Proposed ballot measure to protect Santa Monica Airport challenged

A mechanic walks away from parked planes at Santa Monica Airport. A new legal skirmish has erupted over a proposal ballot measure that would require voters to approve any land use change at the airport.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In another legal skirmish over the future of embattled Santa Monica Airport, a lawsuit was filed Friday challenging a proposed city ballot measure that would require voter approval to shut down the facility, alter its land use or restrict aviation activities.

A group of Santa Monica citizens sued in Los Angeles County Superior Court in an attempt to derail a petition drive by airport supporters and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. to qualify a pro-airport measure for a future election.

If passed, the measure would amend the Santa Monica City Charter to require voter approval for land use decisions affecting the historic airport, which is the oldest continuously operating aviation facility in Los Angeles County.


Attorney Jonathan Stein alleges in the suit that the measure should not be accepted for the ballot because it contains numerous misleading statements, was not vetted properly by city officials and violates the state Constitution and elections code.

A group called Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions is circulating the petition. Signatures from 15% of the city’s registered voters are required to qualify the measure for the ballot.

The AOPA, a national organization of about 400,000 members that is fighting to keep the airport open, has contributed $20,000 to the group.

Among those named as defendants in the case are the Santa Monica city clerk’s Office, the Santa Monica City Council and Santa Monica City Atty. Marsha Moutrie.

The city clerk and the city attorney reviewed the petition before it was released for signature gathering. The city attorney also prepared the measure’s ballot title and summary.

Airport supporters began circulating the petition after the council decided in late March to develop and evaluate a strategy to close all or part of the airport. Under consideration are proposals to shorten the 5,000-foot runway by 2,000 feet, reduce aviation-related services and scale back flight operations.