The Banning Ranch Conservancy, a local non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Banning Ranch as permanent public open space, won its lawsuit in a unanimous decision of the California Supreme Court. The suit challenged the Newport Beach City Council's approval of its Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and its approval of the Newport Banning Ranch project.
In July, 2012, the City Council approved the project proposed by developer Newport Banning Ranch LLC consisting of 1375 residences, a 75-room resort hotel and 75,000 square feet of commercial retail space.
The Conservancy’s lawsuit claimed the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Supreme Court unanimously upheld this claim and declared that the Conservancy is entitled to relief on its CEQA claim. The suit also claimed the City violated its own General Plan, a decision upheld by the Orange County Superior Court, which found: “…the Project itself, as approved, is inconsistent with the General Plan … in that the City failed to coordinate and work with the [California] Coastal Commission in identifying which wetlands and habitats present in Banning Ranch would be preserved, restored or developed, prior to its approval of the Project.”
The high court stated its opinion as follows:
“In this court, the parties have briefed and argued both the general plan and CEQA questions. The CEQA dispute centers on whether an EIR must identify areas that might qualify as environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA) under the California Coastal Act of 1976 (Coastal Act; § 30000 et seq.), and account for those areas in its analysis of project alternatives and mitigation measures. We hold that CEQA so requires. The City’s EIR is inadequate because it omitted any consideration of potential ESHA on the project site, as well as ESHA that were already identified. Because BRC is entitled to relief on its CEQA claims, we need not address the general plan issues.”
Steve Ray, Executive Director of the Conservancy said: "We never wanted to litigate, but the City must comply with the law. The City Council’s approval of the EIR and the project was contrary to the will of the citizens of Newport Beach."
In 2006, voters approved a ballot initiative as an amendment to the Newport Beach General Plan designating that the priority for Banning Ranch is that it remain as permanent open space and that it be used as a public park. Says Ray, "At 401 acres, it would result in a substantial park for residents. The Conservancy has established major avenues of fundraising to purchase Banning Ranch at fair market value from the developers and to create a park and coastal nature preserve, just as the citizens want."
John McClendon of Liebold, McClendon & Mann (Laguna Hills) served as lead litigator on behalf of the Conservancy throughout every iteration of the lawsuit, winning at the Orange County Superior Court and now at the California Supreme Court.
Banning Ranch Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve, acquire, conserve and manage the entire Banning Ranch as permanent public open space, park and coastal nature preserve.
Coastal Commission Confirms denial of Banning Ranch Project
On Thursday, February 9, 2017, by an 8-1 vote, The California Coastal Commission said no a second time to a development on Banning Ranch. Thursday’s vote codified the Commission’s reasoning behind their 9-1 denial of the project at the September 7, 2016 hearing. Commissioner Uranga, who voted to approve the project at the September hearing, was not included in the vote.
Thursday’s vote is a procedural one that locks in the original September denial of the controversial project. But, despite this good news, our work is not done. Not only have the developers filed a lawsuit against the Commission that disputes the panel’s denial, they have vowed to continue their fight to put a massive project on Banning Ranch, which is the only remaining unprotected open space in all of Orange County.
So, the David vs Goliath battle goes on, but stay strong and committed, Everyone. Goliath may be huge and well-financed, but our cause is good. We have heart and spirit—and Mother Nature on our side!
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BRC makes their case at the California Supreme Court!
Banning Ranch is the largest parcel of unprotected coastal open space remaining in Southern California. It’s an invaluable wildlife resource, habitat for many species of native plants and animals. It’s also a valuable resource for humans.
On Wednesday, January 4, 2017, the Banning Ranch Conservancy’s petition against the City of Newport Beach’s approval of the development project was heard by the California Supreme Court in San Francisco. The Court agrees to hear less than 2% of all petitions they receive. They thought ours was important enough to fast-track it. Learn more about the case on our News page.
We still urgently need funds to cover the expense of arguing our case in front of the Supreme Court. Can you make a donation of $50, $100, or whatever you can afford, to help cover costs of the Conservancy's petition against the City of Newport Beach and the development project?
California leads the western states in open space lost to development. The outcome of this court case will affect development not just at Banning Ranch but all over California.
Please donate as generously as you can. This is your opportunity to help save some of the last remaining coastal open space in Southern California. When it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Please click here to make your donation now, or write a check to the Banning Ranch Conservancy at P.O. Box 15333, Newport Beach, CA 92659. No administrative costs will be deducted, as we are an all-volunteer group. Every dollar you donate is strategically spent and deeply appreciated.
We can’t do it without you.
The Banning Ranch Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the effort to preserve, acquire, conserve and manage Banning Ranch as a permanent public open space, park and coastal nature reserve. Our Tax ID number is 26-2803100. All gifts of any size are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Thank you for helping to Save Banning Ranch!
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Coastal Commission Denies Banning Ranch Project
At the Wednesday, September 7 Coastal Commission hearing, the commissioners voted 9 to 1 to deny the 895-home Banning Ranch development project.
A million thanks to everyone who helped prepare for the hearing and who attended the hearing. We said we couldn't win this battle without you and we meant it! Your dedication and determination made the day! And quite a day it was, with many highlights, including a real live Burrowing Owl, a service raptor brought by Sea and Sage Audubon.
We will keep you posted as things unfold, but for now, take a well-deserved break!
You can read more about the Commission's decision here.
The Conservancy's VISION PLAN can now be accessed online. Please click here to see our VISION PLAN.
The BRC needs volunteers. If you have experience with Wordpress websites, please contact Suzanne Forster at 949 650-8806. We need volunteers to help with site design and content. If you have experience with Quickbooks for Nonprofits or would like to help out at a BRC Event or with our fundraising efforts, Suzanne would love to hear from you as well.