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Local News

New Santa Barbara Airport Project Would Demolish World War II-Era Hangars

City Officials Embark on Draft EIR for Next Stage of Airport Expansion, Which Could Impact Goleta Slough

Three years after Santa Barbara unveiled its new $54 million Airport Terminal, officials are back with more changes that would dramatically reshape the facility.

Among the proposed changes:

» Demolishing two World War II-era hangars, which are currently eligible for consideration on the National Registry of Historic Places.

» Building a new long term parking lot to create 1,315 new or relocated parking spaces to avoid shuttling from overflow parking lots.

» Relocating the area's two fixed based operators — which serve local and visiting pilots.

» Extending Taxiway H.

» Moving the Airport Administration Building and replace that current site with a conference center and restaurant.

The changes are part of the Airport's Master Plan, intended to guide development at the site for the next 20 years. The city plans to start an environmental impact report on the project this month. The results will be available in February.

Already city officials have identified potential environmental concerns over the project, particularly the taxiway extension, which would also "significantly impact" the Goleta Slough, including the riparian, wetland and grassland habitats.

Scott Cooper, a professor of aquatic biology at UCSB, said he hopes the EIR will identify all the environmental concerns related to the Goleta Slough. 

"All of these possible changes affect habitats, plants and animals," Cooper said. "The EIR needs to assess biological responses to the plan."

Cooper said particular concerns surround the proximity of the Taxiway H extension to Carneros Creek, and also the impact on sensitive species.

Tidewater gobies, he said, have been found in Carneros Creek, and the Goleta Slough is listed as critical steelhead habitat under the Endangered Species Act. 

Changes proposed for the Santa Barbara Airport could affect wetlands areas that support a variety of wildlife, including this great blue heron. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

"The EIR needs to address potential project impacts on these rare and endangered species," he said. 

Some people have concerns about demolishing the 90-year-old hangars.

Deborah Schwartz, chairwoman of the city's Planning Commission, asked at a recent commission meeting if airport officials had spoken with the city historian or anyone else about placing the hangar buildings on the registry list of historic places.

Project Planner Andrew Bermond said there were many complexities with going that route.

"One of the problems that exist with submitting it to be on the national register is that both of those hangars are in very poor condition, and they would need to be rehabilitated in order to bring them up to building code, let alone to record them as historic structures," Bermond said. 

It would also be difficult to save the buildings in their current condition, he said. 

"They are in the floodway, so restoring them is fraught with challenges," he said. 

The project will need a local coastal plan amendment.

Once the draft EIR is released, city officials expect the Master Plan EIR to be certified by July 2015.

"I think you are on the right track," said planning commissioner Michael Jordan. "Many airports are in the same situation. They are next to the coast. They are in wetlands. They are increasingly constrained by commercial and residential development around them that wasn't there 50 years ago."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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