The text message came in last evening. It was Cousin Melissa inviting me to join her today at Banning Ranch.
I said yes quickly. Then I went online to see exactly what Banning Ranch is? Turns out I knew the story but hadn’t connected the name.
This is a fight between locals in-and-around Cosa Mesa trying to slow development and preserve 400 acres and companies aligned with Exxon and Shell who’d like to make money off their oil field.
The proposed development includes 1,375 homes, a 75-room resort hotel, 75,000 square feet of commercial space, a 4-lane 50 mph roadway (Bluff Road) traversing Banning Ranch from 15th Street to PCH plus arterial highways, and an active sports park comprised of 6 tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball fields, a skateboard park, and 2 parking lots with over 125 parking spaces. – http://banningranchconservancy.org/
It’s a 400 acre tract in a well developed area. That’s more land than will ever be available again.
Here’s what makes it tough. The land isn’t in pristine shape — long term and short term. It’s been beaten up and mistreated over the years. They’re still pumping oil here. It will need remediation.
Beyond that, it’s a haven for homeless. One disheveled young man stumbled out of the tall growth onto the path before me before heading back into the deep. It was sad to see scattered litter in a place that deserves more respect.
There’s potential here. This could be a beautiful public space with time, care and cash. There’s just no guarantee.
Melissa and I toured the Banning Ranch Conservancy with members of the group trying to save it. We walked down a dirt road, muddied by last night’s rain. On either side tall bushes and vines created a green and brown canyon. Lots of plants are in bloom so the ‘canyon’ is speckled with patches of yellow, white and purple.
As we went on our way we were watched by a white security vehicle behind the oil field’s barbed wire topped cyclone fence.
Bees were busy buzzing bush-to-bush. This time of year they are like Fedex on December 23. Pollination won’t wait.
Melissa and I were hoping to see owls. None today, but a giant heron did a fly-by then settled in some nearby grass where he proceeded to slowly walk around as if he was atop the food chain.
It’s not like the movies. This is not good versus evil. It’s good versus business.
I’d rather see this land developed properly with stringent controls than have it sit dormant. But, if it can seriously be made into a useful and usable community space that’s my first choice. It’s going to take more than a plan.