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NEWPORT BEACH : Ruling Expected on Oceanfront Patios

The state Coastal Commission is expected to make a final decision Wednesday on an issue that has divided the community for more than a year and threatened to wash out oceanfront patios in the city.

The 12-member board will hear testimony from its own staff on the Coastal Act of 1976, which bars construction of private structures on public beaches without authorization. They also will hear from city officials who have adopted a policy allowing more than 200 oceanfront homeowners to extend patios up to 15 feet onto the sand if they pay an annual fee of $300 to $600.

The council adopted the policy in October after more than six heated public hearings that spanned a year.

The policy requires 295 homeowners who currently have patios, wooden decks, spas and fire pits that stretch up to 27 feet onto the beach to scale the structures back to 15 feet in some cases, and to seven feet in other cases. Those properties line three miles from the Santa Ana River to Balboa Peninsula.

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Residents also will be allowed to speak at Wednesday’s meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. in the recreation room of Burton W. Chace Park in Marina del Rey, said Vicky Komie, a program analyst for the commission.

Once testimony is complete, the board is expected to vote on the city’s policy.

If the board accepts it as written, it will become part of the city’s land-use plan filed with the commission, which regulates land use and development along the coast.

However, the commission last week issued a formal advisory report suggesting major revisions in the policy that could mean a beachfront sidewalk and encroachments of no more than five feet into the sand to improve public access to the beach.

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John Wolter, Newport’s cooperative-projects engineer, said the council has worked on the policy for more than a year in an attempt to avoid any legal action.

“We want everybody to work together on this,” he said.


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