The California Coastal Commission voted 7-1 Thursday to adopt the commission staff’s revised findings to support the denial of Newport Banning Ranch LLC’s permit for a controversial mixed-use project.
Mark Vargas was the lone dissenting vote and Roberto Uranga was not permitted to vote, since he dissented in the September hearing.
The applicant’s representative, Steven Kaufmann, expressed frustration with commission staff’s findings and the commissioners themselves, citing what he perceived to be a “disconnect” between staff’s findings and the eventual conclusions. He asked the commission to not adopt the revised findings and continue the issue to the March meeting in Ventura.
Steve Ray of the Banning Ranch Conservancy rebuked NBR’s comments during Thursday’s hearing, stating that the applicant was asking the commission to throw them a “Hail Mary,” or give them a long shot chance to get the project moving. Ray urged the commission to adopt staff’s findings, calling them “conclusive and very clear.”
“These findings reflect the action we took,” pointed out Mary Shellenberger, who moved to vote yes on the staff’s revised findings to support their denial of the permit.
Commissioner Mary Luevano seconded the motion.
“This is good news,” Banning Ranch Conservancy officials said in a newsletter.
The “win” was the final “period” on the project, BRC officials added on social media. Although the developer could decide to submit an application for a different project in the future.
In a statement released Thursday following the Coastal Commission decision, NBR spokesman Sam Singer, said the CCC staff report is “riddled with errors, misinformation and incorrect data.” The vote attempts to cement the “incomplete view of the evidence, questionable analysis, and unfair and unfortunate conclusions” in the September CCC staff report.
The findings do no accurately reflect do not accurately reflect the basis for Commission decision, he explained. Coastal Commission is supposed to protect and enhance California’s coast for present and future generations, which they failed to do, Singer argued.
“The Commission’s action threatens to condemn Newport Banning Ranch to remain a fenced-off, industrial brownfield for future generations,” Singer said in the press release.
They passed up a vital opportunity to obtain additional information about the Banning Ranch site, he added.
Although the CCC staff argued otherwise, NBR feels the Commission’s action has led to the illegal taking of their property rights.
“We will continue our legal challenge to their decision to demonstrate the extraordinary and unprecedented amount of procedural errors, misinformation and errors in fact that failed to provide the opportunity for a balanced decision that considered all the facts,” Singer said in the prepared statement.