Beach sore spot rises again

Beachfront encroachments — an issue that has for years been a sore spot between Newport Beach homeowners, the city and the California Coastal Commission — are back on the city's radar after property owners on East Oceanfront were notified last year that they were in violation of the Coastal Act and the city's Coastal Land Use Plan.

Fifteen homeowners in the Peninsula Point area were notified that their landscaping or hardscape improvements extending onto public beach areas needed to be removed, a staff report said.

But as has been the case with encroachments in other parts of town, those homeowners didn't take kindly to the notices.

So city staffers have facilitated meetings with residents and commission staff to try to come up with "a comprehensive solution."

Jim McGee, a lawyer who has represented homeowners in similar situations throughout the city, sent a detailed letter to city staff proposing a solution that mirrors the city's West Oceanfront Encroachment Program, created in 1990.

It would allow limited encroachments, but only in exchange for mitigation fees to be used for additional public parking and improved beach access for the public, according to the report.

Though another 43 properties were identified as having encroached on public property, the commission agreed to hold off on sending notifications of violations to those homeowners, acknowledging that a more comprehensive solution is in the works.

After a study session and a brief discussion on the matter Tuesday evening, the Newport City Council voted to pitch the McGee and city staff-proposed solution to the Coastal Commission.

Councilman Ed Selich voted against moving ahead without first working more with the commission to develop the encroachment program.

The issue likely will come before the council again in the coming months.

Twitter: @jillcowan

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