Santa Barbara's Measure Y: The Most Contentious 2,400 Square Feet of the Election

Marker shows where bridge in question is located.

The drama of Measure Y may be lost on those who don't live in the City of Santa Barbara, but the Santa Barbarians are likely exhausted with hearing tales of the measure, which is the culmination of a land dispute that's doing nothing to fight the perception that development in Santa Barbara means a long bitter battle.

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Essentially, Measure Y comes down to an extraordinarily contentious bridge. If finally built, the bridge would pass over Arroyo Burro Creek and connect the prospective 25-unit housing development known as Veronica Meadows with Las Positas Road. It's great real estate, and if it were developed upon, it would put residents very close to a park as well as one of the area's more popular beaches. But that "if" has loomed large. Developer Mark Lee's project was first approved by the Santa Barbara City Council back in 2006, but the Citizens' Planning Association and the Urban Creeks Council sued to stop the development on grounds that the bridge would span the tiniest of slivers of public park -- 2,400 square feet, in fact. As a result of that fact (and despite the fact that the land might look less like "park" and more like nothing to someone just passing by), the matter had to be voted on City of Santa Barbara residents.

Of course, the matter has always been larger than that tiny bit of park. It's just another example of the standard developer-versus-environmentalist showdown, with politicians on both sides of the fight proclaiming themselves to be the true environmentalists. But when you consider that Lee has been floating the idea of a Veronica Meadows development for more than a decade and the fact that the contentious area amounts to only 2,400 square feet, you have to admit: In Southern California, there's no amount of land too small to fight over.

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