By Chris Bunyan
Voices of opposition against the proposed development of Banning Ranch were heard at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Recreation Center on July 21st. The event was sponsored by the Save Banning Ranch Task Force and served as the first public forum for those against the development of the Newport-Mesa’s last parcel of open space. Banning Ranch, a 412 acre piece of land, is currently under county jurisdiction but will soon be annexed into Newport Beach. Banning Ranch is home to many species of rare wildlife and flora and has precious wetlands as well. The goal of the Banning Ranch Task Force is the have the entire plot of land turned into a state park.
The developers have hired a public relations firm to lobby area residents. Slick brochures were mailed out that neglected to detail the severe traffic impacts that the proposed development would have on both Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. Banning Ranch Task Force member, Chris Bunyan, the forum’s underwriter, spoke to the full to capacity audience about the catastrophic effects on local roads if the project were to occur. “The developers want to open 15th-17th Streets in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. Thus increasing the average daily trips to the currently quiet streets of the Westside; this cannot be allowed to happen, “said Bunyan.
The audience was comprised of mainly Newport Beach residents whose homes will be impacted if the development is green lighted. Terry Welsh, the Save Banning Ranch Force lead organizer addressed the crucial role that open space has for the area. “We want to see the land kept in a state of complete open space,” said Welsh,
Newport Beach residents who live in the neighborhoods that border Banning Ranch expressed vociferous dissent with the developers proposed plan to build homes. “My wife and I have lived in the area for over twenty years and enjoy a peaceful way of living . . . Our neighborhood would be devasted if traffic were allowed to cut through the streets,” said Don Bernake
A passionate presentation was conducted by Newport Beach resident and Banning Ranch Task Force member Kevin Nelson. Utilizing photographs of Banning Ranch to demonstrate just what exactly exists on the property equated in many audience members to express even louder opposition to the project since it was the first opportunity for many of them to the vegetation and wildlife. “The owners/developers of the property are trying to push the project through without letting the public tour the entire property,” Nelson said.
To date, a nearly complete majority of Newport/Mesa residents have been against proposed development. Some opponents are wildlife and open space enthusiasts while others are against any increases in traffic. The 55 freeway has become the worst thoroughfares for traffic in Orange County; with no relief in sight, the last thing area residents want is another high-density project.
An independent appraisal of the property has yet to be conducted. The developers of the property have floated, to the media, the price tag being in the hundreds of millions. That number has been disputed by many real estate experts. Proponents of keeping Banning Ranch an open space area and having it formally designated as a state park have countered the Banning Ranch, LLC’s price tag as overinflated. However, the Banning Ranch State Park enthusiasts admit that they will have to work hard to secure the capital that is necessary to buy the land.
Chris Bunyan is a resident of Costa Mesa.