Depending on one's perspective, thousands more Newport Beach residents driving through Costa Mesa would either gridlock intersections and kill the city's small-town character, or they would bring much-needed commerce and raise property values in neglected parts of town.
The proposed Banning Ranch development could test these assumptions.
Proponents and opponents of the project made their case at a Costa Mesa study session on Thursday. While the Costa Mesa City Council cannot approve or deny their project, Banning Ranch developers are working to win city leaders' and residents' support.
Newport Banning Ranch proposes 1,375 homes, 75,000 square feet of commercial uses and a 75-room resort inn.
About 65% of the 15,000 additional auto trips generated by the project in Newport Beach would pass through Costa Mesa streets, according to the environmental impact report. Costa Mesa, the most-impacted intersections would be along Newport Boulevard — four junctions between 17th and 19th streets — and three to the west of Newport Boulevard.
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version incorrectly stated the number of additional auto trips as 1,500.
"This may be good for Newport Beach, but don't let Newport Beach push its problems on Costa Mesa," said resident Ron Frankiewitz.
Without improvements, the Costa Mesa intersections would receive a failing grade. But city engineers have proposed adding a southbound lane to Newport Boulevard, in addition to some traffic signals and turning lanes at other places.
Peter Naghavi, Costa Mesa's interim assistant CEO, forecasted the changes to cost about $8 million.
Developers assured city leaders they would agree to the necessary street improvements, such as traffic signals, in order to keep the intersections at passing levels. Newport Banning Ranch spokeswoman Marice White on Friday said the developers would either pay for, or build, the improvements.
Any traffic impacts would be outweighed by the project's economic benefits, said some who came to advocate for Banning Ranch.
"We've had a very difficult time on the Westside," said John Ursini, proprietor of Newport Rib Co. on Harbor Boulevard. "Banning Ranch gives us an opportunity to revitalize that area."
Because Banning Ranch is in Newport Beach's sphere of influence, the Newport's council will be the agency to approve or deny the application. Planners expect the council to hear the project in March.
In the meantime, the Banning Ranch Conservancy is working to raise money to purchase the land and preserve it for open space. Conservancy President Terry Welsh spoke at the study session, imploring the Costa Mesa council members to oppose the project.
Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece announced Thursday that she plans to recuse herself from all Banning Ranch discussions and votes because she owns property within 500 feet of the project.