Banning Ranch is a 400-acre parcel located between Newport Beach and Huntington Beach near the Santa Ana River. It is currently private property with nearly 490 oil wells (about 87 are active), pumps, processing facilities, etc.
It’s also the latest example of Sacramento bureaucracies putting cities in the middle of their conflicting priorities.
On the one hand, Sacramento demands a lot more housing. In Newport Beach, we have about 45,000 housing units. A state agency called Housing And Community Development (HCD) administers a program called “Regional Housing Needs Assessment” (RHNA) that will require Newport Beach to plan for approximately 4,800 more housing units in the next 8 years. [For Costa Mesa, it’s 11,760; for HB it’s 13,368; for Irvine, it’s 23,610 more housing units.]
Now, Newport Beach is not averse to more housing. When the OC Register graded cities on their housing compliance in the last 8-year cycle, Newport Beach got an A+, with permits issued for 96 very low income housing.
Before I was elected to the council, Newport Beach had also approved development on 62 of the 400-plus acres of Banning Ranch, including 895 homes. In exchange, the developer would create protected open space areas and recreation. The California Coastal Commission ultimately denied this project and the fences around the property stayed up.
Fast forward to today. HCD tells Newport Beach to find space for at least 4,800-plus housing units, so Newport Beach offers to approve 1,357 units on Banning Ranch (plus many more in the airport area, Coyote Canyon, etc.).
Other state agencies, however, are awarding multi-million dollar grants to preserve Banning Ranch entirely as open space. Because of those grants, HCD recently told Newport Beach that we almost certainly can’t count on housing on Banning Ranch, which means pushing more than 1,300 housing units into other parts of the city.
Where can Newport Beach possibly plan for that much more development?
Furthermore, Costa Mesa’s city council recently took a position supporting the open space plan, which adversely impacts Newport Beach’s RHNA submission. Bad comity.
This is just one example of a city being caught between Sacramento’s competing priorities, and is one more reason why local control matters.
Councilman Will O’Neill represents District 7 on the Newport Beach City Council.