California’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled the city of Newport Beach improperly moved forward with a planned development of Banning Ranch, one of the largest swaths of undeveloped land in coastal Orange County.
The ruling supported Banning Ranch Conservancy’s claim that the city’s 2012 approval of a development bringing a hotel, commercial uses and 1,375 residences to northwest Newport Beach violated the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
“The city’s [Environmental Impact Report] is inadequate because it omitted any consideration of potential [environmentally sensitive habitat areas] on the project site, as well as [environmentally sensitive habitat areas] that were already identified,” justices stated in their ruling.
Justices continued the city owed its residents and the California Coastal Commission a “reasoned response” on concerns raised about environmentally sensitive habitat areas.
“The subject of ESHA on Banning Ranch was raised early and often by city residents and Coastal Commission staff. The city owed them a reasoned response,” justices stated in their ruling. “We note that the city’s handling of the Banning Ranch [Environmental Impact Report] not only conflicted with its CEQA obligations, but also ignored the practical reality that the project must ultimately pass muster under the Coastal Act.”
Supreme Court justices held Banning Ranch Conservancy is entitled to relief.