It’s almost over—ain’t it?
As you read this, I ask you to remember the sage wisdom of baseball great Yogi Berra, who once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over!!”
A wonderful thing happened at the April 5 City Council meeting. It took only 20 years, three elections and countless city meetings, but the Bidwell Ranch property, on a 4-3 vote, is well on its way to remaining open space forever. The reason is this community would not give up. We did not give in to the almost constant pressure from the city, the Development Machine and the Enterprise-Record. Why? Because the stakes were too high. We were not going to allow development next to Chico’s crown jewel, Upper Bidwell Park.
This has been an epic saga in Chico’s political history that began in the early 1980s when a 750-acre parcel of land next to Upper Park was slated for a subdivision. Over the years, the proposed project varied in size from 4,500 homes to 1,500. In the mid-'80s the land was bought by a Sacramento company, Crocker Development. The Rancho Arroyo development was to contain 3,000 houses. The City Council approved the subdivision.
A referendum petition drive successfully forced an election in June 1988, when the out-of-town developers outspent us 15-1. The daily Enterprise-Record campaigned relentlessly for the subdivision, (some things never change), but we easily won. It was the most money ever spent on an issue election in Butte County! It was a hot issue. The local NBC affiliate pre-empted the No. 1-rated TV show (Cosby) to show a debate on the issue. Can you imagine a local station doing that today?
After we won, the deadbeat developer went bankrupt and sued the city. In a closed-session meeting, the council voted to settle the issue and bought the land. The city has recouped much of the cost in a process involving the sale of sewer fees that is way too complicated to explain. The Enterprise-Record and the Development Machine would have you believe that the city has not received a dime. They also claim that, to fund city parks, Bidwell Ranch must be subdivided. Pure hogwash!
Now it ain’t over, but we are pretty close. To be sure, there will be desperate attempts by the Development Machine to stop us. Perhaps some wacky new development proposal or an effort to force another election, but we will win. We must practice the eternal vigilance that we have in the past, but we will still win. In closing, I want to thank this community; you made this happen because you never gave up. You guys are great; just don’t forget what Yogi said.