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Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

CPA Files Suit on Veronica Meadows

A citizen stringer sent along some breaking news to me from Citizens Planning Association (CPA) who has announced that they will be suing the City of Santa Barbara over the Veronica Meadows project. Here is some of the reasoning from the release:

At the heart of the challenge is the City’s recent approval of the creekside proposal to develop 23 luxury and two Affordable (upper middle income) homes in one of the City’s last open spaces in the Las Positas Valley. CEQA requires that no public agency shall approve a project that will cause one or more significant environmental impacts unless there is specific evidence demonstrating that alternatives with less impact are infeasible. In the case of Veronica Meadows, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) identified alternatives to the project that would avoid or lessen significant (Class I) biological impacts to the Arroyo Burro Creek and significant (Class I) traffic impacts. However, contrary to the EIR and without evidence, the City Council made a Statement of Overriding Consideration dismissing these alternatives as infeasible.

Also, CPA says that the two $400,000 homes being offered is not enough mitigation for the loss of open space and the biological effects on Arroyo Burro Creek -- and I tend to agree. According to the release -- this isn't just about saying "no":
The purpose of the lawsuit is not to obstruct all potential development on the project site, but rather to ensure that if the site is to be developed, alternatives are chosen that mitigate significant impacts. “We need development to be the process of growing better, not just growing haphazardly because particular developers so desire,” concluded Ms. Kovacs. “We have a finite supply of land to build on and limited infrastructure to support development, so we must choose the right projects for the remaining places to build, and make sure those projects meet true needs of our community, with the least negative impacts possible.”

44 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

NIMBY crock. I hope they lose!

1/30/2007 6:10 PM  
Anonymous donaldo de santa barbara said...

My sympathies are for the creek. The city's inhabitants need to vigorously fund creek restoration.

I don't think the developer should have proceeded as he did...getting tangled up in a arbitrary approval process....except of course he had no choice except to not develop.

I could see this site being developed for one lovely estate. The problem is the entrance and I don't think that the entrance should have been over the sensitive creek but rather through Alan Rd. Thurston and Lovey the 3rd would probably detest the culture clash of their ingress and egress but perhaps could joke about it eventually.

I normally agree with residential groups but one thing that puzzles me is why they always claim the are or will be the victims of development while never considering the impacts of their own development.

The Alan Rd. neighborhood sacrificed an ailing watershed for its own well being with complaints of increased traffic.

I can't help but wonder what this exclusive cul de sac community thinks...if it thinks at all beyond itself. What impacts are created by it's own inconsiderate NASCAR/HARLEY DAVIDSON NATION community? And what do they consider of their own traffic on those POOR MEXICANS, NEGROS and ORDINARY WHITE TRASH, the inhabitants residing on MODOC, CALLE REAL, LAS POSITAS and FREEWAY adjacent areas. A blessing?

1/30/2007 9:02 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

Caring, dedicated, thoughtful, intelligent citizens. I hope they win.

1/30/2007 9:08 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

donaldo -- I'll take your comments as cynicism but I'd rather not bring race issues here. Thanks.

1/30/2007 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GO CPA!! Right on. This madness has to stop. Let it stop here. More mega-million mansions [oh...with two "affordable"s] will do nothing to address the housing costs and shortage on the South Coast.

1/30/2007 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Veronica Meadows calls for a million dollar creek restoration, and CPA is worried about "the biological effects on Arroyo Burro Creek?" That just doesn't add up. This isn't about the environment, it's about stopping new homes. Sara, you should check your facts. The so-called "significant impact" in the EIR was that a full span bridge across the creek would impede wildlife, even though there are 50 other culvert-style bridges along Arroyo Burro that the coyotes, skunks, and raccoons seem to navigate just fine. The city simply overrode a finding that was not defensible in the first place. Kovacs, as usual, is just wasting everyone's time.

1/30/2007 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very good idea. It was heartbreaking when that project slid through. Las Positas Valley is one of a kind. If we fill in this open space, it is lost forever.

1/30/2007 10:47 PM  
Anonymous Friends of Donkey Creek said...

