Other than the Banning Ranch property, there aren't many areas around
Newport Beach with nearly 500 acres of largely undeveloped land.
Some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, have urged
that the land be reserved as open space and have even talked about
Under the city of Newport Beach's existing general plan, about
2,700 units of housing and 235,000 square feet of office space, plus
industrial and commercial space, could be built on the land.
That situation could begin to change tonight when the planning
commission and City Council discuss the future of Banning Ranch. The
proposal preferred by an ad hoc committee would permit mainly open
space, along with about 875 housing units.
The council is likely to choose which land-use options to include
in an environmental report that's required before the general plan
can officially be changed.
What happens on the property is more complicated than just the
council's decision, however.
Although Banning Ranch is in the city's "sphere of influence,"
most of the 518-acre property is unincorporated county land, so the
Orange County Supervisors have the final say on zoning, Newport Beach
Assistant City Manager Sharon Wood said.
"We're supposed to plan for it in our general plan, but we don't
have any land-use authority," she said.
As a result, changes to what is allowed must be approved by the
county. The county's zoning is for agricultural and open-space uses
with some high-density housing, said Angela Burrell, a spokeswoman
for the county's resources and development management department.
What the property's owners want also will come into play. Most of
the acreage is owned by two partnerships, Aera Energy and RSP
Plans for the property will likely include the consolidation of
some oil production and the abandonment and clean-up of some wells,
as well as preservation of open space and the construction of less
housing than the city's general plan now allows, said George Basye,
vice president of Aera Energy.
"That was the direction that the owners were going when the plans
were set aside for a little bit," he said. "We understand that [open
space] is an issue of importance to the community."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Meetings on Newport Beach's general plan
WHEN: Planning commission, 4 p.m.; City Council, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Council chambers, City Hall, 3300 Newport Blvd.
INFO: Visit the city's website at www.city.newport-beach.ca.us and
click on today's meetings on the city calendar for a report
* ALICIA ROBINSON covers government and politics. She may be
reached at (714) 966-4626 or at email@example.com.