Mark Lee (center) leads a tour of the Veronica Meadows property that he hopes to develop (Jan. 25, 2005)
Paul Wellman

The 16-year development battle over Veronica Meadows, a 14-acre parcel of open space along the lower stretches of Arroyo Burro Creek, was finally put to rest Tuesday when the City Council voted unanimously to contribute the $2.7 million necessary for the Trust for Public Land to purchase the property from the developers for $4 million. When the ink is dry, the Trust will turn the property over to City Hall.

The fight over Veronica Meadows — pitting developer Mark Lee against the Urban Creeks Council, Citizens Planning Association, and various constellations of neighborhood groups ​— ​involved multiple redesigns, many agonizingly long public hearings, two separate legal battles, and one citywide election. At issue in the Measure Y campaign of 2012 was whether a public easement over nondeveloped city park property, to allow for the construction of an entrance bridge over the Arroyo Burro Creek, should be allowed for the private development ​— ​25 homes ​— ​of the land. Sixty-six percent of the voters said no.

“It’s a really big deal,” exclaimed Mayor Helene Schneider. “It’s a very long and winding road to get to where we should have been in the first place.” Echoing her sentiment was Councilmember Bendy White, an ardent supporter of open-space acquisition. “Miracles come along and happen every 10 years,” he said. The $2.3 million in city funds came from Measure B reserves set aside by voter approval for creek preservation and restoration projects. Measure B funds come from a surcharge to the bed tax exacted by City Hall and is not available for general fund purposes.

The property includes 1,600 linear feet of creek frontage, largely choked by arundo canes. Restoration of that stretch will likely become a major focus of the city’s Creeks Division, but such plans have yet to be proposed let alone adopted. In addition, the land could pave the way for the development of a Class I bike path along Las Positas Road, though tensions between bike-path advocates and creek supporters have already surfaced.

To contribute to the Trust for Public Land’s fundraising campaign, go here.


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