Another bout of anonymous boasts about the creek restoration plan that has never been reviewed by anyone but the Yes-Men whom the developer pays?

No evidence has been revealed bout that creek engineering proposal, about its actual cost, its goals, its expected results, and who is responsible when it fails, all in the context of what that part of Arroyo Burro really needs.

1/31/2007 8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are these people trying to stop progess? They need to get out of the way.

1/31/2007 11:44 AM  
Blogger Paulknightley said...

Just some more good old fashioned, "Extreme NIMBYism".... Too funny! Mr. Lee is going to drop a Million+ just fixing the creek. Where are all of the lawsuits concerning the footbridge leading to the Wilcox??

1/31/2007 12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greeting 60's relics. I see you're up to your usual antics. You won't live forever. Then my generation can make the needed changes. Rock on!

1/31/2007 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't Las Positas Valley a landfill? I guess that's what makes it so special... LOL

1/31/2007 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess some people would rather see the 44 houses that the property is zoned for if it returns to county jurisdiction. Oh, and no developer funded creek restoration. The law of unintended consequences hard at work here.

1/31/2007 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you folks know that you have to develop on creeks in order to restore them and build up our last open space in order to save it?

1/31/2007 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let them build all they want. We are doomed anyway due to global warming and that whole area will be under water soon enough!

1/31/2007 5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't the stop St. Francis group get in on this and turn this into a Class Action against the City Council?

2/01/2007 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a higher number of workforce units than two, but at the same time that site doesn't seem to lend itself to dense, multi-family workforce or affordable housing.

I'd also like to see the maximum units the site is zoned for (at a minimum) otherwise we consider to squander our undeveloped land for not much return.

Either way CPA's suit is representative of the new wave of aggressive NIMBY's mimicking the overbearing, temper tantrum throwing, foot stomping style of its new President David Landecker.

Evidence of this suit being wrong is clear from the fact that NIMBY-hero Bill Carson is in favor of it.

P.S. - Is it me or are there more and more freaks posting on this site lately?

2/01/2007 7:59 AM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

No, it is just YOU, as the lead anonymous freak.

The lawsuit is about requiring the City to follow the law as the California Environmental Quality Act requires. The City glossed over that and hoped no one noticed, but they did.

Building at the maximum number of units would have two bridges, pesticides flowing unchecked into the creek, and a deluge of traffic up and down the narrow Alan Rd. while slowing down all traffic on Las Positas Rd.

So glad to see that Davies is back on retainer with anonymous spin posted here.

2/01/2007 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is most disturbing about the suit to me is that the fallacious argument throws up a road block for a project that could be setting the bar so high for development proximal to creeks. Did you know the city has no mandated creek buffer; Lee's project has 100 foot setbacks for buildings. If the CPA succeeds in their suit, there won't be a project to point to when the next developer comes along. I'm sure the CPA doesn't speak for the Alan Road residents, the neighborhood most directly impacted.

I don't see where the CPA has anything to do with actual planning in this case , but is serving merely as an agent of obstructionism.

Maybe they can round up some volunteers for nocturnal animal crossing guards along the Las Positas corridor. Judging from the regular road kills, no one has told the critters that they are supposed to be in the creek corridor away from the cars. Interested Das? Perhaps the city should have required a study to see what motivates our furry friends to, ahem, cross the road. Better yet, develop a program concurrently to treat the gephydrophobia rampant in our local wild animal population. Sounds like win, win, win.

2/01/2007 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is more than enough housing in this area for anyone who lives here - legally!

2/01/2007 12:17 PM  
Anonymous David Landecker said...

CPA is not against housing. Our communities need places for the thousands of workers who serve those who already live in our million-dollar homes. But, we probably don't urgently need more million dollar homes that create more demand for workers who cannot possibly live here.

The City Council found that there are "overriding considerations" to the unavoidable environmental damage to be caused by the Veronica Springs project, both relating to creek damage and to traffic. In other words, they decided that this project is so important to our community that it is acceptable to cause these impacts, and that ideas of how to build the project with lesser impacts were not feasible as alternatives.

