Newport’s plan to ease some home, business renovations moves to Coastal Commission

Newport Beach leaders took a step forward Tuesday with a plan that eventually could make it easier to renovate a home or business in town.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the city’s Local Coastal Program Implementation Plan, a regulatory document that the California Coastal Commission required all coastal cities to create to guide development in the state’s coastal zone. Roughly half of Newport Beach is in the coastal zone, which encompasses the city’s entire shoreline and includes areas such as the Balboa Peninsula, Balboa Island, Corona del Mar and the neighborhoods surrounding the Back Bay.

The plan likely will go before the Coastal Commission for approval next year, according to city staff. The 12-member commission, which is responsible for enforcing the state Coastal Act, has long asked cities along the coast to prepare programs to cover rules for development and protection of coastal resources. The local coastal programs are intended to give cities more control over projects in their areas, which would lessen the state agency’s workload.

“This is really an effort of local control,” Councilman Tony Petros said. “This will return the discretion and authority back to where it belongs ... the citizens of Newport Beach and their elected representatives.”

The city’s local coastal program consists of a land-use plan, which was certified by the Coastal Commission in 2005 and most recently updated in 2009, and an implementation plan.

Newport Beach residents who live in the coastal zone and want to complete a home renovation currently have to obtain permits from the city and the Coastal Commission. The process can take up to 18 months, according to city staff.

However, if the commission approves the city’s document as drafted, many homeowners who don’t live directly by the water would only need a city permit and wouldn’t have to wait for the state agency’s permission.

“We think we can do it much faster and much cheaper, and with our knowledge of the local area, complete it in a way that’s responsive to our local concerns,” said city Planning Manager Patrick Alford.

Owners of homes and businesses that are directly on public tidelands likely would still be required to go through the Coastal Commission as well as the city.

In all cases, permits issued by the city could still be appealed to the Coastal Commission, city staff says.

Newport Beach started crafting its document in the 1970s, and the Coastal Commission began pushing cities to finalize the plans in the early 2000s. Since then, the city has been paying fines of $12,000 annually because the commission has not yet approved its plan.