Another Strike for Banning Ranch Development

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Not for nothing is this section of the paper you are reading titled “Forum.”

It serves as a sounding board for both readers and journalists to state their opinions, to call for action, and to hold those who govern accountable. It’s a tradition that has served democracy well in this country, since, well, before we ever became a country.

So upon my return last week from the baseball conference I co-chair during spring training in Arizona’s cactus league, it was good to read in this paper that the California Coastal Commission (CCC) mandated a halt to the Newport Banning Ranch LLC (the entity that wants to initiate a large-scale development in the area) from continuing its damaging practices to the fragile environment of that swath of land in Costa Mesa/West Newport.

While this was the CCC’s decision, the pressure upon the Commission to do the right thing was a grass roots effort by people like Dorothy Kraus of SPON, her neighbors in Newport Crest who live near the proposed development, and others in the city who rode the bus to Chula Vista on March 12 to advocate.

As an ebullient Kraus wrote in a March 13 email to supporters, “It was so good to see so many of you yesterday! It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since the Banning Ranch EIR was approved by the City Council…. I also want to appreciate all of you for your ongoing efforts to protect and preserve the environmental and residential quality of life we all treasure here in the Newport Mesa area, and your dedication to saving the Banning Ranch from the massive development. We still have our work cut out for us. I know I can count on you for the long haul!”

Recent city councils have been too developer friendly – note the approval of the Banning Ranch EIR, which permits 1,375 homes. If you wonder at the magnitude of that number, look to the other side of town: Harbor View Homes (aka the Port streets) backs up to MacArthur Blvd. between San Joaquin Hills and Bonita Canyon Roads and comprises approximately 1,100 homes. True, the proposed Banning Ranch development is denser, including a 730-unit “Urban Colony” of five-story flats stacked 50-feet high. But no matter how you stack it, consider the traffic that will be generated by the proposed development in an already congested area of town, and you see why people like Kraus are so appalled.

During our time in Arizona, I was reminded of the insanity of ill-considered development. The Phoenix area is, of course, a desert and but for imported water it would have remained mostly open space. Instead one finds a sea of stuccoed housing developments and malls extending ever farther into the desert.

Irrigation and development have changed the climate, so that people who used to go to Arizona for their health, to breathe the clear desert air, now find not-so-clear air and allergy-producing pollens that spike the sales of Claritin.

While at the baseball conference, I attended two ball games – we call it “field research” – where I was reminded all over again that spending time there in the company of like-minded historians and authors is one fine way to spend an afternoon. I also met with the editor of the University of Nebraska Press, with whom I’ve contracted to complete a book I’ve wanted to write for years: the story of Ila Jane Borders, who entered Southern California College (now Vanguard University) on a baseball scholarship in 1993. I was in the stands when she pitched her first collegiate game, a 12-1 win.

Borders went on to make baseball history by pitching three-plus seasons of men’s professional baseball, mostly in the independent Northern League. She’s an extraordinary woman, and it’s a privilege to work on her story.

That is a long way of explaining why this column, “Left of Center,” has appeared sporadically lately and will continue so given my deadline this summer.

It’s tough timing because there’s much to track in our city. So if you share a concern about the quality of life and the environment in this town, get active. Lobby the City Council and write letters and op-eds to the editor of the Indy.

Do advocate – it’s the American way.

Jean Ardell is President of the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club. She can be reached at [email protected].



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  1. I’m glad you’re writing about Banning Ranch and the proposed development. Added to the current spike in high density development in Westside Costa Mesa, the proposed 1,375 residences plus commercial space will exacerbate the already difficult situation faces by Newport Heights and other nearby communities. While some dismiss the environmental issues, several questions have to be addressed – the effect on endangered species, increased pressure on water resources and negative effects on air and water quality. Plus, years of construction will seriously stress adjacent communities and traffic conditions.