Environmental activists and developer Mark Lee have been locking horns over his proposed Veronica Meadows development plans for over 13 years. Now, this June, city residents will finally get a chance to vote on a key element of Lee’s 25-house plan just off Las Positas Road. Lee asked the council to place his project on the ballot this June to find out whether city voters will allow him to build an entrance bridge over a piece of publicly owned land dedicated as park space. By law, the private use of public property must be approved by city voters.
Marc Chytilo, the attorney representing the Citizens Planning Association and the Urban Creeks Council — who had fought Lee’s project in court — argued the matter should be referred to voters in November instead, when turnout typically is twice as high, and presumably more hostile to Lee’s project. To do otherwise, Chytilo argued, was to “disenfranchise” many of the city’s voters.
Councilmembers Dale Francisco and Frank Hotchkiss — both supporters of Veronica Meadows — took exception to Chytilo’s accusation. Hotkiss termed it “hypocritical and objectionable.” Francisco pointed out that city voters specifically rejected a ballot measure two years ago for City Hall to hold its city elections during the same years as state and federal elections. By holding the election in June, Francisco and Hotchkiss argued, city issues would garner the undivided attention of city voters.
Mayor Helene Schneider cast the decisive vote to hold the election in June rather than November despite having consistently voted against Lee’s proposed development. She noted that the November ballot would be jammed with state and federal candidates and that as many as 45 statewide ballot measures are seeking to qualify for the November ballot. In the end, the June election garnered five votes; councilmembers Bendy White and Cathy Murillo held out for November.