October was not a particularly good month for naturalists, environmentalists or just those among us who would like to preserve the little open land that we have left, as well as the majestic views that sparkle along the Orange County coastline.
For Banning Ranch — among the last large, unprotected open space remaining on the Southern California coast — it is not only a question of unfettered space, but of environmental uniqueness as well. The Banning Ranch Conservancy has high hopes for maintaining the land completely as open space and was encouraged by the Coastal Commission staff's negative report on the proposed development presented to commissioners in October.
At the close of the long hearing on Oct. 7, however, and despite the demonstrations of busloads of conservancy supporters, those who want to convert this pristine and rare space into homes and a boutique hotel were allowed to go back to the drawing board on the orders of reducing their project to protect more of the flora and fauna.
In addition to the decision to postpone the approval of the Banning Ranch development, there were other important issues regarding exceptions to height limitations along the Newport Beach coast presented. The Lido Hotel was approved by the city and the commission, despite the fact that it exceeds the shoreline height limitation of 35 feet.
The Lido Hotel is not the first building to exceed the 35-foot shoreline height limit, nor will it probably be the last. At the same hearing, there were public comments presented on the Back Bay Landing, which is on the agenda for the December Coastal Commission hearing in Monterey. Newport Beach is requesting an amendment to the land use and shoreline height limitation for it as well.
Those of us who want to preserve as much of the natural environment as we can must concede that October was really only a good month for the orcas!
There is still hope that the Banning Ranch Conservancy can quash the immensity of the proposed development and preserve this precious land. If you are interested in helping support the conservancy at the Coastal Commission hearings slated for San Diego in Jan. 13-15 please go to banningranchconservancy.org.
LYNN LORENZ lives in Newport Beach.