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Santa Barbara Airport Auto Dealership Project Riles Goleta Officials

Concerns are raised about the effect of new Chrysler and Infiniti dealerships on traffic in Goleta

An artist rendering shows what new auto dealerships proposed for Santa Barbara Airport property would look like. Click to view larger
An artist rendering shows what new auto dealerships proposed for Santa Barbara Airport property would look like. (Contributed photo)

A large auto dealership featuring Chrysler and Infiniti is headed to Santa Barbara Airport property near Goleta.

The 6-acre project proposed by D&G Lin calls for a 26-foot-tall, two-story building that will house Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, and include showrooms and a service department. A 30-foot-tall, one-story building will be home to Infinity.

The site is at 6210-6290 Hollister Ave.

The Santa Barbara Planning Commission approved the project at a meeting earlier this month, despite strong opposition from the city of Goleta. 

“We are opposed to this project,” said Winnie Cai, deputy city attorney for Goleta. “It has a great impact on our city.”

The project is the latest conflict between the two cities, which have sparred in recent years over development.

Santa Barbara owns the airport and property near it — all of which is surrounded by the city of Goleta.

Goleta has opposed elements of Santa Barbara’s Airport Master Plan and is pursuing litigation over development approved at 6100 Hollister Ave. Santa Barbara plans to build two 4,021-square-foot retail buildings, six light industrial buildings of 4,500 to 7,500 square feet each, and a seventh light industrial building of 7,500 square feet on the site. The retail and industrial buildings are next to the approved Direct Relief headquarters and warehouse/distribution center project under construction.

Cai urged Santa Barbara to delay a decision on the automobile dealership so that the two sides could come to an agreement on transportation-impact fees for additional car trips in Goleta to access the facility.

This site is at 6210-6290 Hollister Ave. on Santa Barbara Airport property is proposed as the new home for Chrysler and Infiniti auto dealerships. Click to view larger
This site is at 6210-6290 Hollister Ave. on Santa Barbara Airport property is proposed as the new home for Chrysler and Infiniti auto dealerships. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

“We are not trying to stop the projects in this area,” Cai said. “We are just trying to make sure that the impacts in the city of Goleta are addressed. The biggest impact is the transportation. You have to use city roads to get there.”

Cai said she saw the staff report for the item only a week before the meeting, and that wasn’t enough time for her to process it.

“One week is not enough time to look at all these heavy issues,” she said.

But city officials seemed reluctant at the meeting to broker a peace deal when Goleta is already planning to sue the city over 6100 Hollister Ave.

“There is not agreement,” assistant city attorney Scott Vincent said. “There is a pending lawsuit at 6100 Hollister Ave. The two cities have very different views about how CEQA is to be satisfied with respect to this specific plan and these projects.”

The dealership project also includes 184 parking spaces and 71 inventory spaces. The project also would rely upon an existing lease of 200 parking spaces from the airport at 200 Frederick Lopez Road for storage of inventory.

Planning Commissioner Deborah Schwartz expressed disappointment in the process.

“It is more than unfortunate that our cities can’t get along with something as large as CEQA,” Schwartz said. “We’re more than neighbors. We’re obviously sharing the community, land use, interests and so forth.”

In response to Cai’s request for more time, the planning commission called a one-hour break so that she could review the city’s documents and so that the commission could review her response. The extra time didn’t pay off.

Before the break, some of the commissioners were ready to postpone the project, but after studying Cai’s comments, they ended up voting 7-0.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Commissioner Michael Jordan told Cai.

Schwartz said Santa Barbara and Goleta must improve their relationship.

“I am truly hoping that outside of a contentious, litigious set of circumstances my plea to city staff and city public officials is to begin some larger relationship building with the city of Goleta so that we are not finding ourselves on a project-by-project basis dealing with some of these themes, these thematic areas of disagreements,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said there will be more spats over development if the two sides don’t learn to get along, adding that they can’t continue to end in a highly contentious or litigious fashion.

“We have to find our way through this; there will be more of these,” Schwartz said.

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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