, rather than pushing around a small neighborhood like it does now. SMC could be a world class institution in that location, and probably generate much more for Santa Monica than the current use as an airport.
Gene Evans September 21, 2012 at 10:38 PM
The airport is not going to close!!! The law suits are a waste of money!! Those complaining are the ones who bought cheap, because the airport is there, and now want to increase the value of their property by closing the airport. These candidates are pandering to the minority complainers. If the developers get any part of the land the stress on surrounding streets and on the infratructure will be impossiblably binding. The airport is older than any of the residents, the airport was an instrument in the development of this area and the surrounding residential areas built up, such as Sunset Park, to house the workers at Douglas. Now the gentrified and bitching bunch want to throw the airport out and reap the real estate rewards. Bull!! If you do not want to live near an airport, move!!! You moved in with full knowledge what was there, live within that reality or remove yourself from it but do not think you can destroy the reality of the airport, It's historic, commercial and practical significance far outweighs the moans and bitching of a self serving minority. Far greater and more important issues face the area and should be the center of attention instead of "this sure to loose" tried and retried clunker. "
Richard B October 09, 2012 at 10:57 PM
It is time to get rid of Davis and O'Day. We need new people with new ideas who will actually fight the airport and the FAA. Not just tell us it can't be done. My vote goes to Richard McKinnon and Ted Winterer. The airport has outgrown it's use and now is just a huge polluting business. (that so called Green Santa Monica refuses to acknowledge) Many who use the airport are not living in this area. Let us use the land to create a world class open space park for all to enjoy (not the rich few out of towner)) We also need to get a NEW CITY ATTORNEY ! NO LOVE indeed for SMO
Richard B October 09, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Agree with Gaby 100% Now for the city to actually listen to "We the People"
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 08:41 PM
It is past time to get rid of Davis and O'Day. They are so tiresome in their faux-parental way saying they know better than we do. We see what they do when everyone knows all the facts, such as vote for quadrupling building square footage at Colorado and Stewart and excavating a three-story subterranean garage in high liquefaction danger land. In return for that disaster-waiting-to-happen Davis told us how lucky we were to get wider sidewalks, curbs and gutters and a street at the back--all things required by the project anyway. Plus millions more for the Council to waste on things like $55 million for two parks in front of City Hall. Shari Davis is aligned with them, so she's a zero too. I'm not convinced Winterer and McKinnon are the answer, though, since they have done what this corrupt Council wanted during their time on the Planning Commission. This article points out Smith, Mann, Seldon, and Merkelians all had reasonable-sounding but active stances against what this Council has allowed, low rents for flight schools and INCREASED FLIGHTS over when the people complaining bought their homes. I liked what they said at the Mirror forum on issues I have thorough knowledge about, like destroying Village Trailer Park. I believe they will sign commitments of reasonable things to DO, not just talk about. People on the current Council sounded good when they were running. We must pin candidates down to DO what WE want the way the law requires, in public.
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Setting up closing SMO as the only option and saying that's impossible is a red herring. The City Attorney and Manager used the same tactic about Village Trailer Park. First they told the lie for six years that the developer has a right under state law to go out of the rental business. (He does, only after he gets a removal permit from the Rent Control Board.) Then based on that lie, they said the only alternative was for the City to buy the land. Then they had some staffer do a comparable based on no-telling-what and said the land would be worth $22-30 million if it were rezoned as the developer wants. Which is the whole issue in this circular reasoning. Then they talked about how the City doesn't have $22-30 million to spend for this, how sad. It's the same with SMO. The City knows some portion of SMO will come back to SM without any rights of the FAA in 2015. What to do with that has to be talked about in public, under the Brown Act. They also know other cities reduced flights based on findings such as we now have here, and the FAA did not sue. What happened about jets is so long in the past no one knows what the issues were, so that is just another red herring. Limiting flights now, cities can do. Then there is no limit on what rents they can charge. If flight schools can't pay, there will be empty hangars, the use of which can, again, be debated in public. Throw the bums who feed us red herrings out. Put in people who represent all of us.
Dan Charney November 28, 2012 at 08:35 PM
"Playa Vista" here they come- indeed - developers are going wild with ideas to ruin this wonderful old place - just like every other place in Santa Monica- think it's noisy and dangerous now? Please- just wait until after the Bloom driven O'Day etc machine gets done with it- the one or two small crashes and bit of noise will be remembered as a great era gone by - this rich for the rich government must be stopped- or we will be the Marina. Playa Vista- filled with nerds- texting - I for one welcome the airport, the old houses, and no cell phones- sick of people talking to themselves- give me some history please-


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