Monday, November 30 , 2015, 12:16 am | Fair 45º

City of Santa Barbara May Sell Airport Property to Direct Relief

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

Humanitarian nonprofit Direct Relief has its eye on purchasing a piece of property near the Santa Barbara Airport, and city officials will consider the deal next week.

The Santa Barbara-based international humanitarian aid organization hopes to build a new state-of-the-art facility on land north of Hollister Avenue in the airport’s commercial industrial area.

That facility at 6100 Hollister Ave. would replace its existing building at 27 S. La Patera Lane, which officials say is too small for the global nonprofit’s needs. 

The Santa Barbara City Council will consider a proposal to sell the city land at a 2 p.m. meeting Tuesday at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

Direct Relief, which was founded in Santa Barbara in 1948, is a privately funded apolitical organization that has established one of the nation’s largest charitable medicines program serving as a critical resource in local, state and national emergencies.

The organization has been searching for a new facility for the past two years, and officials entered into discussions with airport officials last year about the parcel just north of the Airport Administration Building.

Direct Relief is planning for a new facility with approximately 100,000 square feet of warehouse space and 25,000 square feet of office space.

Over the years, the city has considered a number of private commercial development proposals for the property, including two large single-tenant development concepts, an industrial condo ownership, a utility company maintenance-and-storage facility, a hotel, a corporate campus and a large retail store. 

None of the projects came to fruition, however, according to the city.

The land and existing buildings in question have been used for temporary short-term rental — generating rental income of approximately $300,000 annually to the airport — and are also subject to certain Federal Aviation Administration regulations, including a requirement that the airport receive fair market value for its use.

Airport Director Hazel Johns said Direct Relief has submitted a proposal to buy the property at a fair market value and to construct new offices and warehouse, with all sale proceeds helping to support airport operations.

“The sale of airport land will provide the airport with the funds necessary to construct new commercial industrial buildings on the remaining land without any borrowing, thereby strengthening the airport’s revenue base,” Johns said in a statement. 

The Direct Relief proposal also apparently gives the city a right to reacquire the property at a 10-percent discount if the organization ever decides to sell it.

“We are very grateful to the city for helping us find land that will help us continue our work into the future,” Direct Relief President Thomas Tighe said in a statement. “City officials have been enthusiastic supporters of our humanitarian mission, and that support is one of the keys to our success.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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