Commentary: Banning Ranch warrants protection from development

February 23, 2012|By Suzanne Forster, Kevin Nelson and Jamie Wood

What is Banning Ranch?

Banning Ranch, the last large, open land in private hands on the Southern California coast, is in danger of irrevocable damage.

This wild 400 acres sits along the Santa Ana River on the west and Superior Avenue on the east, near Newport Beach city limits. Forty years ago the land was in heavy use as an oil field.


Today, most of the active wells are gone and the plants and wildlife have largely recovered, transforming a blighted industrial landscape into a natural treasure. The diversity of its land forms, the vitality of its ecosystem and bluff-top panoramic views of the ocean, make it a rare coastal gem.

Unfortunately, this exquisite ocean vista has made Banning Ranch the target of developers who want to pave it over and build a hotel, 1,375 homes, 75,000 feet of commercial space, parking lots and a four-lane arterial highway, creating severe and unmanageable impacts from the noise, traffic congestion and air pollution.

Imagine the jams at major intersections and all the way north to the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway corridor. Imagine what will be exposed when they start excavating the deadly toxins that have accumulated from 70 years of oil production. Imagine being confronted with row upon row of homes instead of the calming, peaceful sight of a snowy egret when you walk along the river trail.


What is the current state of the ranch?

It has been targeted for development by Newport Banning Ranch LLC. A draft environmental impact report has been submitted for review and awaits approval by the city of Newport Beach. If the project is approved, the surrounding communities will be subjected to an estimated 10 years of grading, excavating, remediating and construction, all facilitated by pollution-spewing heavy equipment.

The noise will be intolerable, the air unfit to breathe. Oil field toxins will create health risks for all, but especially children, the elderly and the infirm. Much of the ranch's natural flora will be sacrificed, as well as its wildlife.

Sadly, in order to develop the land, Newport Banning must first destroy much of it.

According to the Environmental Quality Affairs Committee, "excavation on the project site means moving 2,600,000 cubic yards of soil. Cuts will be as deep as 25 feet. Canyons and ridges will be either changed or eliminated.

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