Y Pro and Con
This June, we the voters of the City of Santa Barbara will be asked to decide Measure Y, a ballot initiative to approve the construction of a bridge into a new neighborhood known as Veronica Meadows. This bridge is planned in order to reduce traffic impacts on an adjacent neighborhood. As a Mesa resident, businessman, and current member of the Santa Barbara City Council, I feel this project has a real upside for our community.
This project has been in play for more than a decade, gone through numerous revisions and approvals, and, when completed, will provide enormous benefit to our citizens at no taxpayer expense. City Council approved this project in 2008, and it won unanimous support by the California Coastal Commission for the Coastal Zone portion in 2011.
The new neighborhood will consist of single-family residences, accessed primarily by a new clear-span bridge over Arroyo Burro Creek. This bridge, plus a new trail, will provide walking and biking access to the beach as an alternative to Las Positas Road. In addition, 1,800 linear feet of creek restoration will be performed by the applicant, as well as providing creek side park space for public enjoyment in an area that is currently overgrown with non-native species and has suffered from long term neglect. The largest portion of this project involves the preservation of open space.
I voted to bring this issue to the June ballot because I believe this project brings some real benefit to our community. –Randy Rowse, S.B.
The League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara recommends a “No” vote on Measure Y-2012, the Veronica Meadows referendum. This is based primarily on the two major negative impacts identified in the project’s Environmental Impact Report – the biological impacts of the bridge over Arroyo Burro Creek and the contribution the project would make to traffic congestion along Las Positas Road.
Furthermore, the bridge would be built on a piece of city park land. Although the parcel is small, it would be a bad precedent to allow a developer to use city park land for private purposes.
The biological impact of this bridge that cannot be mitigated is its interference with the normal movement of wildlife along the creek. It is important for the ecology of the area that it not be chopped up into separate patches.
As for congestion, the League believes that good planning includes managing traffic and circulation so as to prevent or reduce heavy congestion. The two major intersections which would receive traffic from the project are already operating below city standards. This situation should not be worsened. A number of projects are being planned for Las Positas Valley; it needs first an area plan to address traffic issues.
The League finds no overriding benefits in building a project of mostly large homes in an open space area that has important habitat value for wildlife and provides visual benefits to the public. Vote “No” on Y-2012. – Beth Pitton-August, S.B, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara city voters will soon receive their sample ballots for the June 5 elections. Concerning Measure Y, the Veronica Meadows project, they will be asked whether a strategic part of the city’s parkland along Arroyo Burro Creek should be given to a private developer who wants to build a bridge and a road to his proposed development of more than twenty luxury homes.
Some of the project’s environmental impacts cannot be mitigated. As summed up in the ballot argument against Measure Y:
“The city’s environmental analysis concluded that the bridge over Arroyo Burro Creek will cause permanent negative impacts to creek habitat, kill large oak and sycamore trees, and interfere with wildlife movement. Even after the developer’s proposed creek restoration, Arroyo Burro Creek would be permanently damaged by this project.”
Slim majorities of the Planning Commission and City Council sided with the developer. So it took two rounds of litigation by the Citizens Planning Association and the Santa Barbara Urban Creeks Council to secure court-ordered compliance with the City Charter’s requirement for voter approval before gifts of city parkland might be allowed.
Thanks to the successful litigation, we the voters can now write the final chapter of this multi-year saga. If we approve the land grant, a dangerous precedent will be established for other developers to use City lands to enable private developments. If we disapprove it, an environmentally harmful overdevelopment will be stopped in the precious Las Positas Valley. – Paul Hernadi, S.B., Citizens Planning Association South County vice-president