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NEWPORT BEACH : Wall Encroaching on Beach to Be Razed

Citing sensitive negotiations with the state to allow beachfront encroachments, the City Council has ordered a property owner to raze an oceanfront wall that extends less than a foot onto the public right of way.

The council denied its first appeal for a permit to allow an oceanfront wall on public property, effectively forcing the property owner, Tom Berean, to tear down the newly built wall, which encroaches about 8 inches onto the beach at Peninsula Point, within 30 days.

In addition to extending too far onto the sand, the wall is also 4 inches higher than allowed by the city.

Despite warnings from the city and his own contractor to move the wall back or apply for a permit, Berean told the council that he didn’t think he needed a permit because the city had previously approved his plans to build the house and the wall. The cost of removing and replacing the wall is estimated at about $20,000.

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“He has blatantly ignored us,” Councilman John C. Cox Jr. said before joining in a unanimous vote to deny the appeal. “We can’t allow that to happen.”

Attorney Mel Embree, who represents Berean, said the city’s denial of Berean’s final approval to complete a sidewalk outside his home prompted him to later apply for the permit.

He told council members Monday that in exchange for permission to leave his wall up, Berean would pick up the bill for replacing a concrete sidewalk near his home, saving the city up to $3,000.

Last fall, the council adopted a policy to help regulate the longstanding homeowner practice of building structures such as patios, spas and decks onto beachfront property. The policy allowed some structures to encroach up to 15 feet in some parts of the city, but not at all in others.

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However, the state Coastal Commission rejected the city’s plan in January and has since been meeting with local officials to devise a policy acceptable to the state agency.

The commission’s 12-member board regulates and approves coastal development across the state.

“Right now, I think it’s a very sensitive period of time,” City Manager Robert L. Wynn told the council Monday. “Granting of an encroachment permit to do this might be detrimental to negotiations with the state.”


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