Santa Barbara City Councilmember Bendy White is normally loath to flex in public. Last Thursday afternoon, however, White flexed big time and in front of a crowd of about 100 movers and shakers and environmental activists assembled to celebrate City Hall’s acquisition of 14 acres of weed-strewn fields known as Veronica Meadows.
White led the charge to save Veronica Meadows from development starting as a planning commissioner more than 15 years ago and then as a councilmember. “There were times it felt a little hopeless,” he said of his efforts to stop 25 homes from being built between the backside of Alan Road and 1,600 linear feet of Arroyo Burro Creek. “It’s not hopeless.” The project — which promised bike lanes and creek restoration — was approved by the City Council in 2006, but only in the face of intense and sustained opposition.
The Urban Creeks Council and Citizens Planning Association sued City Hall on a host of environmental grounds, which at the time seemed flimsy and far-fetched. Ultimately, however, they prevailed. Because a small amount of land deeded to City Hall in 1958 for undeveloped public park space would be included in the developer’s proposed entrance bridge across Arroyo Burro Creek, City Hall was required to hold an election to approve the development. In 2012, city voters rejected the plans by a 2-1 margin. Since then, the developer — worn down by endless political and courtroom battles — agreed to sell the land to a consortium led by the Trust for Public Land for $4 million. Late last year, the land was sold back to City Hall.
“Santa Barbara has a knack for creating a miracle every decade,” White declared. “Let’s keep our eyes out for the next miracle.” The meadows, named after the healthful waters produced by Veronica Springs — the high mineral content had a laxative effect on its drinkers — will continue to be used as an informal ad hoc park for dog walkers, urban hikers, and those seeking a taste of the outdoors. City Hall has set aside $1 million for a creek restoration effort along Arroyo Burro, and a Class I bike path appears in the works, as well.