We can question the widom of the first idea - that we need this project - but that is essentially a political decision, not reviewable by the Courts. It's the Council's decision to make. But for the Council to make that decision without even taking evidence regarding the developer's claim that less environmentally destructive options are infeasible violates the terms of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

CPA filed this suit exactly because the City Council has begun to act like CEQA is just a "guideline" rather than a law that must be followed. This is simply wrong - and will lead to devestating results if allowed to stand. This is the reason for the lawsuit.

It is not about NIMBYism, nor is it about stopping development. It is about our City making good choices, based upon legally appropriate decision-making techniques.

Please support CPA in this effort.

2/01/2007 12:31 PM  
Anonymous cequa said...

Isn't the point of the suit to get the City to obey the law? And Environmental Impact Reports are governed by State law, rather than the Santa Barbara's good ol' boys network and their political cronies.

2/01/2007 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Veronica Meadows is a perfect example of how the News-Press says they are anti-growth but did not say a thing about this project's problems when it went before council...what up with that?

2/01/2007 11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The CEQA argument looks pretty weak to me... choices are always made as to which alternatives to consider, and it is inevitable that those choices are mostly made by political bodies like the Council. It doesn't appear to me like CPA's concerns are going to result in reversal by the courts in the end, so the exercise is mainly a delaying tactic to test the developer's cash reserves and will, and perhaps get CPA a nice settlement (like Bacara proved for Goleta Valley enviros).

As for real environmental progress... the City has been absolutely irresponsible in its treatment of San Pedro and Las Vegas creeks on the eastern edge of the Airport (the western edge as gotten good attention due to the runway expansion). Hard to see how anything at Veronica Meadows rises to the level of the infrastructure improvements made without creek mitigation along Fairview by the airport. Where was CPA when the bulldozers were building the new bridge across San Pedro Creek?

2/02/2007 3:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this ingnores what has been unsaid, with one exception, on this blog. The larger environmental issue which neither the City or County want to think about which is what is draining out of the old landfill into the creek and groundwater in the "pristine" Las Positas Valley?

2/02/2007 7:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's funny, the thing about following the law. Not a common thing for folks in this community.

You know who you are.

2/02/2007 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great, so now a couple of really rich guys and their families get to enjoy the entire property, no public trails, no creek restoration, no benefits to the city whatsoever. Thank you CPA. And the residents of Alan Road thank you too; it really is "our" open space; we deserve a say in how it develops.

By the way, the traffic impacts of proposed development at Elings park will truly make Lee's project look like a country road. There will have to be a signal at the park entry regardless.

Why isn't the CPA going after the airport department over their profligate bond issuance to build a "trophy" airport terminal so out of scale with the need. The word on the street is that the airport department is maxing themselves out floating the bond.

With all that dough, maybe the city should be building housing at the former Citrix/Target site as a condition of building the terminal so that all of the minimum wage workers hired by the TSA and concessionaires can have a place to live.? Next to major transport corridors, Hollister, 101, amtrak station nearby, airport, "smart growth" all the way. Oooops, not good for tax base, so sorry.

2/02/2007 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great news! And a great new way to stop growth!!!

2/02/2007 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coastal Housing/AMERIKANER are sure spinning wildly in this blog......

aaahhh the unholy alliances are growing....soon, it will be politically incorrect to object to ANY new cement being poured over any space [or airspace for that matter]

2/02/2007 4:00 PM  
Blogger Voice of Rezon(e) said...

David Landecker wrote:

"CPA is not against housing."

With all due respect David, please list the housing projects (any at all) that CPA has supported in its existance. I'll be surprized to see if there's even one.

2/02/2007 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's with the posting, "You know who you are.."? I've seen it before on this blog, and it feels like it's meant to be a little intimidating. Or is it just me?

2/02/2007 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Valerio said...

Rezone comment above seems to think that support or opposition to housing (apparently all housing) is either for the entire project proposed by the developer, or against it all. That is especially nonsensical when developers routinely propose way too much as a bargaining position.

