Sunset Ridge Park one step closer to reality

A judge has ruled in favor of Newport Beach, allowing the city to move ahead with plans to develop Sunset Ridge Park, according to a court document.

In an April 2010 lawsuit filed against the city, Banning Ranch Conservancy alleged that the environmental impact report filed by the city before beginning construction on the site was inadequate and done piecemeal rather than assessing the impact on the area as a whole, according to the court document released Thursday.

The conservancy is an environmentalist group opposed to the development of the land adjacent to the property acquired by the city on West Coast Highway near Superior Avenue.

“Several arguments have been advanced by [the Banning Ranch Conservancy], both orally and in writing, urging the court to set aside the approvals and grant the writ,” Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail A. Andler said in court documents. “However, the court is not persuaded after reviewing the record that under the law petitioners are entitled to the relief requested, and adopts the reasoning of counsel for the city …".

“We don’t think it’s a good decision, or at least I don’t,” conservancy President Terry Welsh said, speaking on his own behalf. “I’m not quite clear why the judge decided this way.”

Mike Johnson, who is on the board of directors for the West Newport Beach Assn. and has been advocating for the development, was very happy.

“Good! I am grateful to the judge,” Johnson said, remarking that people can visit the park sometime soon to “enjoy these wonderful sunsets.”

“It’s long overdue. We’re short on activity parks west of the bay,” he continued.

The Banning Ranch Conservancy is in favor of the creation of the park, but objects to one crucial point.

“We all want a park at Sunset Ridge,” Welsh said. “But the city’s plans included a very controversial entrance road, this road was also a road for Banning Ranch land development.”

Councilman Steven Rosansky, who represents the area, was pleased with the ruling.

“Our staff has worked closely with a number of community members on the Sunset Ridge Park project to help bring much needed park and recreational space to West Newport,” he said in a prepared statement. “We are all very happy about the court’s ruling and are hopeful that the Coastal Commission will approve the project in the near future so that we may begin construction.”

The Banning Ranch Conservancy aims to keep Banning Ranch, which is adjacent to the city’s land, as a natural, passive open space.

According to the group’s website, it is “dedicated to funding the effort to acquire, restore and maintain the entirety of Banning Ranch” and is working toward creating a Banning Ranch Park and restoring the area there.