Wednesday, October 17 , 2018, 4:15 pm | Fair 76º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara’s Veronica Meadows Site Will Become a Public Park

City, Trust for Public Land purchases site for $4 million from owner who proposed a luxury housing project for the Las Positas Valley land

The Veronica Meadows site off Las Positas Road in Santa Barbara will become a public park.
The Veronica Meadows site off Las Positas Road in Santa Barbara will become a public park.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

After years of community quarrels over whether to develop the Veronica Meadows site, the city of Santa Barbara on Wednesday announced that it will turn the 14.8-acre parcel in the Las Positas Valley into a public park.

The area was once targeted for luxury homes, but a plethora of problems sunk that development proposal.

The city, in a partnership with The Trust For Public Land, purchased the site from former owner Mark Lee for $4 million.

The money came from $2.7 million in Measure B creeks funds, a $500,000 grant from the California Natural Resources Agency’s Environmental  Enhancement and Mitigation Program, a $500,000 State Coastal Conservancy grant and $300,000 from Santa Barbara County's Coastal Resources Enhancement Fund.

The city boasted about its acquisition through a news release, but the takeover ends a long period of sometimes hostile dealings with the former owner.

Lee wanted to develop the site and spend millions of dollars of his own money to restore Arroyo Burro Creek, as a way to make the project more palatable to the city and neighbors of the site.

Lee first met massive opposition from residents of Alan Road, which feeds into the property, who did not want any increase in traffic in their neighborhood. 

To satisfy the neighbors, Lee proposed a different entrance to the property from Las Positas Road. To provide a road to the site, however, Lee needed to build a bridge over Arroyo Burro Creek, a move that angered environmentalists and open space advocates.

Santa Barbara and the Trust for Public Land purchased the Veronica Meadows site for $4 million from Mark Lee, the developer who proposed a luxury housing project for the area. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara and the Trust for Public Land purchased the Veronica Meadows site for $4 million from Mark Lee, the developer who proposed a luxury housing project for the area.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

They argued that the bridge, and construction of it, would disrupt fish passage and wildlife, while while further eroding the quality of the Arroyo Burro Creek water. 

Still, Lee eventually won majority approval from the conservative majority of the City Council at the time.

Environmentalists sued, arguing that a private bridge over the public Arroyo Burro Creek could not be used to benefit a private development without approval from the voters. 

Santa Barbara residents overwhelmingly rejected Measure Y in 2012, effectively blocking the development.

Lee could have built a much smaller, less profitable development on the site with access through Alan Road, but chose not to. 

“Veronica Meadows epitomizes our ‘land for people’ mission,” said Alex Size, project manager for The Trust for Public Land, in a statement announcing the land purchase.

“The community made it clear they wanted a park, not housing, and we are thrilled to have been able to partner with the city to help them achieve that goal."

The property was once the site of Veronica Springs, a source for bottled water that was sold throughout the country.

The city plans to remove some of the non-native vegetation, restore the trails and turn it into a passive open space park. It also plans to restore the creek, stabilize eroding creek banks, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat, city officials said.

"This park is an important addition to our public open space," said City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, one of the longtime proponents of preserving the park as open space. "We will also have an opportunity for meaningful creek habitat restoration."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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