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Along the Coast

The future site of the Tustin Legacy Park

A twist in Banning Ranch tug-of-war

The raging battle over Banning Ranch, 400 acres of open land used for oilfields since the 1940s and still dotted with 60 working wells, is far from over. The prime but scruffy acreage has for 20 years been deemed ready for development by landowner Newport Banning Ranch LLC. But local environmentalists and no-growth residents want it as permanent open space.

The landowner – a consortium of oil interests and real estate investors – wants to use 37 acres of the site for single-family homes. The group wants to include a 75-room boutique hotel and 45,000 square feet of retail, leave 15 acres in oil wells, provide access roads, and clean the remaining 329 acres as rehabilitated open space. Original plans for 1,375 homes have been reduced to 895. 

Environmentalists want the land to remain undisturbed forever as the nesting place for the California burrowing owl and other wildlife species. No-growth residents are concerned about increased traffic from any development.

Approval for development was given by the Newport Beach City Council, but was subsequently denied by the California Coastal Commission following an internal-external political skirmish.

Those opposing any development were relieved, believing they would no longer have to seek funding to purchase the land to keep it open. But now the landowner has sued the California Coastal Commission, seeking $490 million for denying development and therefore virtually “taking” the land.

Now comes another twist. Banning Ranch LLC has asked the commission for permission to develop up to 77 new oil wells on the land – as many as 15 new wells per year. Is the landowner testing whether oil wells are preferable to homes and open space? Time will tell.

Tustin Legacy grows

By late spring, development on the 26-acre first phase of Tustin Legacy Park will be done. Grading and site work have been completed for the park, which will include trails through a botanical garden, a small wetlands, wildflowers and 400 trees.

The 1,600 acres are owned by the city of Tustin on the site of the former Tustin Marine Corps Air Station with its two huge blimp hangars. The city is working with several developers to bring offices and more retailers to the area, already the site of single-family and multi-family residential units and The District retail center.

Ready to house offices will be Flight at one end of Tustin Legacy Park. Flight, planned to begin construction at an 8-acre site this spring, will provide 870,000 square feet of newly in-demand non-traditional office space. Flight developer Lincoln Property Co. envisions Tustin Legacy Park as a strong amenity for future employers.


Tiny lots, big demand 

Want to purchase an open lot near the coast to build your dream home? Most available lots are small, just under a third of an acre. During 2016, more than 70 lots in Orange County coastal cities sold for more than $750,000, according to the California Association of Realtors

At the high end, the average price for a lot in Newport Beach, for example, was $5.4 million. A quarter- acre lot at The Strand at Headlands in Dana Point went for $11.75 million, but still available at press time was a third- acre lot in Montage Ocean Estates in Laguna Beach for $14.8 million.


Something is happening at the Great Park   

Yes, development of the 1,300-acre Great Park on land once part of the El Toro Marine Corps Air base, now under the jurisdiction of the city of Irvine, was slowed for a number of reasons. But, FivePoint Communities, Aliso Viejo, which owns the land surrounding the Great Park, struck a deal with Irvine to take matters into its own hands. The result:

On a 175-acre portion of the Great Park, FivePoint is developing a $250 million sports park, envisioned to become one of the largest sports parks in the United States. How big? Two times the size of Disneyland. Progress thus far: The 53-acre first phase is nearly complete and will open early this year. Included are – get this – a soccer stadium with seating for 5,000 spectators; six regular soccer fields; 25 tennis courts including a championship center court; five beach volleyball courts; and a 1-acre playground. 

By early 2018, the sports park will add a baseball complex with four dedicated baseball fields and three multi-purpose fields; five softball fields including a championship stadium; batting cages at each of the fields; six more soccer fields and four basketball courts.

Envisioned for the park are not only a myriad of options for locals but also venues for regional and national playoffs. The company intends to turn operation of the park over to the city, which can generate income from rental of the facilities.




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