Commentary: Costa Mesa should join fight to stop Banning Ranch

This Tuesday, the Costa Mesa City Council will vote on a "traffic mitigation agreement" for the proposed Banning Ranch development.

This agreement, negotiated between the developer and Costa Mesa City Hall behind closed doors, would require Costa Mesa to make modifications to streets and intersections in the Westside in order to accommodate the majority of the 15,000 car trips per day expected to be generated by the proposed 1,375-home Banning Ranch development.

This colossal development is nearly as large at the last five major O.C. coastal developments combined. Newport Beach will get the developer fees, while Costa Mesa gets stuck with the bulk of the traffic, loss of open space, including critical habitat for listed species, noise and dust, as 2.6 million cubic yards of earth are graded and contaminated soil trucked through our neighborhoods.

As a concession for noise, the developer has offered to pay for "rubberized asphalt" for the planned widening of 17th Street. The full sum the developer has offered to pay for the road modifications necessary for the proposed project is collected only if the full 1375-home project is built.

The official position from the City of Costa Mesa is essentially that "this is a Newport Beach project and there is little we can do." Costa Mesa citizenry must not accept this excuse. In 2012, the city of Laguna Beach, due to traffic concerns, took steps to oppose the expansion of a massive residential development in Irvine.

Two decades earlier, Laguna Beach, again because of traffic concerns, sued to stop a massive development in Laguna Hills. City councils should work to protect the interests of their own citizens, not the interests of out-of-town developers working on out-of-town developments.

The local community, headed by the Banning Ranch Conservancy, has been marching steadily toward the goal of preserving the entire Banning Ranch as open space. The city of Costa Mesa, rather than enabling and facilitating the proposed development by guaranteeing larger roads, should throw its considerable resources into stopping the proposed development.

A review of a recent letter from the Coastal Commission staff to the developer demonstrates that there are many aspects of the proposed project that are likely inconsistent with the Coastal Act. Costa Mesa should seize this opportunity to stop the proposed development, and see that all of Banning Ranch is permanently preserved as open space.

Save Banning Ranch!

Dr. TERRY WELSH is president of the Banning Ranch Conservancy.

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