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Opinion, Letters To The Editor, Santa Monica, City Hall

Letter To The Editor: Did You Really Have To SLAPP Us?

Posted Aug. 9, 2014, 9:14 am

Letter To The Editor

Editor's Note: This is an open letter to the Santa Monica City Council, City Staff, and residents of Santa Monica.

Dear Editor,

We residents of Sunset Park have been watching the airport grow into a noisy, polluting, and dangerous jet port. Just days after a unanimous vote by City Council to look into ways to rein in the airport, an out of town airport lobby, funded by of town money, filed a petition to maintain airport status quo and change the Santa Monica Charter.

Within two weeks paid signature gatherers hit the streets. We stuck our necks out and filed suit to block the deceptive outside interests.

Our lawsuit named the city staff and City Council (named in official capacity only) as blameless defendants and also named the aviation interests.

Naming the city is standard procedure for pre-election ballot lawsuits.

Shortly after our lawsuit, the city attorney filed a SLAPP lawsuit against us, a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence. The aviation interests followed suit. The city attorney did most of the work crafting the motion, and did most of the talking in the courthouse. Filing a SLAPP like this is not standard procedure.

We plaintiffs still seek our day in court to stop the outside lobbyists. We plaintiffs have been actively involved in the campaign against the aviation interests, and have been working toward a better city version of a competing initiative that requires a vote on future use of the land except for parks and recreation.

The SLAPP in fact helps the aviation interests by delaying court action on our lawsuit and the delay may make it impossible to have a timely resolution.

Please drop this SLAPP. If not, explain to the 11 plaintiffs, and the thousands of others who are badly affected by an unsafe polluting jet port in our neighborhoods, why the city attorney is aiding outside interests attempting to control city land.

Explain why they are filing motions against residents who are attempting to improve the health and safety of their neighborhood.

Thank you.

Alan Levenson, Susan Hartley, Lisa Sandbank, Jim Redden, Peter  Altschuler,Colin Maduzia, Gavin Scott, Robb Brown, Nicola Scott, Lisa Detamore, and Jason Detamore.

Santa Monica, CA

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Comments

Aug. 9, 2014, 9:58:24 am

Stacie said...

the airport has a lot less traffic, noise and pollution than it did in the past when Douglass was there. If you bought/rented near the airport then you knew the airport was there. Don't ask the rest of the residents to pay for your lawsuits because you want an existing use to go away and cause your property values to increase. If anything residents near the runway who want the airport closed should be assessed a fee to pay for all these costs associated with closing the airport!

Aug. 9, 2014, 12:48:55 pm

jerry spencer said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Stacie's post. The airport is not a sudden surprise to residents of the area. You knew it was here when you bought your home. I am not an 'outside interest' nor am I some sort of outside lobbyist. I've lived in Santa Monica or its environs for years. The airport has gone out of its way to be a good neighbor. Maybe it's time for the airport's neighbors to begin doing the same.

Aug. 9, 2014, 1:13:12 pm

Paul Keene said...

If you tried to close the 10 or the 405 then AAA and NTSB would probably get involved. This is no different. Sorry but you brought this whole thing on yourselves. It's the pot calling the kettle black. It is the anti-airport crowd with intimidating developer interests who have lobbied the city councilors and property owners who want their homes to appraise higher. We all know at the end of the day this is about money. No one believes this valuable land can feasibly become a park. Not without millions in taxpayer intervention and we know the developers aren't going to let this land grab slip away easily. Now that the playing field has been equaled you're crying foul. That's straight out of the GOP handbook. You didn't actually think you could do this without a fight did you? This battle is just getting started and there are plenty of resources in the aviation world to keep you tied up for a very long time. This is for the good of EVERYONE in west Los Angeles county and not just the jet setters you like to point out. Just because you don't like or understand the benefits of the airport doesn't mean it isn't necessary. If you really cared about your community you'd understand that the airport is needed. Much like a water treatment plant - everyone needs it but no one understands it or wants to live next to it. Gee, didn't you see it there when YOU decided to move in? The unintended consequences of closing the airport would be felt for generations. The damage cannot be undone. But you don't see this or you don't care. It's all about YOUR interests. Thank you for signing your names so we know what side of history you will be on. We'll know who to look to when all those jobs and revenue are lost forever. Our kids will thank you some day for being the ones that closed the airport causing thousands to suffer after an imminent emergency. ----- The real estate developers and vocal minority must not prevail. I believe the voters of Santa Monica will do the right thing.

Aug. 9, 2014, 8:21:38 pm

Donald said...

