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Local News

Measure Y Opponents Claim Bridge Would Damage Creek

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider among those opposing initiative that would allow access across Arroyo Burro Creek

Opponents of Measure Y on Monday fired the latest volley in the ongoing verbal battle over a ballot initiative that would allow a developer to build a bridge across city-controlled land — and Arroyo Burro Creek — to provide access to a luxury-home project.

The 25-home Veronica Meadows development already has been approved by the Santa Barbara City Council, but a lawsuit brought by the Citizens Planning Association forced developer Mark Lee to seek voter approval for using a strip of undeveloped property designated as parkland by the city.

At a news conference Monday near the Arroyo Burro Estuary and Mesa Creek restoration site, Measure Y opponents asserted that the initiative should be defeated because the bridge to the project will have a negative impact Arroyo Burro Creek, and increase traffic in the Las Positas Road and Cliff Drive area.

The group also rejected an argument put forth by Measure Y supporters — that private money was necessary to restore the creek.

Measure Y will be voted on by city residents in the June 5 election.

Among those in attendance was Mayor Helene Schneider, who argued that Measure B city creek funding can be used for creek restoration in partnership with grant funding, as it was for the estuary project.

Environmental attorney Marc Chytilo is leading the No on Y campaign, which is supported by three City Council members, a number of Alan Road residents and many board and commission members.

Allowing private developers to use city parkland for projects is a dangerous precedent, Schneider said.

The environmental impact report shows the bridge and creek plan shows permanent adverse impacts to the creek, Chytilo added.

“It’s our Yosemite Valley; why would you want to give it away?” he asked.

Proponents of the bridge project say it will come with creek restoration and a safer pathway to connect Elings Park to the beach, all funded by Lee. But Schneider noted that the cost of maintaining and repairing the bridge will be borne by taxpayers.

The open space Lee says the project will provide is a few dozen acres of privately owned, steep land that couldn’t be developed anyway, but will still be private property, Chytilo said.

Council members Bendy White and Cathy Murillo said the “gift” of city parkland wouldn’t provide a community benefit.

“I don’t just say no to Y, I say hell no to Y,” said Murillo, adding that she never would have supported it as a councilwoman.

Second District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf, former Mayor Sheila Lodge, Planning Commissioner John Jostes, Parks and Recreation Commission chairwoman Lesley Wiscomb, Urban Creeks Council member Eddie Harris, and many neighbors turned out Monday morning to oppose Measure Y.

Many Alan Road residents have campaign signs in their yards, with the vast majority opposing the project, although that wasn’t always the case.

Some had supported the project because it would avoid more traffic through the neighborhood, but now have concerns for the creek environment and encroachment on backyards that border the creek.

“I feel now that we were duped,” resident Ramona Escobar said.

Alan Road resident Daniel McCarter invited people to his backyard after the news conference to see the creek and city-owned land.

Residents on the west side of the road border the creek, and some have property boundaries that include the creek and about 30 feet on the other side, just west of the city parkland and Las Positas Road. McCarter is worried about disturbing the entire creek environment and the species that make it their home, such as western pond turtles, dusky-footed wood rats, frogs and herons.

At night, so many frogs come out that the sound drowns out the cars — and keeps the mosquitos away, he said.

Monday’s news conference comes on the heels of similar event held last week by Measure Y supporters, including former Mayor Marty Blum, Councilman Dale Francisco, former Councilman Dan Secord, Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce president Steve Cushman and other community leaders.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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