A long-anticipated vote by the California Coastal Commission on Wednesday will decide more than the fate of a massive development proposed for the last big piece of private open land on the Southland coast.
It will signal the direction of a commission that has been mired in controversy over the dismissal of its executive director and a perceived pro-development tilt.
The Newport Banning Ranch proposal, which calls for the construction of nearly 900 homes, a resort hotel and shops on an Orange County oil field overlooking the Pacific Ocean, has heightened tensions between the politically appointed commissioners and their expert staffers, who have insisted — to the obvious annoyance of some on the panel — that the development is too big and too environmentally harmful.
The project has also highlighted commissioners’ nonchalant approach to Coastal Act requirements that they disclose, within seven days, any contacts with developers, activists or others interested in an application they are considering.
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