Santa Barbara Airport (SBA)

Controversy at Santa Barbara Airport: Is Expansion Plan Ignoring Residents’ Noise Concerns?

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The Santa Barbara Airport is gearing up to accommodate an expected increase in passenger traffic over the next two decades, with plans to expand its facilities, but not without criticism from council members and residents affected by noise pollution.

Airport Director Chris Hastert presented updates to the 20-year master plan, which includes a new administration building, updated terminals, taxiway improvements, parking area renovations, and expanded facilities for fueling and electric fixed-wing aircraft charging. One potential project is a “vertiport” for “electrical vertical takeoff” aircraft, described as “oversized electric drones that carry four to six people.”

However, Councilmember Kristen Sneddon raised concerns about accommodating growth at the expense of noise pollution and wildlife conservation. During public comment, several critical community members asked why noise abatement, air impacts, and the preservation of the airport’s two historic hangars were not given priority. Hastert reassured that the airport has no plans to tear down or renovate the hangars, and a separate study is being conducted on this issue.

The Federal Aviation Administration has complete control over national airspace, including the frequency and timing of flights, and airlines can increase flights even if the airport doesn’t expand its facilities. The updates will be discussed in a Master Plan Update Public Meeting on April 20, and there will be ample opportunity for public comment.

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