Sometime between following recent Facebook posts of the marvelous antics of the orca whales off our coast and watching the video stream of the January 13 Newport Beach City Council meeting, it came to me that environmental issues as such don’t get near the local attention they should.
Yet given its geography, the City of Newport Beach is, and always will be, deeply affected by environmental issues. Even last November’s defeat of developer-friendly Measure Y can be seen as an environmental victory: The Measure’s increased traffic would have contributed to lessened air quality and other aspects of particulate pollution.
So while our new councilmembers primarily campaigned to put the city’s government on a more fiscally conservative diet, I encourage them to take an equally fervent look into the city’s environmental issues. Here’s why.
You may have seen the full-page “paid advertisement” in the January 4 Daily Pilot touting the proposed development of the Banning Ranch in West Newport as “A `WIN-WIN’ FOR THE COMMUNITY…THE RESULT OF MORE THAN A DECADE OF COMMUNITY INPUT & PLANNIING – 75% OF THE LAND RESTORED & MAINTAINED AS OPEN SPACE.”
In the fine print, however, one reads that the proposed development includes 1,375 homes, “an intimate 75-room boutique Coastal Inn,” and 75,000 square feet of retail space. Shades of Measure Y – that means more traffic in an already congested part of town.
Which is why Steve Ray, of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, appeared at the January 12 city council meeting to urge that the City “save the entire Ranch as open space.”
In his closing remarks, Ray said that the conservancy wants to work with the council to save an “incredible asset to the city.”
I’ve walked various sections of the Banning Ranch and consider it a priceless gem of open space. So I’d dearly love to see such a collaboration to preserve it. To achieve that, some in the public eye could take a more collegial attitude toward environmentalists like Ray, who felt obliged to preface his remarks to the council by explaining that the members of the Conservancy are “not a band of wild-eyed, crazy tree-huggers.”
As a certifiable, card-carrying tree-hugger (lifetime member of the Sierra Club), I understand Ray’s defensiveness. I’ve been teased and scorned plenty for my environmental sensibilities. Nor am I alone in this. On the occasion of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Mayor’s Reception on December 9 of last year, Steve Rosansky, former mayor and current president and CEO of the Chamber, felt obliged to express his consternation upon learning that then-councilmember Nancy Gardner was “an environmentalist.”
It was said kiddingly, but still – why say it at all unless you think environmentalists don’t have a valid point of view.
To have a healthy and effective city government, environmentalists should be welcome at the table. The city deserves nothing less. So let’s get some respect. To this end, I suggest that the council declare 2015 to be The Year of the Environment.
Jean Ardell is President of the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club and serves as an Assembly District 74 delegate to the 2015 state Democratic convention. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.