Santa Barbara Airport is launching into an era of change, adding a new carrier and destinations, putting airport-owned industrial buildings up for lease and recruiting a new director.
Daily flights to Oakland and Las Vegas will begin on Oct.16, airport officials announced Aug. 27. Contour Airlines will operate the 30-passenger jets to and from the new destinations, with one-way ticket fares starting at $79 to Oakland and $59 to Las Vegas.
Direct flight destinations will total nine, including Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle.
The airport has seen a steady increase in airport traffic, said Erinn Lynch, a spokeswoman for the airport, and if the new flights start selling out, she said the airport may attract other carriers.
“There’s a very diverse carrier roster now,” Lynch said, including recent arrivals Frontier, with service to Denver, and Sun Country serving Minneapolis. “Ultimately, what the airport wants is for local travelers to start using Santa Barbara for their local airport of choice versus spending all the time and hassle flying out of LAX.”
The airport, which is on track to serve about 738,000 passengers this year, is the largest airport on the coast between Los Angeles and San Jose. Operated by the city of Santa Barbara, it owns property near the airport that is currently being transformed into the Light Industrial Park.
INVESTING IN INDUSTRIAL SPACE
Four of five industrial buildings being built on or near 6100 Hollister Ave. are slated for completion by February 2019, and the buildings are available for lease.
City and airport officials and community members celebrated two partially constructed new buildings and architectural renderings of the completed projects at an Aug. 23 viewing event. Santa Barbara owns the property but it is located in the city of Goleta.
“We are looking forward to any tenants who want to be here,” said Goleta City Councilman Michael Bennett, who serves as a liaison between the city and the airport. He added that the structures were a “welcome impact on the airport property.”
Future tenants have not yet been selected, although a 2,500-square-foot unit with plans for indoor and outdoor seating is intended to hold a cafe or deli.
Funds for the nearly $9.7 million construction project came from the sale of airport property to the nonprofit Direct Relief, which established its new headquarters in 152,000 square feet of office and warehouse space across the street.
Both airport and city officials reported a demand for industrial real estate property in the area, with Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo saying the new development may relieve some of the congestion around businesses, such as auto service providers and others, in the lower east side of Santa Barbara.
Murillo also said the property was a significant asset to the airport, providing business opportunities and revenue.
Deanna Zachrisson, airport business development manager, said the industrial park was considered a low-risk investment for the airport because of the leasing demand for property it has experienced in the past.
The initial five-building development totals nearly 23,000 square feet, including the future restaurant and a retail location at the corner of Frederick Lopez Road and Hollister Avenue. Four of the buildings consist of two 2,300-square-foot units, which can be leased separately or together, and each includes a roll-up door as well as storage and front office space.
All buildings will be LEED certified with heating, ventilation, air conditioning and solar power — as well as adjacent parking spaces. Bob Kupiec of Kupiec Architecture is the project architect; Michael Viettone is the project engineer; and Tom Fkiaras of Tomar Construction is the general contractor.
AIRPORT PLAN TO KEEP GROWING
Hazel Johns, a 31-year veteran of the airport and its current director, will retire on Aug. 31. Aaron Keller, the operations manager, will serve as interim director while the city works with a national recruitment firm to select a new director.
Johns said that city administrators have sought feedback from department staff and interviewed all three existing airport officials for the role in a selection process that is likely to take three to six months.
Johns said the airport will continue to implement the master plan adopted in December, which includes an extension of the parallel taxiway and new facilities for fixed base operators, which provide fuel and maintenance services.
Recruitment of other airlines, including Delta Air Lines, is another goal she sees continuing as the airport seeks to increase passenger numbers.
During her years of service, Johns said a major accomplishment involved the construction of a new airline terminal building.
“When we opened, it was just very rewarding to see,” she said, noting that she is also looking forward to the industrial park’s completion.
The airport is in good shape economically with a solid staff, she said.
“As one staff member said, ‘We need to stop thinking of ourselves as just a small little airport, but rather an airport that serves the entire region.’”
Although it still has some hurdles to cross, she said, “We’re almost there.”
• Contact Annabelle Blair at [email protected]