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The Economics of One California Coastal Commission Ruling

Saturday, February 11, 2017 12:02
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Economists talk about trade-offs quite often.  Read this case study about the Newport Beach Banning Ranch Development project.  Here is the developer’s webpage.

A Direct Quote from the OC Register

NEWPORT BEACH – After a more than 13-hour marathon meeting of the California Coastal Commission, a room packed with some 100 demonstrators exploded in cheers Wednesday when commissioners voted to deny a proposed development in Newport Beach on Banning Ranch, an oil field covered in vernal pools, scrub and grassland and home to endangered species.
“This is a project we have to get right,” said Commissioner Mary Shallenberger. “We’ve heard this is the only intact coastal bluff ecosystem in Southern California. It is the largest concentration of endangered and threatened species in Orange County. … You can’t make a mistake with that and turn back when you find you haven’t had it quite right. If we don’t get it right, things will be lost forever.”
The commission’s vote of 9 to 1 to deny the proposed development halts a 20-year battle between preservationists and developers – if only for a while. Developers can resubmit another set of substantially different plans to the commission in six months with a fee of at least $250,000.
Earlier in the day, project managers for the proposed housing and retail project at Banning Ranch described the latest recommendation from the California Coastal Commission staff for Banning Ranch as an illegal land grab.
Some Economics;
Winners from stopping the development?
1. The ecosystems and creatures that inhabit the land parcel
2.  The incumbent homeowners who face less competition for their scarce assets.  Read my paper;
Kahn, Matthew E. & Vaughn, Ryan & Zasloff, Jonathan, 2010. “The housing market effects of discrete land use regulations: Evidence from the California coastal boundary zone,” Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 269-279, December.

The Losers include; those who are eager for the industrial site to be cleaned up and those who would be able to buy and afford a coastal property if the development project does take place.  
I have wanted to write a paper on the voting dynamics of the CCC’s rulings but I haven’t had the strength to collect the panel’s membership overtime.  If I knew their names and their years of service, you could reconstruct the panel’s composition.

A UC Berkeley PHD student should go to downtown San Fran and go collect the lifetime composition of this committee.
From knowing their names, an interesting question pertains to what “vector of attributes you could know about the person”? For example, you could know age and gender and ethnicity from the name but you wouldn’t know his/her political ideology, degree of environmental sympathies or potential for conflict of interest by being influenced by developers.  You also wouldn’t know the person’s field of expertise such as lawyer versus economists.
More generally, when panel decisions are made — -how do individuals make their choices and what group dynamics play out within the panel?  
Cass Sunstein has studied this for legal decisions.


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