Somehow I think CPA and Landecker are more about revising housing projects so they are not so obscene with too many unmitigated adverse impacts. Therefore, CPA supports plenty of housing projects simply by not commenting on them or by requesting that some of them should be reduced in their size and impacts.

Comments here should not be turning into some inquisition about forcing someone to prove a negative.

2/02/2007 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Lucas Els said...

If I were a CPA donor, I'd be concerned about how my money is being spent. Obviously Naomi Kovaks and David Landecker don't pay much attention to CEQA case law.

But if I were a CPA donor, I'd be even more concerned about the messages this lawsuit is sending:

We prefer that the property be developed under existing county zoning allowing more than 40 homes.

We prefer to ignore the wishes of the neighborhood, who overwhelmingly preferred the project as proposed.

We prefer to focus our energy on fighting middle class homes.

We do not support public/private parterships to clean up our creeks.

We do not support new bike and pedestrian trail connections.

We support high traffic speeds on Las Positas road.

We support increased traffic on Alan Road.

We support continued degradation of Arroyo Burro Creek.

We support no growth rhetoric rather than practical solutions for our community.

We support frivolous lawsuits that clog our court system.

2/02/2007 11:36 PM  
Anonymous Steve Amerikaner said...

It's early Saturday morning, I stumble out of bed, having slept too little after listening to an inspired Al Gore talk about global warming, and (as usual) fire up the Dell to see what's new on Blogabarbara.

Yikes! An anonymous post accuses me of "spinning" on the blog about Veronica Meadows!

For the record: I have not posted a single comment on Blogabarbara about the litigation recently filed challenging the City's approval of this project. Nor have I asked anyone else to do so. Nor is the Coastal Housing Coalition (of which I currently serve as President) involved with this project in any fashion.

It is well known that I have represented the Veronica Meadows developer for the past year. And, I have been clear in my public statements that Veronica Meadows is a project with multiple benefits for the community. I also believe that the City Council carefully followed the letter and the spirit of the law in approving it. The legal issues raised in the lawsuit should and will be debated and resolved through the litigation.

The discussion on this blog site can be both informative and entertaining. It also is an opportunity for people to don Harry Potter's "cloak of invisibility" by posting anonymously and attacking others by name and without any factual basis. That's regretable and diminishes the value and impact of the discussion.

I hope that the folks who post here will do so in the spirit of fostering a civil dialogue on the issues facing our community. Ad hominem comments do not advance that high purpose.

2/03/2007 6:22 AM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Thanks for saying something Steve -- I missed that reference and didn't really know the background on that so I am glad you cleared the air.

I wholeheartedly agree with your last two paragraphs and push for that as much as I can...thanks for supporting that approach!

2/03/2007 6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lucas -- middle-class homes? Not so sure most of our middle class could afford a Veronica Meadows home....plus, it doesn't seem to me CPA is opposing the issues you list, it's a bit of process that wasn't followed as it should. Also, a lot more could be done for that creek.

2/03/2007 6:41 AM  
Anonymous park park park said...

Gosh Steve, this is a blog... some level of ad hominem and anonymous attacks are inevitable. No-one ever establishes a factual basis for anything here... nonetheless a few facts emerge from the stew of info.

Going back and reading the comment that precipitated your reaction, I think you doth protest too much.

Lighten up, dude!

2/03/2007 8:00 AM  
Blogger Voice of Rezon(e) said...

David,

Perhaps you've been out of town, but I'm still wondering about the list of housing projects CPA has supported in the past. Is there even one?

2/05/2007 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Valerio said...

One more time Rezone, you are badgering the witness.

Rezone comment above again seems to think that support or opposition to housing (apparently all housing) is either for the entire project proposed by the developer, or against it all. That is especially nonsensical when developers routinely propose way too much as a bargaining position.

Somehow I think CPA and Landecker are more about revising housing projects so they are not so obscene with too many unmitigated adverse impacts. Therefore, CPA supports plenty of housing projects simply by not commenting on them or by requesting that some of them should be reduced in their size and impacts.

