Commentary: Genis opposes positive economic development

I've known former Mayor Sandy Genis for the last three decades, and I've watched with interest as her local political career has ebbed and flowed.

I was never a big fan of her politics, but I'll give her credit for being consistent. I don't think Sandy has ever met a major project, no matter how good it is, that she hasn't hated and actively opposed.

If Sandy — who made a career as a public employee and is running for City Council again — had her way, some of Costa Mesa's best shopping, dining and entertainment experiences would never have been: Ikea, Target, Home Depot and Metro Pointe, come to mind.

It's fortunate for us in Costa Mesa that Genis was too young to protest the Segerstroms' plans for South Coast Plaza.

Her latest cause is Newport Banning Ranch ("Council sold Costa Mesa short on Banning Ranch project," July 21).

If the developer's plans are approved by the Coastal Commission (Newport Beach approved them earlier this week), the fenced-off, polluted oil fields on Costa Mesa's western border would be turned into an upscale neighborhood of about 1,200 homes, a boutique hotel and a modest amount of commercial space ("Still hoping for open land," July 25).

In exchange, about two-thirds of Banning Ranch's property would be restored to its natural state and left as open space. Right now, the property looks more like Signal Hill than Yosemite. It would also provide Costa Mesa with a window to the sea via Fairview and Talbert parks along the Santa Ana River. All at no cost to the taxpayer.

If Banning Ranch were within Costa Mesa city limits, the project would generate about $1.7 million in traffic mitigation fees. But because its Newport Beach's baby, Costa Mesa negotiated with the developer and will receive $4.4 million in traffic mitigation fees if the development gets final approval. The deal was struck by Economic Development Director Peter Naghavi, a well-respected veteran of City Hall and a man known as a tough but fair negotiator.

Like Ikea and other projects before this one, the Newport Banning Ranch development is demonized by people like Sandy. According to them, it will be the ruin of our city.

I'd like to offer a different scenario. A well-planned development bordering Costa Mesa's most troubled part of town will act as a rising tide, lifting everyone's boat in the process.

Our Westside schools will benefit from additional school tax revenue and an influx of affluent students. Westside Costa Mesa — about one mile from the ocean — will undergo a transformation sparked by Banning Ranch's success and its own great location.

Local history has proven Sandy wrong again and again. This is only the latest time.

HOWARD HULL has lived in Costa Mesa for 51 years.

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