Our residents who are standing up against the deep pockets of the greedy polluters and deceptive aviation lobby, deserve much better treatment by our city government. Santa Monica Airport serves less than 300 privileged flyers daily (most of which are not local city residents) and produces more pollution that 70,000 Big Blue Blue riders. With LAX just 8 miles away and Hawthorne just 12 miles away, Santa Monica Airport is HARDLY a necessity.

Aug. 9, 2014, 9:12:15 pm

T. U. said...

Clearly Don doesn't get it. His facts are in his head. And where is his head, you say?

Aug. 10, 2014, 8:51:21 pm

Joan Van said...

When we bought to Sunset Park in 1990, the airport served only small aircraft. Now they have bizjets at all hours. They operate under a safety waiver because the runway isn't really long enough... people are going to die because appropriate safety measures are not followed, nor is the city fire department prepared to deal with the level of damage a single take-off air accident could (and probably would) cause. As for pollution, Jet use of fuel is a much different issue than avgas use by small planes. Finally, south-side property values would grow 20% if we didn't have this noisy, polluting, unsafe airport nearby -- adding to the tax base of the entire city. The airport would be a better neighbor if it were safe, clean, and quiet. The rest of it is window dressing.

Aug. 10, 2014, 8:55:57 pm

Donald said...

T.U. The facts that I listed above are simply the FACTS. Are you disputing the number of the flyers at SMO or riders on the Big Blue Bus? Are you disputing the distance from SMO to LAX or Hawthorne?

Aug. 10, 2014, 9:28:34 pm

Ben said...

Thank you Alan, Susan, Lisa, Jim, Peter, Colin, Gavin, Robb, Nicola, Lisa, and Jason for standing up for what is right. We all know that Parks are better than Jets. The residents of Santa Monica, and the adjacent Westside of Los Angeles support you and your brave efforts in standing up against the powerful, well-funded, and deceptive Pro-Jet lobby. Our growing community network (www.SMOfuture.com) is optimistic that someday we will all be able to enjoy our land, rather than suffer from it.

Aug. 10, 2014, 9:29:36 pm

Joe said...

My wife and I bought our house on Ashland Ave. after retiring from the USAF (with 7000+ hours as a pilot - including flying 4-engine jet transport aircraft in an out of some small fields in Vietnam) in 1990. Having lived on air force bases for more than half of my 20 years, I did due diligence and listened to the traffic pattern on mornings and on one Saturday morning and afternoon. Almost all light airplane traffic. No problem! Well now we know that with the 40 jet operations per day at SMO -- bis jets for the convenience and status of masters of the universe to the Westside -- big problems for all stakeholders except those profiting from expropriating “public goods” from those who live near the airport. It's pretty ugly to despoil the quality of life for folks on the departure path for SMO for the private interests of a wealthy few. It's not about my property values; it's about the quality and safety of my neighbors in Santa Monica and Venice. Owners and renters who are exposed to noise, pollution, and eventually a foreseeable take-off "accident' in which dense urban neighborhood gets hammered with 1000+ gallons of jet fuel as a bis jet “buys the farm” – only it’s not a farm—it’s a dense metropolitan area in the second largest city in the US. Check-out the airport in Wikipedia; it looks like an aircraft carrier in the middle of a city. I'm not at all worried about my property values [don't plan to sell--ever] but I am deeply disappointed with the lack of truth in many of the pro-airport screeds. I'd personally be delighted to have the light aircraft flying just like the city voters voted against Douglas lengthening the runway in the late '50's to build and fly jets out of SMO.

Aug. 10, 2014, 9:34:47 pm

Padist said...

Having been a resident of this city for 40 years, I have seen the airport grow from relatively quiet recreational facility into a business center for private jets. I understand its illustrious history, which can be preserved, but it has turned into a vast waste of space for a privileged few. This is not the highest and best use for this piece of land, especially when there are so many other airports nearby. If all the people who want to keep the status quo can come up with is scary speculation about development and building heights and, in this age of giant helicopters, the possibility of a catastrophe so huge that a runway is essential to our survival, then your arguments are pretty thin gruel. And the 10 and 405 are essential to this region's economic survival. SMO most certainly is not. It was an important part of our history, which has become a nuisance and an unhealthy one at that. Most people who signed onto this lawsuit own property whose price will be unaffected by the airport's status. They are part of a generally civilized suburban community that lives under constant assault from this noisy relic of the 21st century.

Aug. 10, 2014, 9:35:28 pm

Bill Fordes said...

The City of SM should immediately withdraw it SLAPP suit. The residents who are seeking to undo the AOPA petition are blameless and the City should not interfere with their suit.

