The California burrowing owl, a species of concern whose habitat crosses the Banning Ranch property.

Banning Ranch, a proposed residential and resort development on Newport Beach, CA, could undergo major downsizing if the California Coastal Commission board takes its staff’s recommendation and approves only a small part of its original plan, the Orange County Register reports.

The 401-acre Banning Ranch site is home to several endangered species and species of concern native to California, including the California burrowing owl, the California gnatcatcher and the San Diego fairy shrimp. The original development called for 1,375 single family homes over 37 acres, plus a 75-room resort and a 20-bed hostel, but the latest staff recommendation to the Commission recommends the approval of only 500 homes across 20 acres.

Newport Banning Ranch spokesman Sam Singer calls the reduction “draconian and based upon false assumptions.” But Steve Ray, executive director of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, approves the move.

“The staff is moving certainly in the right direction,” he says. “They have started to look at the science again and realize the valuable habitat out there has to be preserved.”

Read more >