The Banning Ranch Conservancy, a local non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Banning Ranch as permanent public open space, has filed a lawsuit challenging the Newport Beach City Council’s recent approval of the Newport Banning Ranch project.

The City Council approved the plan of the oil company owners and developers of Banning Ranch to develop the site, which is currently open space, with 1375 homes, a resort hotel and 75,000 square feet of commercial retail space.

The lawsuit claims that the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and its own General Plan and includes other related actions.  CEQA requires that the City disclose and analyze all environmental impacts of the project and eliminate or reduce those impacts.  The Conservancy alleges that the Council certified an inadequate Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and violated the city’s General Plan by ignoring the will of the city’s residents.

In 2006, voters approved a ballot initiative as an amendment to the Newport Beach General Plan designating that the priority for Banning Ranch is that it remain as permanent open space, that oil operations on the site be consolidated, that wetlands on site be restored and that Banning Ranch be used as a public park.  The Petition for Writ of Mandate states that although Newport Beach voters “approved an initiative directing the City to preserve the Banning Ranch as open space, the City’s approved Project sounds the death knell for this option and instead approves a massive residential and commercial development.”

“We did not wish to take this action,” states Steve Ray, Executive Director of the Conservancy, “but the Council has left us no other recourse.  They seem to be single-minded in promoting the development of Banning Ranch, which is contrary to the will of the citizens of Newport Beach.  This project also causes serious impacts to the residents of Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach.”

At City Council hearings, objections to the EIR and the project were raised by public agencies, numerous environmental groups, other concerned organizations and large numbers of citizens.  “The Conservancy acknowledges and appreciates the wide-ranging support of numerous community associations and concerned resident groups”, affirms Ray, “in their efforts to bring public attention to the inadequacies of the EIR and their appeals to the City Council to reject this project.”

The Conservancy plans to acquire the Banning Ranch property to convert it into a coastal nature preserve and park.  Says President of the Conservancy, Dr. Terry Welsh, “At 400 acres, it would result in a substantial park for residents.  We are working very hard to raise funds to purchase Banning Ranch at fair market value from the developers and to create a park and coastal nature preserve, just as our citizens want.  We have launched a major fundraising effort that, so far, has resulted in millions of dollars from private donors.  We are pursuing additional sources of funding as well.”

Legal counsel for the Conservancy in this action is Leibold McClendon & Mann of Laguna Hills, California.

Banning Ranch Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve, acquire, conserve and manage the entire Banning Ranch as permanent public open space, park and coastal nature preserve.

Contact:  Steve Ray, Executive Director
Banning Ranch Conservancy
(310) 961-7610