February 5, 2023
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Direct Relief seeks to purchase airport land for new campus


The Santa Barbara City Council is slated to hear a proposal from Direct Relief, the largest nonprofit headquartered in the region, to buy a parcel of land near the municipal airport and build a 125,000-square-foot facility there.

Goleta-based Direct Relief has outgrown its existing facility and wants to build a 100,000-square-foot warehouse and 25,000 square feet of office space on the land at 6100 Hollister Ave, the city said.

Direct Relief started searching for a new site two years ago, looking for a parcel where it could build a facility to accommodate its growing presence.

The property under consideration is located just north of the airport’s administration building. A number of developments, including a hotel, corporate campus and retail store, were proposed for the site over the past two decades but none ever took hold, the city said.

Currently the land and existing buildings are used for temporary short-term rental, generating rental income of approximately $300,000 annually to the airport, the city said in a news release, and the sale of the property would give the airport the funds it needs to make its own improvements.

“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,” Airport Director Hazel Johns in a statement.

The property is subject to certain Federal Aviation Administration regulations that include a requirement that the airport receive fair market value for the use of its land and facilities.

The proposed purchase price was not disclosed, but the city said the deal would give Santa Barbara the right to reacquire the property at a 10 percent discount if Direct Relief ever decides to sell it.

The City Council will consider the proposal on Aug. 5.

“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 the release from the city. “City officials have been enthusiastic supporters of our humanitarian mission, and that support is one of the keys to our success.”

With more than $388 million in income last year, Direct Relief is the largest nonprofit based in the Tri-Counties. It supplies humanitarian aid, medicine and other vital supplies to impoverished and disaster-stricken communities around the world.