An “Urban Village” on Banning Ranch? Oh, HELL no. All hands on deck Wednesday!




banning urban village 1

There was a popular saying after the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, and that saying was “Oceans no longer protect us.”

Well, similarly, on a local (and less horrific) level, we see that city limits no longer protect us from the onslaught and “negative externalities” of the voracious High Density Developers of neighboring OC towns.  Huntington Beach citizens of the right left and center, while having been admirably engaged in their own town’s issues this past year, especially against our own HDD, have been blissfully unaware of the “urban village” the oil-company owners of the Banning Ranch property want to impose RIGHT ON OUR SOUTHEAST BORDER, blest and greenlit by Newport’s developer-funded Council, but which will IMPACT THE HELL out of us AND Costa Mesa.

Banning RanchWhat you see to the left is a 401-acre area known as Banning Ranch, stretching from the Santa Ana River (HB border) to developed parts of Costa Mesa and Newport, and from Talbert Park at the north to PCH.  It lies partly in the jurisdiction of development-crazed Newport Beach, and partly in unincorporated OC.

The area’s been used for pumping oil since it was found there in the 40’s, although it is still a beautiful open space and home to many rare and sensitive plant and animal species.  It now belongs mostly to Shell and Exxon-Mobil, through their front group Aera Energy, which along with a couple of smaller entities, now constitutes Newport Banning Ranch LLC (NBR).  And since drilling this area has become less profitable, NBR is planning a High-Density Development that is denser than the last five coastal developments combined (Marblehead, Dana Point, Crystal Cove, Castaways, Bolsa Chica.)  This would include:

  • 1,375 new homes;
Idyllic NBR sketch of a FRACTION of their proposed Urban Village.

Idyllic NBR sketch of a FRACTION of their proposed Urban Village.

  • A “RESORT HOTEL COMPLEX” including
    • the Hotel itself;
    • a small “youth hostel“;
    • ballrooms and meeting rooms;
    • restaurants;
    • commercial space (a couple of strip malls)
    • the “urban village” – a mixed-use area of retail stores with housing on top, 65 feet high;
    • undefined “resort housing” possibly meaning time shares?
  • 17 acres of infrastructure i.e. roads, sidewalks, gutters;
  • LIGHTED BALLFIELDS – how nice for the neighbors already there!
  • Consolidate oil operations into 2 properties
  • There is promised “OPEN SPACE” but two caveats there:
    • That includes three spots they can’t even legally THINK of building:  the Newland wetlands, the riparian arroyos, and the coastal bluffs, and they want to encroach on those as far as they can;  and
    • The other thing they’re calling “open space” is the LUNAR LANDSCAPE they will create with the herculean amounts of DIRT their project will displace (and to be fair, they’ll probably eventually cover over with man-made parklands, but this is not what most of us call open space.)

dirt fields

Okay.  Newport Beach voters must want this kind of shit, or else they wouldn’t keep voting for development-besotted, bought-and-paid-for councilmen… (and then when there’s a supposed “shakeup” they pick nimrods like Scott Peotter who fight gay marriage valiantly but follow the old guard’s lead on development matters.)  Why should Huntington Beach (or Costa Mesa) care?  Well, how about…



The developers themselves conservatively estimate that their project will lead to 15,000 more “car trips” each day.  Does that mean 15,000 cars going out each day?  Because we all tend to take our cars out more than once each day.  But either way, it is a mind-boggling addition to the already existing traffic in our three towns – from the daily bumper-to-bumper limbo on the 55 to the already-overwhelmed “tip of the funnel” in Costa Mesa at 19th and Newport.

Studies further confirm that at least THREE MAJOR SOUTHEAST HB INTERSECTIONS will be reduced to GRIDLOCK (technically termed LOS-E or LOS-F) – that’s Brookhurst/Hamilton, Brookhurst/PCH, and Magnolia/PCH.

zombie crawlingThe Zombie Return of the Banning Bridge (or 19th-Street Bridge, across the river into HB?)  Why of course.  We thought we killed it dead a few years ago, with hundreds of citizens turning up with pitchforks and terrifying the politicians who loved it (and chasing some out of office) but this Banning Ranch development will be used to make the case that we need it after all.  I am not kidding – more than one Newport Councilperson has been recently overheard drooling over that prospect.

Poseidon;  photo credit Charles Lam of the Weekl.

Poseidon; photo credit Charles Lam of the Weekly

And speaking of building a piece of shit none of us want and using that to make the case that another piece of shit we don’t want is NECESSARY:  This many thousands of new residents are going to need water, and the more people getting stuffed up into here needing water the more our overlords are gonna tell us we need POSEIDON. 

Friends, have you noticed yet?  The same exact politicians back both unlimited development and Poseidon – Poseidon that will hike our water bills significantly and unnecessarily, pollute our ocean, and make billions for investors from Boston.  Again, not making this up – Newport is one of the VERY FEW towns to have signed a “letter of intent” to buy Poseidon’s expensive desalinated water.

3. The Dust Has Eyes.

dust storm

Sixty-some years of pumping oil in one 400-acre lot leads to a heck of a lot of toxic dirt, I tell you what – and the remediation and construction that will occur if this project goes through will send clouds of hazardous dust ALL OVER the area – think of the Santa Ana winds especially!  Costa Mesa will be hardest hit, but so will the neighborhoods and families of Southeast Huntington Beach.

I hope I have got your attention.  I should have written this weeks ago.  Zero hour is Wednesday’s Coastal Commission Hearing in Long Beach.  The CCC’s staff has already recommended against this monstrosity, but the Commission itself – not always as straightforward and honest as one might like – doesn’t always follow staff’s recommendation.  So they need to hear from us – enviros and HDD warriors, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Newport.

A lot of us are going to this Long Beach hearing on a specially chartered bus, and I’ll put the info for that below;  but if you can’t at this late moment join us, at least take a moment to sign this petition to the Commission.

Oh.  Look at that.  The buses are now FULL.  Sounds like you’re going to be part of a BIG popular movement.  I copy the rest of this from the website of The Banning Ranch Conservancy (those are the good guys.)

The Coastal Commission hearing for Banning Ranch is Wednesday, October 7 at 9 am at the Long Beach Convention Center, Seaside Ballroom, 300 E. Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach 90802.  

The buses are now full!  Car pooling is being arranged.  For more information, call Terry Welsh at (714) 719-2148.    

If you’re driving, parking is available in the Terrace Theatre Garage across from the Seaside Ballroom for $10/day.  The BRC will have a table on Seaside Way near the Ballroom.  Look for the Banning Ranch Conservancy banner.  Refreshments will be available.  Bring a snack-pack or bag lunch and water.  Restaurants are not in the immediate vicinity.

This hearing will determine the fate of Banning Ranch.  The developers are just one step away from having their deplorable project approved.  We can’t let that happen.

Join your Newport-Mesa and Huntington Beach neighbors who share grave concerns about the project’s impacts.  This is your chance to say NO to more traffic jams and choke-point intersections; NO to air, noise and light pollution at unsafe standards; NO to siphoning off 200 million gallons of water a year from our scarce water reserves; NO to the excavation of 2.5 million cubic yards of contaminated soil that will create public health risks, as well as the destruction of the Ranch’s rare natural resources.  

Let’s stand together and tell the Commissioners we want them to protect our precious coastal resources, as well as our neighborhoods!

If you can’t make the hearing, please sign the petition to the Coastal Commissioners.

Thank you for helping save Banning Ranch as an open space park for the public to treasure and enjoy! 

banning overview

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.