Saving The Banning Ranch Discussed
Five dozen people, half of whom were from Newport Beach - including Councilman Keith Curry - attended a workshop Monday night at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center at Lions Park. The workshop was sponsored by a group of environmentalists and concerned citizens who wished to provide information to interested residents with the avowed hope to recruit more members to their group. Their goal is to have Banning Ranch - 412 acres of oil fields and coastal scrub land - retained as open space in perpetuity.
NO COSTA MESA OFFICIALS IN ATTENDANCE
I found it interesting that no elected or appointed Costa Mesa official found time in their busy schedules to attend this meeting. That seems strange to me, since many of the elected and appointed officials are residents of the Westside, and the Banning Ranch issue will undoubtedly be a campaign issue as we move through the summer and fall. I guess they just don't care what the voters think, nor wish to hear their concerns.
Chris Bunyan, former - and maybe future - council candidate, was one of the organizers of the event and ponied up the cost of the room. Several passionate speakers addressed the small group and used slide shows to show the types of flora and fauna that might be in jeopardy should the Banning Ranch be turned into homes and shopping areas. Others spoke about how such open spaces are disappearing and covered with concrete and houses throughout the state.
The specter of the proposed development of Banning Ranch by another group - which would place 1375 homes, 75,000 square feet of retail development and a 75 room hotel - was raised to get the audience's attention. Representatives of the potential developer were in the audience taking notes and handed out their own fliers at the end of the meeting.
PRESERVATION COSTS UNCLEAR
No firm numbers are available because this effort to buy and protect the Banning Ranch is in it's infancy. Numbers like $200 million to buy the land and $30 million to mitigate the oil wells and their attendant debris were thrown around. No one really knows how much it would take to buy the land for a permanent park/wildlife refuge. Nor does anyone have a clue about where such money might come from.
COSTA MESA VS. NEWPORT BEACH?
Although the speakers made the point that they didn't want their presentation to be an "us against them" situation - Costa Mesa vs. Newport Beach - it was clear that that is very likely how this will evolve because access to any kind of residential/retail development would almost certainly require the use of Costa Mesa streets. That thought seemed to agitate some of the Westside residents in attendance.
A LONG ROAD AHEAD WITH TIME RUNNING OUT
This effort is a long way from accomplishment. Time is not on the sponsor's side because the development plan for the area will be presented to the city of Newport Beach within a couple weeks. And, of course, that one-foot wide lasso of land which Newport Beach owns further complicates the issue when determining the sphere of influence issue.
CAMPAIGN TAP-DANCING AHEAD
The Banning Ranch will certainly generate a lot of heat during the campaign season ahead. Candidates in both Newport Beach and Costa Mesa will be asked to sign on for one side or the other on this subject. I'm expecting a lot of tap-dancing to go on throughout the fall. Stay tuned....