Conservation Update, 2016 May | Banning Ranch, SCAG
From the Desk of Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair
The California Coastal Commission will vote on the fate of Banning Ranch on Thursday, May 12. The hearing starts at 9 AM at the Newport Beach Civic Center, 100 Civic Center Drive, Newport Beach (ample free parking).
At issue is whether several hundred high-end homes, a resort hotel, and retail space should be developed on Banning Ranch’s mesa. The 400-acre parcel is the largest unprotected coastal open space in OC. Despite having been an oil field for many decades, the site is still home to an amazing array of birds and wildlife in its still-vital riparian, coastal marsh, coastal sage scrub, grassland and vernal pool habitats. Banning Ranch should be a key part of the abutting Orange Coast River Park (maps: ocriverpark.org/where-is-it-located/), rather than yet another development.
At its hearing last October, the Commission rejected its staff’s recommendation to deny the proposed development. Instead, the developer was directed to work with Commission staff and members of the Banning Ranch Conservancy (BRC) on a smaller development, and return in May with a plan that could be approved. An effort was made to that end, but the plan is still massive.
BRC is calling on all OC residents to attend the hearing and help remind the Commissioners that if they are to truly uphold the Coastal Act, to truly abide by the Act’s requirements to protect sensitive coastal habitat and the wildlife that use it, they must deny the application for development of Banning Ranch.
BRC’s goal is to save as much land and habitat as possible. View their latest video:
• Attend the hearing: surveymonkey.com/r/PDV3HMX; carpools are being coordinated and refreshments will be provided.
• Sign the online petition: banningpledge.com/brc/
• Donate to the campaign: banningranchconservancy.org/make-a-donation.html
NEW SCAG PLAN OFFERS GREAT POTENTIAL FOR CONSERVATION
The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) recently adopted its 2016 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy. Background and details: scagrtpscs.net/Pages/default.aspx.
OC’s Friends of Harbors Beaches and Parks has for several years led a multi-county enviro coalition (including CNPS’ SoCal Chapters) in working with SCAG to incorporate meaningful measures into the Plan/Strategy, measures that can move SoCal conservation efforts forward.
The Plan/Strategy’s Natural and Farmlands Appendix focuses the measures into several policies; the four main ones:
• Expanding SCAG’s Natural Resource Inventory Database and Conservation Framework and Assessment by incorporating strategic mapping layers to build the database and further refine priority conservation areas.
• Encouraging County Transportation Commissions to develop advance mitigation programs and/or include them in future transportation measures.
• Aligning with funding opportunities and pilot programs to begin implementation of the Conservation Plan through acquisition and restoration.
• Providing incentives to jurisdictions that cooperate across county lines to protect and restore natural habitat corridors, especially where corridors cross county boundaries.
Now for the fun part: rolling up our sleeves and working closely with SCAG to implement these policies over the next four years!