February 3, 2023
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Industrial park project OK’d for Santa Barbara Airport


Alex Kacik

Alex Kacik

The future of the Santa Barbara Airport and its surrounding acreage — once a World War II Marine base and now a business hub — just got a little clearer.

The Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review recently gave a green light to a proposal to build a 50,046-square-foot light industrial park on 14 acres at the airport.

The project at 6100 Hollister Ave. includes two 4,021-square-foot retail buildings and seven modular industrial buildings ranging from 2,000 to 2,500 square feet. It will feature 153 parking spaces and about 100,000 square feet of landscaped area with a detention basin designed to accommodate both onsite and Wallace Becknell Road storm water runoff.

The project follows the city’s Airport Industrial Area Specific Plan adopted in 1997, SBA Director Hazel Johns said.

“It could be a niche for the airport,” she told the Business Times. “According to the real estate brokers I’ve talked with, there hasn’t been new industrial space built in Santa Barbara or Goleta in more than 30 years. It’s something that’s really needed.”

At the end of 2015 there were only 12 industrial spaces available on the South Coast, according to the Hayes Commercial Group Year-End Review. South Coast vacancy is 1.6 percent, which has held steady for more than two years. The low supply and high demand have caused rents to jump 20 percent over the past five years, according to Hayes.

“The industrial market is incredibly tight on the South Coast,” said Jim Turner of Radius Commercial Real Estate and Investments.

The space could be well-suited for startups or small research and development companies, Johns said.

The city of Santa Barbara is working on a land sale with the nonprofit Direct Relief International on a large tract near the Santa Barbara Airport, where it plans to build a new headquarters. The city is selling an 8-acre parcel to Direct Relief for a base price of about $25 per square foot of land, totaling between $6.5 million and $8.5 million, depending on a final assessment. That deal should provide cash to build the first phase of space for startups and other businesses.

Direct Relief’s project to build a new headquarters was approved by the city’s Planning Commission on March 17.

The development requires the demolition of 13,000 square feet of the parcel’s existing buildings, constructing a road connecting the property to Frederick Lopez Road and building a 127,706-square-foot warehouse and a two-story, 27,294-square-foot administrative building. That facility would replace Direct Relief’s existing building at 27 S. La Patera Lane that it has outgrown.

Currently the land and existing buildings are used for temporary short-term rentals, generating rental income of approximately $300,000 annually for the airport, according to the city.

Early aviators started flying at the airport in the late 1920s when it was primarily used as a dairy farm; one had to scare the cows away to clear landing space. The land was once home to the Chumash, who occupied the prime trade route for centuries.

United Airlines started running flights from what was known as the Goleta Airport in the mid-1930s. United contracted with local architects to design the Spanish colonial revival-style terminal.

Following the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the airport became part of the Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara. In 1942, a Japanese submarine torpedoed the Ellwood Oil Field.

What is now UC Santa Barbara was the camp for the Marines, who spent $10 million during their time there, according Santa Barbara historian Neal Graffy.

Going forward, the industrial space will be a valuable asset to the region, Johns said.

“There is plenty of pent up demand,” she said. “I really think once we get one on the ground we will have several applications.”

Camarillo airport project

In other airport news, the Camarillo Airport lined up a developer for a $9 million project that will include 100,000-square-feet of hangar and office space. The some 45 hangars to be built will make a dent in the five- to seven-year waiting list for hangar space.

Ventura County Director of Airports Todd McNamee said the $14 million reconstruction of the runway, which has not had a major rehabilitation in more than two decades, is expected in the next couple of years.


Editor’s Note: Todd McNamee’s name was corrected from a previous web version.

• Contact Alex Kacik at akacik@pacbiztimes.com.