The ink had not yet dried on the $50 million check from Frank and Joann Randall when Newport Beach Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis announced at a public meeting on Nov. 13 that Banning Ranch was on the short list for giving up land to help meet city building requirements under SCAG. The Southern California Association of Governments voted on Nov. 7 to shift the 1.3 million new homes needed over the next 10 years toward the coast and Newport Beach’s share greatly increased (Newport Beach’s allocation increased from the initial 2,751 units to 4,832).
For Banning Ranch, such an announcement was tantamount to “raining on someone’s parade” and all the other platitudes that express monumental disappointment shortly after experiencing long overdue success for the preservation of Banning Ranch.
Banning Ranch defenders’ elation came after winning an excruciatingly difficult battle, of too many years to count, trying to preserve Banning Ranch from being irresponsibly developed. The wetlands of Banning Ranch represent the one last vestige of large coastal greenbelt along the county’s coast which contains many remnants of disappearing natural phenomenon-vernal pools and endangered species. People like Terry Welsh, Suzanne Forster, Steve Ray and Dorothy Kraus and a whole cast of other hard-working supporters contributed countless hours to preserve this choice piece of land for posterity for the benefit of our community and visitors.
Interestingly, and questionably coincidentally, it is West Newport which seems to be experiencing the strongest growing pains in the last few years. In addition to the loss of being able to challenge what seemed to local residents as favoritism shown in zoning rules, the area is also fighting two large developments which will drastically change the iconic Mariners’ Mile area of Newport Beach.
Without the nostalgia experienced by most residents and visitors when characterizing this quaint part of our coastal town, there would be little to distinguish Newport Beach from any other colorless beach town. It is as if the city government and the two developments being proposed are metaphorically erasing the heart of the city.
It is not surprising that many of the residents of West Newport are asking, “Why West Newport?” and “Why our beloved Banning Ranch?”
Perhaps a better choice would be to use the several hundred undeveloped acres just north of Crystal Cove State Park to fulfill the city’s need for new housing. That would make a lot more sense particularly when talking about traffic circulation.