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Candidates Talk Airport Closure at Friends of Santa Monica Airport Forum


Frank Gruber for Santa Monica City Council

Ted Winterer for City Council 2012

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

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7th Annual Pico Festival
Sunday, October 28th

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

October 08, 2012 -- City Council candidates told supporters of the Santa Monica Airport at a forum Saturday that the 62-year-old facility should either be scaled back or shut down completely.

Most of the 12 candidates present shared their views with a crowd composed of pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers who attended the forum hosted by Friends of Santa Monica Airport (FOSMO).

“For certain people who live under the glide path, it is a big issue,” Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis told the crowd of almost 100 members of FOSMO, who filled the Museum of Flying to hear the candidates talk about the airport.

The meeting was closed to the general public and was only open to the press after specific requests were made.

A week earlier, FOSMO's rival group, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), had picked their four favorites -- Planning Commissioners Ted Winterer and Richard McKinnon, former Council member Tony Vazquez and former Planning Commissioner and Lookout columnist Frank Gruber.

SMO “loses money for Santa Monica tax payers every year,” said Winterer. He called the aiport “toxic” and a “safety issue.” Winterer said that he would only support the airport if it “radically restructures operations.”

McKinnon echoed Winterer's sentiments.

Gruber said that he wants the property turned into a public space, saying that though he respects the place SMO holds in Santa Monica's history, he believes that the end of the lease with the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reclaim the land for public use.

Vazquez and Gleam Davis said that the problem may be neighborhood-specific, but sometimes, it is the duty of the council to address neighborhood issues.

Davis referred to the recent problem with the House of Rock, a private home on upscale La mesa Drive that has been holding charitable events. Although it posed a problem specific to the people living on that street, Davis said, it ultimately could have set a precedent for the whole city if the council hadn't acted.

The questions fielded by candidates ranged from why there was no one with aviation expertise on the Airport Commission to whether the candidates would consider scientific polls when considering the future of the airport.

Candidates' answers left FOSMO President Robby Rowbothem unimpressed. When asked if the group would endorse a candidate, he said he didn't think any of the candidates were supportive of SMO.

“We understand that the Sunset Park and Ocean Park residents have concerns,” he said. But, “all things considered, the airport is the best solution for the city. It attracts professional people, driven to success.”

He also added that it has a dog park, a restaurant and an athletic field.

Rowbothem said the FOSMO would continue to do its best to support the airport despite the opposition.

Incumbent Terry O'Day and challengers Bob Seldon and Roberto Gomez did not attend the forum.

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