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Santa Barbara City Council Certifies Airport Master Plan Over Goleta’s Objections

Traffic and congestion are issues raised by the Goleta City Council in its appeal

Aircraft sit idle on the tarmac at the Santa Barbara Airport. The Santa Barbara City Council has approved an update to the Airport Master Plan, despite objections from the city of Goleta. Click to view larger
Aircraft sit idle on the tarmac at the Santa Barbara Airport. The Santa Barbara City Council has approved an update to the Airport Master Plan, despite objections from the city of Goleta. (Joshua Molinda / Noozhawk photo)

Despite an appeal by the city of Goleta, the Santa Barbara City Council has voted to certify its Airport Master Plan, a document that outlines airport upgrades for the next 15-20 years.

The proposed changes for the Santa Barbara Airport include extending one of the taxiways, relocating the maintenance yard, and building a new long-term parking lot.

Goleta City Manager Michelle Greene filed an appeal to block the council action, and in a letter alleged that “the city of Goleta is uniquely affected and impacted by the Santa Barbara airport operations and ancillary activities and the circulation to/from the airport both currently and as a result of anticipated future growth/changes.”

Greene did not speak or attend the City Council meeting last week. Instead, it was Planning Director Peter Imhof who gave a 5-minute presentation, attempting to defend Goleta’s position.

“The major issue, the big picture on the South Coast and in the Goleta area in particular, is traffic congestion is increasing as land use is intensifying, and that’s true in the city of Goleta and it is equally true in the areas adjacent to the city of Goleta, including the adjacent city of Santa Barbara,” Imhof said.

“Traffic and congestion are common issues of concern to both of us, and as a result these issues really deserve coordinated solutions and a collaborative approach.”

Imhof said the airport is a “major trip generator that has immediate effects on the city of Goleta.”

Santa Barbara’s environmental impact report for the project is inadequate, he said, and city has failed to mitigate the impacts.

The appeal included Greene's letter from August and another letter Goleta sent the night before the Dec. 12 meeting.

Councilman Jason Dominguez, a lawyer, peppered Imhoff with questions, attempting to extract from the planner what specifically he wanted from the city of Santa Barbara.

Imhof said he wanted “fees,” but never articulated how much, or how the money would be spent.

Dominguez asked Imhof why Goleta only sent documents to the city of Santa Barbara the night before the meeting, giving the council members little time to study them.

“How come we got them so late in time?” Dominguez asked.

“We got them to you a soon as we could,” Imhof responded.

Dominguez responded, “I hate to say it, but it sounds like you are just holding us over a barrel for money.”

Imhoff later said, “I am sorry that I am not more specific, but this is a fairly complex issue.”

Mayor Helene Schneider pressed Imhof to state when the Goleta City Council had voted to appeal the master plan, and Imhof said “I can’t give you the specific date.”

A day after the meeting, Goleta spokeswoman Valerie Kushnerov said, “The City Council approved a strategy to address the airport’s unmitigated impacts in Goleta in closed session on Dec. 5 and such strategy included an appeal of the Airport Master Plan.”

Members of the Santa Barbara City Council did not agree with Goleta's objections and expressed disbelief with Goleta’s lack of specifics.

“As someone who goes out to the area myself quite a bit, as I look at the intersections from (Highway) 217, Fairview, Los Carneros and Storke, what I see is an incredible amount of development between Storke and the Winchester area,” Councilman Randy Rowse said, "and I can’t imagine for the life of me this industrial buildout that we are talking about is going to create the type of traffic trips that is even going to make a bump in that Hollister corridor.”

Dominguez also noted that the city of Goleta has had since 2014, the start of the Airport Master plan process, to resolve the issues, but was just coming forward now.

“I am dismayed by Goleta's position,” Councilman Harwood “Bendy” White said. “It is really a sad piece of the puzzle for me.”

Schneider said everyone in the area benefits from the airport.

“The economic vitality of the South Coast would not be what it is if the airport was not there,” Schneider said.

The proposed changes include extending Taxiway H to the west, parallel to the main runway, restriping paved areas, paving light lanes along taxiway edges, and relocating entrances and exits from the taxiway system to comply with Federal Aviation Administration recommendations.

The extension of the taxiway will reduce the need for runway crossings among planes.

The plan also calls for consolidating general aviation operations to facilitate two fixed base operators, relocating the Airport Maintenance Yard, and building a new long term parking lot south of the Airline Terminal to accommodate 1,315 new or relocated parking spaces.

The airport sits on 948 acres, about seven miles west of downtown Santa Barbara, and is bordered by the city of Goleta and UCSB.

It was originally developed for private aviation in the 1920s, until it became a commercial airport in 1940, and was annexed into the city of Santa Barbara in 1961.  

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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