Aug. 10, 2014, 10:19:44 pm

Jman said...

You want to save this city some money? GET RID OF THE GOD DAMN AIRPORT. It doesn't bring money into this town, just through it. The city doesn't get fair market value for the leases, they're practically giving away public land for rich guys like Harrison Ford to use as their private club, while we are paying for it with our taxes. Look, as much as you romantics love to reminisce about the airport, it long outlived its glory. It's now just a polluting menace to society. Evolve already.

Aug. 10, 2014, 11:53:24 pm

slaap craap said...

What a whiney bunch of NIMBYs. A slaap is just what they deserve. Just move to the Dakotas already! LA is too scary for your sensitivity.

Aug. 11, 2014, 12:02:25 am

Get real said...

As a wage earner, I always find it laughable when one rich person calls another rich person privileged. If you own a home in a place like Santa Monica, even close to the airport you ARE rich by most folks definition! Neither side has the support of guys like me because we find you all insufferable.

Aug. 11, 2014, 12:59:10 am

Charles said...

I have worked in Santa Monica and lived next to the airport for over 30 years. It has grown into an unsafe polluting travesty over the years. When it was there with the small planes it was fun to see them take off and land, but when the decibel levels were raised from 85 to 95 so the jets could land, that created the problems we now see. However anyone wants to look at it the facts are fairly simple: (1) the airport was never planed to have jets or surrounded by a heavily populated residential area, (2) the pollution from the jets are making the regions adjacent some of the most polluted areas in the state, and (3) there is not enough space to create safe runways with sufficient buffer zones due to the residential areas abutting the airport. An isolated privileged few want the airport whereas those that live in and around the airport want it closed. Those with very very deep pockets control aviation interests and sadly appear to control the FAA, EPA, and now the Santa Monica City Council. This SLAPP case "slaps" us all who have to live and work in fear of a jet accident while our lungs are polluted by the jet's fine particulate matter pollutants.

Aug. 11, 2014, 6:27:49 am

Natalie said...

It has long seemed to me that Marsha Moutrie is biased towards maintaining the airport. I have heard her at many airport commission and city council meetings lamenting that her hands are tied, etc, etc etc, It does not surprise me that she has once again showed her interests to be aligned with big business and the aviation lobby. As someone who lives on just east of this toxic dump, i applaud those of you who are fighting for our health and welfare. And those of you below who are suggesting that pollution or noise have been reduced clearly do not live adjacent to the airport and clearly are disregarding all recent reputable studies. Where is your evidence for this? Further we have learned so much more in recent years about the toxicity of the fumes and the ultrafine particles. It like choosing to eat organic b/c we now know there is arsenic in apples or outlawing plastic bags b/c of the effect on seagulls and landfill. As we get more information,, we make better choices for the health and welfare of the community. Another example re the freeways, hybrids, electric cars and light rail. Seriously the SMO which serves so few cannot seriously be compared to the 10 or the 405. Our hands are not tied simply b/c it has always been that way. That's just a ridiculous argument that keeps being put forth b/c there is no other rational reason to have this airport which is a luxury for the rich and famous and commuters. And the developer argument, ludicrous. The land is zoned for park use by the deed that created it. And then there is the NIMBY argument. Well i say not in anyone's backyard. Its a toxic dump! Finally, the insults from the pro-aviation industry. Seriously can't you just debate an issue without slurring those on the opposite side of the coin. It undermines whatever shred of credibility you were reaching for to begin with. Grow up. The city should withdraw the SLAAP lawsuit.

Aug. 11, 2014, 9:04:00 am

Pat R said...

I think the airport is a bad idea and I am not a rich homeowner like someone says everyone in Santa Monica is. I've lived in my rent controlled apartment near the 10 freeway for 17 years. The freeway brings gets me to work and back. The airport is unnecessary. Take a 15 minute drive to LAX if you want to fly.

Aug. 11, 2014, 10:56:35 am

David Klass said...

