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Santa Barbara City Council Approves Airport Development Project Over Goleta’s Objections

The Santa Barbara Airport Department’s plan to build light industrial and commercial buildings at 6100 Hollister Ave. was supported Tuesday night by the City Council, which voted to deny an appeal from the city of Goleta.

Santa Barbara’s Planning Commission approved the development plan for the 47,186-square-foot project in October, and Goleta appealed that decision, saying the project review did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and that it fails to adequately address and mitigate traffic impacts.

The project site is owned by the Santa Barbara Airport, and new development would include four retail buildings, seven light industrial buildings and 143 parking spaces, according to the city.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Goleta Deputy City Attorney Winnie Cai asked the Santa Barbara City Council to grant the appeal or continue the discussion, but the council members voted unanimously to approve the project and deny the appeal.

They also directed Santa Barbara staff to work toward an agreement with Goleta regarding development-impact fees for future projects.

According to Santa Barbara planning staff, the project did not need an environmental impact report because it would implement part of the Airport Industrial Area Specific Plan SP-6 (from 1997).

The project doesn’t need additional environmental review if it’s consistent with the density designated by an existing plan for which an EIR was certified, according to city staff.

There was an updated traffic study, and a sticking point of the project came down to the costs Santa Barbara is willing to pay toward Goleta road improvement projects that would arguably help mitigate the development’s impacts.

The development planned for 6100 Hollister Ave. is on Santa Barbara Airport-owned land surrounded by the City of Goleta. Click to view larger
The development planned for 6100 Hollister Ave. is on Santa Barbara Airport-owned land surrounded by the City of Goleta.  (City of Goleta photo)

Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said the city’s goal was to work out a mutually acceptable way to move forward with the project, and make sure Goleta residents don’t pay for the project’s impacts.

Both Perotte and Councilman Stuart Kasdin said Goleta wants to continue negotiations in the spirit of collaboration and good faith, which was echoed by their Santa Barbara counterparts on the dais.

Santa Barbara created an addendum to the 1997 EIR and proposed a fair-share calculation to pay for traffic impacts, but Cai argued that those don’t address the problems brought up in the appeal.

She said that the baseline has changed significantly since 1997, including Goleta’s incorporation, the adoption of the Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan, changes to the Santa Barbara Airport and growth at UC Santa Barbara.

Cai said Santa Barbara’s addendum “can’t be used to save this 20-year-old EIR from its obsolescence.”

Goleta’s concern with the fair-share proposal isn’t the formula, but Santa Barbara’s calculations and the number of roadway improvement projects considered, noted Goleta Public Works Director Rosemarie Gaglione.

Cai said Goleta wanted an impact fee agreement to be in place before this project was approved, or the city would initiate CEQA litigation.

Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne said Santa Barbara could mitigate based on what it knows now, for this project, and find a solution acceptable to Goleta for the long term with an agreement.

The question is about money, not irreparable harm, he said, so Goleta has a “very low likelihood” of having the ability to stop the project from going forward.

Calonne said the city hopes to avoid litigation, and there will be talks in the near future between staff members of the two cities.

The Santa Barbara City Council also met in closed session Tuesday to consider anticipated litigation regarding this project, with no reportable action. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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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