September 1, 2016
P.O. Box 6010
California Coastal Commission
San Clemente, CA
Re: Application No. 5-15-2097 Newport Banning Ranch Development
Phone: (949) 492 8170
Fax: (949) 492 8142
Dear California Coastal Commission,
On behalf of the Newport Beach Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, we submit the following comments for the proposed Newport Banning Ranch project, Agenda Item W14d. The Surfrider Foundation (Surfrider) is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Surfrider has 84 chapters in the United States.
In a letter submitted October 2015 for the October Coastal Commission hearing agenda item regarding the proposal by Newport Banning Ranch LLC to (1) abandon oil operations; (2) clean and remediate soil; (3) construct housing and mixed-use development on a 401-acre site in Newport Beach, Surfrider Foundation called for denial of project due to a number of environmental concerns and apparent conflicts with several sections of the California Coastal Act. Our concerns included:
- The soil remediation approach and the potential negative impacts to water quality in the bordering wetlands, Santa Ana River and nearshore ocean due to stockpiling of contaminated soils without adequate containment;
- Concerns that the project would result in an increase in volume and/or pollutant concentrations in runoff from the property, violating the provisions of Coastal Act Section 30231;
- The grading and development of identified environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA) in violation of Coastal Act Section 30240.
Since the October hearing, Surfrider has reviewed new and old project documentation, met with the project engineers and visited the project site. We note that with the improved water quality provisions of the project utilizing stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) and the redesign of the remediation plan, those aspects of the project proposal are now in apparent compliance with the Coastal Act. This is due to the use of multi-stage BMPs that will be implemented to manage runoff, which include hydrologic source control measures, stormwater harvest and reuse systems, and biotreatment areas, resulting in the post-project hydrology for
the overall site remaining similar to existing conditions. Additionally, the soil remediation process will include the use of berms, stormwater basins, sediment debris basins, a phased process to manage how much soil is being remediated at any point in time and management controls to suspend remediation work during rain events.
However, Surfrider Foundation remains concerned that the project development plan still includes development on, and destruction of, a considerable amount of acreage that has been designated by Coastal Commission Staff as Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA). Based on the provisions of Coastal Act Section 30107.5, which defines ESHA, and Coastal Act Section 30240, which describes the protective measures required for ESHA, we believe developing these areas would not be consistent with the Coastal Act. Coastal Act Section 30240 reads:
“Environmentally sensitive habitat areas shall be protected against any significant disruption of habitat values, and only uses dependent on those resources shall be allowed within those areas… Development in areas adjacent to environmentally sensitive habitat areas and parks and recreation areas shall be sited and designed to prevent impacts which would significantly degrade those areas, and shall be compatible with the continuance of those habitat and recreation areas.”
When reviewing this and other coastal development projects, Surfrider’s main goal is to protect the ocean, waves and beaches. This includes supporting the requirements of the Coastal Act. We agree with the analysis of this issue by Coastal Commission staff in the latest staff report and the proposed conditions, which “… would result in a revised plan that avoids sensitive resources and identified site constraints by focusing the development into a smaller footprint and by limiting the circulation” (p. 7) and thus produce a project in compliance with Chapter 3 policies of the Coastal Act and CEQA by producing a least environmentally damaging alternative.
As stated in the staff report, “Only as conditioned can the project be found consistent with the Coastal Act.” (P. 7) In this, we support Commission staff and ask that you – the Commissioners – vote in support of staff recommendations to make any potential development Coastal Act compliant.
Darrel Ferguson Jennifer Savage
Vice Chair CA Coastal Policy Manager
Newport Beach Chapter of Surfrider Surfrider Foundation