Original City acquisition of what became SMO was for a park, for which irregular and infrequent bi-plane landings of the 1920's was then not incompatible. The Douglas metamorphosis of SMO for the War effort (and for that matter, the extraordinary human advancement enabled by aviation) was a necessity and a benefit for which we take great pride. Conversion of the park to SMO was not in perpetuity as airport proponents advocate. SMO proponent arguments that SMO air traffic is less now that Douglas has closed, that most highly impacted residents should pay costs, and they/we knew the airport existed at time of home purchase, their mis-characterization of facts and inappropriate analogies, and scare tactics based on falsities, manipulates and deceptively recasts what is the truth: 1) SMO and in particular the greatly increased jet traffic and flight school operations is a massive source of poison, 2) There is no national security interest currently served by SMO (only the private interest overwhelmingly shared by a narrow set of non-impacted nonresidents), 3) SMO elites enjoy unique privileges that spew environmental degradation far beyond residents close to SMO, 4) SMO environmental impacts that under any fair concept of equity should be costed to aviation users, is instead borne by residents, 5) SMO proponents cleverly manipulate and transform the cost of their degradation into a potential windfall to homeowners, thereby cloaking their selfish and misplaced entitlement, 6) Instead, it is the public's rightful entitlement to define the greater good, 7) By broad community participation, we have carefully defined how to democratically and wisely allow the voting public to determine future use of this rare valuable land and to chose restrictions on adverse development (whether in form of undesirable land development or continued use as a troubling toy of the jet set).

Aug. 11, 2014, 11:58:34 am

Jacquie said...

I don't believe anyone who writes the comments who are PRO-Jets actually lives in the area. If you did, you'd know they have gotten worse. I am grateful for the 11 people who have stuck their necks out for the rest of us in the hopes of having peace and health restored to the community.

Aug. 11, 2014, 12:27:40 pm

David Klass said...

It is the soldier who most greatly bears the cost and risk of protecting and defending our precious freedoms and pursuits of happiness. We must similarly protect and defend our soldiers as a matter of loyalty and self-preservation. So too shall we protect and indemnify those who do battle as litigants to further our common good, but were required under legal process to enjoin the City. Santa Monica was named only in its legal capacity and under the stated intention the City be held harmless.

Aug. 11, 2014, 1:04:12 pm

Outsider said...

One thing is for sure you've all become so polarized that the damage will never be undone in your lifetimes. The hatred for your own neighbors will never be undone in your lifetimes. You'll never know a day when someone who doesn't agree with your exact view of the world would bother to cross the street to save your life. You're all pariahs in your own community and you don't even know it because you only see as far as your nose. What a bunch of sad, pitiful people. I guess you're just following the rest of our country's lead.

Aug. 11, 2014, 3:20:44 pm

Peter Altschuler said...

I'm a long-time fan of the airport -- its history, its role in the development of aviation, and its connection to some of the most enduring names in flying. Yet, over the course of nearly 40 years as a resident of Ocean Park, I've endured the increase in air traffic, the addition of jets, and the steady decline in air quality associated with the particulates emitted from jet exhausts. It's a situation cited and validated by the EPA (for both LAX and SMO) as "far worse than average." If pilots adhered, as they did for several decades, to the flight path over the golf course and along Rose Avenue to the coast, much of the current rancor might not have surfaced. Yet after the FAA changed the heading, allowing planes to head north as soon as they cleared the airport and reached a specified altitude, attitudes started to change. Though the revised heading was supposed to be a test for a limited time, many pilots considered it permanent. That's unfortunate. The same flight path was used in 1984 when a small plane crashed into a multi-family residence across the street from Samohi. And that incident resulted in the golf course/Rose/coast route. Except for jets: as soon as they reach the mandatory altitude, jets are governed by “vector control” from LAX and must follow the course prescribed by its flight controllers. Over the course of the 30 years since the 1984 crash, Santa Monica's population density has grown, as has its number of tourists. Even a small plane plummeting into the area between the airport and the pier would likely cause far greater harm. A jet crash would be disastrous. It would make the recent fireball at the airport seem like a simple campfire. For people away from the flight path, the airport’s impact is non-existent. For residents of West LA who endure the approaches and those in Sunset and Ocean Parks who live with the takeoffs, flight activity is far more intrusive than it is at LAX. There the greatest impact of noise and pollution is over industrial and commercial areas (not that the effects are any less threatening to anyone who hears or breathes). As for the claim that residents who live near SMO are all wealthy individuals hoping for huge increases in property values, I can't imagine that any of my neighbors can afford to buy, maintain, and house a plane of any size -- even a used one. According to census figures, the median household income (which can include multiple wage earners) is $72,000. With 9800 residents, that means that half the incomes are below that amount. And there are more renters than owners. With 9800 residents, it also means that thousands of people are being asked to subvert their comfort and safety to the desires of several hundred pilots and aircraft owners. Metaphorically, it's more airborne aristocracy vs. landed serfs than landed gentry vs. harmless hobbyists. I know three pilots. One’s a psychiatrist, another’s a plumber with multiple locations, and the third is an aerospace engineer. They all fly from Santa Monica, but none of them live anywhere close to SMO. They all have household incomes above $200,000, and they all own property. I asked them what they’d do if the airport were closed. One would use Hawthorne, one would switch to Van Nuys, and the third said he wasn’t sure. None believe that they’re entitled to use SMO because it’s there.

