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Santa Barbara Council Approves Commission Changes for Veronica Meadows Project

The vote clears the way for tighter environmental regulations for the residential housing development on Las Positas Road

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday approved tighter environmental regulations for the Veronica Meadows residential housing project.

Members voted 6-1, with Mayor Helene Schneider dissenting, to sign off on California Coastal Commission recommendations for the part of the project within the coastal zone.

The 25-unit project, located on the west side of Las Positas Road across from Elings Park, has been on the city’s radar for years.

In June 2008, the City Council adopted a local coastal plan and zoning ordinance amendments for the area. The CCC approved the city’s plan, but with modifications that are more environmentally stringent and include a wider buffer to keep development further from Arroyo Burro Creek, which runs adjacent to the property. On Tuesday, the City Council issued its approval of the commission’s recommendations.

Most of the project’s homes are 2,500 to 3,800 square feet and are two-story, single-family residences. The lot sizes of the development range from 5,000 to 9,600 square feet.

Steve Amerikaner, attorney for the project’s developer, spoke Tuesday, calling the changes “the most intensive and detailed set of regulations I’ve seen in a city ordinance.” He said, however, that his client had accepted the modifications.

The project’s bridge was also brought up Tuesday. The bridge, which provides access to the property, was the center of a lawsuit between developer Mark Yee and the Citizens Planning Association in 2007.

A judge ultimately ruled in favor of the Citizens Planning Association, stating that the developer would need to get voter approval to build it. Because the bridge would pass over a small strip of land designated as a city park, Lee must get voter approval to build the bridge or address access to the site without impacting the tiny park parcel.

Amerikaner said there is discussion about putting it on next year’s ballot, but that hasn’t been decided yet.

“In due course, we would expect that to be presented to the voters,” he said.

Attorney Marc Chytilo, also spoke on behalf of his clients, the Citizens Planning Association and the Santa Barbara Urban Creeks Council.

While the group is supportive of the modifications, Chytilo said the groups want to see the area around Arroyo Burro Creek continue to be enhanced and restored.

“It’s our feeling that this particular site is one of Santa Barbara’s crown jewels,” he said. “This area is extremely ecologically sensitive.”

The item passed with little discussion.

Councilman Bendy White said he had “difficulties supporting anything about this project,” but that he was hearing support from environmentalists, so he could support the motion.

Councilman Grant House also said he was approving the changes because of their strength environmentally.

But Schneider said she hasn’t ever voted in favor of the project and wanted to stay consistent with another no vote.

“I still don’t like what’s currently proposed,” she said.

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