Comments here should not be turning into some inquisition about forcing someone to prove a negative.

Should CPA just list all the proposed projects that received no comment and thus are supported?

All these comments here should stick to the point of the lawsuit:
the City did not verify if a project with less adverse impact was still a feasible project, meaning that the developer would make enough money that way. For this and many more past and present, this lawsuit is going to force that question the City routinely ignores and actively prevents.

2/05/2007 4:47 PM  
Anonymous David Landecker said...

I'm not a regular blogger, so I missed the challenge posted by Rezon(e) a few days ago.

The fact is that CPA affirmatively supported the single most dense modern day housing development in the City, known as Casa de las Fuentes, on Carrillo, which is all affordable housing. We also supported the Housing Authority's recent Paseo Carrillo project. Groups like ours are not formed to be cheerleaders for developers, however. We favor housing that meets the needs of our community.

As Valerio says, CPA tries to work with anyone who seeks our advice, to iron our concerns before they move forward with their plans. We effectively support good projects by helping developers to resolve legitimate objections before they get too far in the process and face delay and other unnecessary costs.

We take filing a lawsuit very seriously and would much prefer to avoid this method of enforcing the law. It doesn't happen very often. But we have a remarkable record of success in the Courts when we have chosen to take this drastic step.

Steve Amerikaner and I don't always agree - especially when he is representing a client rather than his own feelings - but he is right that getting nasty and personal does little to advance the public debate.

CPA is working on a comprehensive set of policies regarding housing development in our communities. Stay tuned.

And yes, I certainly know who I am ... and of what I speak.

2/05/2007 11:04 PM  
Blogger Voice of Rezon(e) said...

Valerio - I think you're missing the point somewhat.

In David Landecker's earlier post he stated that "CPA is not against housing."

As he opened the door by making that statement, all I'm asking is that they back up that claim by stating which housing project's they supported.

Since you're making the "no comment = project support" argument, I'll even play that game and ask which housing projects CPA had no comment on (and gave de facto support to if we follow your logic). Are there any of those?

The reason I'm inquiring is to see if CPA is not against housing, and have supported (or not commented on) housing projects, what type of housing projects are those? We can then use those projects as a stepping stone toward building a positive dialog about housing in our community.

One other point: You allege that developers will "routinely propose way too much as a bargaining position." In response I'd propose we all agree that projects get built in accordance with the density the site is zoned for? In other words, if the site is zoned ten units per acre, we allow TEN units per acre. No bonus density or density reduction. Do you think CPA would buy off on that?

2/05/2007 11:24 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

VOR -- your comment above was made at practically the same time as Landecker's and probably crossed in the ether somewhere over the Bungalo neighborhood....you are too clever for me.

2/05/2007 11:51 PM  
Anonymous Valerio said...

Oh, yes, Rezone, I am sure the army of CPA staff will get right on making up a list of all projects during past 40 years in Santa Barbara County for which CPA had NO comment about!

And, sure, a project developer never proposed in the initial application to build more than he eventually accepted after the bargaining and review process. That never has happened.

What was I thinking? You have it all figured out.

Why not thank CPA for filing this lawsuit that will affect all future projects to justify why smaller projects are not feasible just because they do not "pencil out" whatever that means.

2/06/2007 12:37 AM  
Blogger Voice of Rezon(e) said...

David,

I appreciate you responding to my question. I am glad to hear that CPA supported those two Housing Authority projects. I am familiar with Casa de las Fuentes, which is a publicly-subsidized rental unit project. I am unfamiliar with Paseo Carrillo.

Has CPA ever supported a free-market development done by a private developer? One where housing could be purchased and owned, not just rented? What was/is CPA's position on the proposed Los Portales project, which is a workforce housing project for employees of local non-profits. If CPA truly favors housing that meets the needs of the community then I am guessing you support Los Portales.

I eagerly await the publication of CPA's comprehensive community housing policies.

Thanks for continuing the dialog.

VOR

2/06/2007 9:01 AM  

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