Conservation Update, 2012 Jan | West Coyote Hills, Banning Ranch, Sunset Ridge

Two of the several OC Conservation issues that are continuing in the new year:

WEST COYOTE HILLS:  See coyotehills.orgfor background and details on this decade-long campaign to preserve 510 acres as a public natural open space in park-poor northern OC.

Most recently:  In July 2011, the Fullerton City Council approved the current Development Plan. The Friends of Coyote Hills promptly fielded 100+ signature-gatherers for a four-part referendum calling for un-approval. The referendum was qualified by mid-August with signatures to spare. The Council then rescinded their July approval and set a November 2012 election on whether or not Fullerton citizens support the Council’s approval.

ACTION NOW:  See coyotehills.orgfor how you can help keep this land as much-needed natural open space, especially if you live in or near Fullerton. It’s important that this issue not get lost amid the welter of issues accreting around this year’s general election.

NEWPORT BANNING RANCH AND SUNSET RIDGE PARK:  See for background and details on this long campaign to preserve 400+ acres of open space as an element in the Santa Ana River Park. Most recently:

1.When it became obvious, late in last November’s Coastal Commission hearing, that the Sunset Ridge Park project (located next to Banning Ranch) faced certain defeat due to its controversial developer-supported entrance road, the City of Newport Beach withdrew its application. (Withdrawing a Coastal Development Permit application before a Commission vote on a project allows the proponent to re-apply soon; otherwise they are required to wait a year.) The City has suggested that it will submit a redesign of the Park project that does not include the access road as proposed in the original application. This is a blow to the current Banning Ranch project, as the proposed road would have also been an entrance to the proposed development.

2.The City of Newport Beach Planning Commission plans to hold study sessions in January and February on the Banning Ranch project. The sessions are intended for the Planning Commissioners to evaluate the proposed project. This will give the public an opportunity to bring forth information that was lacking in the DEIR. Public comments at the study sessions–and at hearings to follow in April–will be part of the official administrative record.

It is important to keep in mind that the City of Newport Beach General Plan makes a priority of preserving Banning Ranch as open space and that the option of development can only be considered if preservation is not possible. The Banning Ranch Conservancy intends to remind the Planning Commissioners of this General Plan priority. The Conservancy believes that preservation IS possible, and that the availability of Measure M funds increases its likelihood.

ACTION NOW:  Monitor banningranchconservancy.orgfor the latest on the Planning Commission hearings, especially if you live in the Newport Beach area. If you can supply pertinent information, please get it to the Commission by letter if not in person at the hearings.

Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair

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