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Commentary: Banning Ranch traffic agreement is a win for Costa Mesa

August 03, 2012|By Eric Bever

Contrary to the negative assessment recently ascribed to the Banning Ranch traffic mitigation agreement by Councilwoman Wendy Leece and her followers, the traffic accord is truly a win for Costa Mesa.

Despite that fact, Leece has predictably appealed the council's decision. (This latest time-wasting appeal was filed, despite the decision being in line with our professional staff's recommendation).

Costa Mesa staff and leadership understood that the agreed terms resulted in mitigation funding levels significantly higher than those that could possibly be extracted through the legal process. We also appreciated the goodwill of the developer, Newport Banning Ranch LLC (NBR), which worked closely with the city to understand the traffic impacts to create a basis for determining the costs of mitigating their impacts.

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An important point to remember is this: Costa Mesa has never before received a dime of traffic mitigation voluntarily given by a project outside of our city, and has never received a dime from taking legal action against an outside project. This settlement is unprecedented in Costa Mesa.

How did we manage to get a substantial offer for mitigation in this case? Contrary to the image of the oft-maligned evil developers, NBR has long engaged city staff and leadership to help shape a project that makes sense and will help lift our city.

City staff began active work with the proposed Banning Ranch development during the environmental impact report. Staff provided necessary traffic and land-use data and participated in the analyses of the study.

Based on the results of the traffic analyses part of the EIR, staff began negotiation for the mitigation of Banning Ranch traffic impacts in the city. As a result, where significant impacts occurred, staff sought necessary mitigations in the form of a fee payment.

A "traffic mitigation agreement" was developed in which the EIR stated "traffic" impacts as well as their resultant mitigations were measured and understood. Based upon the clear understanding of the impacts, city staff was able to negotiate a settlement of about $4.4 million to mitigate Banning Ranch's traffic impacts in Costa Mesa.

This agreement is null and void if the project's traffic impacts in Costa Mesa increase for any reason.

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