Voters kill airport, parks tax proposals, OK Malibu land measure

Voters decide against Santa Monica airport and L.A. County parks tax, but support a Malibu development measure

A measure to keep Santa Monica airport open and a tax to raise money for Los Angeles County parks were defeated in this week's election, but a proposition to control development in Malibu passed by a wide margin, according to results confirmed Wednesday.

In Santa Monica, voters faced dueling ballot measures related to the municipal airport, long a target of complaints from nearby residents and city officials who have tried to close it for years.

Rejected by almost 58% of the vote was Measure D, which was backed by airport supporters and national aviation groups including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. More than $824,000 was donated to the campaign, one of the most expensive in city history.

Live coverage continues: The election aftermath, and what it means for California

The proposition would have demanded that the city halt its efforts to shut down the airport until the public could vote on future proposals to close the facility or change its use.

A competing Santa Monica proposition, Measure LC, was approved by 60% of the vote. Endorsed by environmental and community groups, it allows the airport to be used only for parks, open space and recreational facilities until voters can approve further limits on development.

The measure also maintains the City Council's authority to manage the airport and to close all or part of it.

"This was a mandate from the people," said John Fairweather, a leader of the anti-airport campaign. "I want to thank the aviation lobbyists for allowing us to put LC into the city charter. It would not have gotten there without the arrogance and disdain they exhibited."

Fairweather said the measure would allow the city to pursue its starvation strategy for the airport, which includes shortening the runway, reducing fuel sales and eliminating aviation-related leases until the facility can be closed perhaps as soon as next year.

Airport supporters vowed to continue their fight to keep the facility open. Federal Aviation Administration officials also reiterated their longstanding position that the city is required to operate the airport under various federal agreements.

"The battle will continue," said Christian Fry, vice president of the Santa Monica Airport Assn. "We are back to where we were a few days ago, before the election. Effectively nothing has changed. The big issues are all there and still need to be debated."

Meanwhile, the county parks measure, Proposition P, saw 62% of voters in favor but failed to garner the required two-thirds majority. The annual property tax of $23 per parcel was expected to generate an estimated $54 million a year during the next 30 years for recreational facilities and conservation projects.

Prop. P was opposed by the Sierra Club's Angeles Chapter, which claimed that poor communities would not get their fair share of funding, that officials had not identified specific projects it would pay for, and that too much money would have gone to buildings and administration.

"We are ready to go back to the county for another approach" that addresses the deficiencies the club identified, said George Watland, senior director of the Angeles Chapter.

In Malibu, voters approved Measure R, an initiative that pitted Emmy-winning actor and director Rob Reiner, who spearheaded the proposition, against opponents led by Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff.

Winning 59% of the vote, the measure gives the public the power to approve or deny commercial developments larger than 20,000 square feet and limit the percentage of chain stores in new shopping centers.

"This is quite significant," Reiner said. "It's the first time that the people who live here — the residents of Malibu — really have a say over the future of our community. Before it was kind of controlled by a small group of people who had a stranglehold on development. This is a big deal for everybody."

The ballot measure stemmed from years of discussion in town forums and planning meetings about the quality of the city's development. In July, an ordinance regulating chain stores was passed by the City Council, but it was heavily criticized by Measure R supporters as inadequate.

dan.weikel@latimes.com

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