In Banning Ranch Conservancy v. City of Newport Beach, petitioner challenged the decision by the City of Newport Beach in approving a residential and mixed use development on the Banning Ranch property. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court, and upheld the City’s approvals on all points. RMM attorneys Whit Manley and Jennifer Holman represented Respondent, City of Newport Beach, in this case.
In 2012, the City of Newport Beach approved the Newport Banning Ranch Project on 400 acres of coastal property in Orange County. Petitioner Banning Ranch Conservancy sued the city, challenging this action under both CEQA and the Planning and Zoning Law. The trial court and the appellate court both rejected the CEQA claims. The trial court, however, found that the City violated the Planning and Zoning Law under the authority of California Native Plant Society v. City of Rancho Cordova (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 603.
Third District Court of Appeal in California Native Plant Society held that a general plan policy that required the city to “coordinate” with a resources agency mandated that the city do more than merely “consult” under CEQA. In other words, it could not just send the EIR to the agency, consider comments, and respond to comments. It had to work with the agency to try to reach accord, although ultimately the city did not have to “capitulate” to the agency. Because the City of Newport Beach’s general plan contained a similar policy, the trial court in Orange County considered itself bound to follow California Native Plant Society. It held that the city had to try to reach accord with the California Coastal Commission on certain issues before approving the project.
The Fourth District in Banning Ranch Conservancy v. City of Newport Beach said that the Third District’s holding in California Native Plant Society v. City of Rancho Cordova went too far and was not sufficiently deferential to the legislative functions of the city. The Fourth District thus reversed the trial court on the Planning and Zoning Law issue and upheld the city’s actions.