by Martha Sadler

Several community groups converged at the Santa Maria Public
Airport District on Thursday, July 13, united in opposition to the
plan to replace the Airport Mobile Home Park with a golf course.
Although they were unsuccessful in persuading the district to
abandon the plan altogether, district boardmembers did agree to
change the rules in their search for a new property manager. The
job description will no longer include the responsibility of
closing the park and relocating its current residents; the board
will also delay the hiring process until an ad hoc committee
thoroughly examines biological issues associated with such a change
in the property’s use, including its potential affect on the
endangered tiger salamander and one variety of fairy shrimp.

Ninety-six low-income families live in the park, which current
Airport District Manager Gary Rice described as a “strong,
traditional community” that he hopes to keep intact during
relocation. “I personally think it is the right thing to do,” Rice
said, “and I’ve said it at Rotary Clubs, I’ve said it at City
Council.” In December 2005, Rice began meeting with PUEBLO (People
United for Economic Justice Building Leadership Through
Organizing), which has been advocating to save the park since it
recently expanded its operations to the North County. However, Rice
said he will no longer meet with the organization because they
continually attack his integrity. This week, a PUEBLO newsletter
accused the airport district of using “trickery” to prevent the
public from commenting on the plan to replace the park with a golf
course, specifically charging the district with removing the item
from the main agenda and “tucking it into the consent agenda with
an obscure name.” Rice confirmed that the item was indeed on the
main preliminary agenda, but the final agenda — and the only one to
be made public — had it on the consent calendar, the usual place
for notification that contracts are going out to bid. The proposed
golf course is part of a general expansion plan for the airport
district, which includes enlarging the airport and business


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