Aug. 11, 2014, 5:08:15 pm

No sympathy from LA said...

Sunset Park, a great place for narcissistic people to gather and talk about themselves. Blow harder, the jet fumes might go away.

Aug. 12, 2014, 7:19:31 am

Arrogantpilot said...

Time for the jet pilots to get the point which is RESIDENTS do not want the JET traffic. Spin it anyway you want. CLOSE the Toxic Airport that actually losses MONEY for the city.

Aug. 12, 2014, 8:07:02 am

GoAwayPilots said...

Pilots: Please take your stinky loud jet planes and selfish attitudes somewhere else.

Aug. 12, 2014, 9:22:52 am

Henry said...

Wanna close the airport? Fine. Let's make sure we start a referendum or file lawsuits to make sure that the residents surrounding the airport pay for every last penny of financial loss in revenue to the city and then pay for 100% of the clean up of the land. Put an assessment on every homeowner. This assessment should remain in place even if the homeowner sells. No getting out of it. You want your cake- then eat it.

Aug. 12, 2014, 9:29:02 am

Waaaaaa said...

Oh boo hoo I live in a noisy city and smell stinky fumes sometimes and there are these scary machines that I don't understand. Please government be my hero and save me! Most of the residents of Santa Monica are smart people. Then there are a few brain dead ones that are extra loud whiners. They are like spoiled toddlers throwing a tantrum. Doesn't matter what facts are out there they just want what they want and they want it now. Now Mommy! NOW! Those are the ones that want the airport closed. I think it's time for a time-out. You babies need a nappy nap.

Aug. 12, 2014, 1:36:40 pm

Suzanne Robertson said...

My husband and I built a home on 32nd Street between Pico and Pearl in 1989, which we sold and then we moved to 25th Street, between Ocean Park Boulevard and Pearl, and I can tell you, because I was there, that the nature of the airport has changed greatly. The airport noise and pollution has GREATLY increased in the past 25 years. When we bought in Sunset Park in 1989 we did NOT know that the airport would turn into what it is today.

Aug. 12, 2014, 10:11:35 pm

Love SMO said...

SLAAP should be a message that you have crossed the line. It's great that all the names are out there for everyone and the FAA to see. They have a lot of time and money to keep you wrapped up in legal fees over your head. The airport is vital to the city and as someone else stated, you knew it was there when you bought.

Aug. 13, 2014, 9:09:15 am

Eric Moire said...

I'm shocked. The residents were executing their constitutional Right to Petition. The SLAPP by the city is entirely inappropriate action. A SLAAP plaintiff does not expect to win their lawsuit but to out-fund their opponent until they quit. It's extraordinary that this kind of suit is used against a group of concerned residents and one that deserves looking into, especially if you are concerned about how our tax dollars are being spent: to silence whistleblowers.

Aug. 13, 2014, 10:42:30 am

Pete Woods said...

I'm voting yes for the Real Estate Transfer Tax Measure. I want every homeowner in Sunset Park to pay more for cleanup and future land use of the airport. The burden rightfully should fall on them. Of course this will negate any gains they see in their house values. But if they really believe in their cause that shouldn't matter.

Aug. 13, 2014, 2:13:13 pm

Love SMO said...

They aren't whistle blowers at all. The only thing they are tooting is their own horn for more $$$. They have put forth deceptive info in order to gain support for their cause. They are technically defaming the airport and using lies and distortions that could drive business away. The City is in the right here in doing this. This group chose to interfere with City business.

Aug. 14, 2014, 1:11:18 pm

Get the Real Facts said...

Don't believe the Pilots! The airport losses money every year. The landing fees don't pay enough. Perhaps it's time to Jack Up the FEES and let the rich Jet Pilots contribute! Since they seem to think the Airport is their own personal playground.

Aug. 14, 2014, 2:00:27 pm

Love SMO said...

The anti airport people were out when the AOPA people were gathering signatures, harassing people who wanted to sign. I know neighbors who were harassed by the NO JETS people and I was as well. I signed the AOPA initiative anyway. Yet these very people named here are still carrying on with pages and asking for donations to do away with the airport.

Aug. 15, 2014, 9:25:46 am

C. Taff said...

I say NIMBYs shouldn't be allowed to benefit from aviation. They deserve to be on an airline no-fly list, police helicopters must stop patrolling NIMBY neighborhoods, only ground based ambulances can respond to injured NIMBYs. If you hate things that fly that much you shouldn't be exposed. We can start with these 11 NIMBYs.

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