Newport approves plan to remove some beach encroachments on Balboa Peninsula

It’s an issue that for years has caused headaches for homeowners along the Balboa Peninsula, but now a plan by the city of Newport Beach looks to be moving the challenge of beachfront encroachments toward a resolution.

Encroachments typically are grass or other plants but sometimes consist of walkways, patio furniture and yard adornments that in some cases extend up to 65 feet beyond the property line and onto the beach.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a plan to allow 66 properties with beach encroachments between 1400 E. Ocean Front and the Wedge in the Peninsula Point community to keep those that are up to 15 feet onto the public right of way.

Encroachments past 15 feet would be removed in stages over a three-year period, city staff said.

The California Coastal Commission will have to sign off on the plan before any encroachments can be removed, said Newport Beach Community Development Director Kim Brandt.

The city would put up the money to remove encroachments past 15 feet and the homeowners would pay reimbursement. The total cost of the removal and maintenance is estimated at $210,000.

It’s not clear how long many of the encroachments have been in place, but some estimate they have been around since at least the 1960s.

Jim McGee, a lawyer who represents Peninsula Point homeowners, said the residents strongly favor the city’s plan.

“We look forward to working with the city to seek Coastal Commission approval,” he said. “While it’s never easy to get Coastal Commission approval, we feel confident that a unified approach with the city and homeowners will enhance the outcome.”

Encroachments along the beach came to the forefront in 2012 when the Coastal Commission issued notices of violation to 15 properties along East Ocean Front on Peninsula Point whose landscaping had crept onto the public beach in violation of the state Coastal Act.

An additional 43 properties were identified as having encroached on public property, but the commission agreed to hold off on sending violation notices to those owners after the city indicated it was working on a more comprehensive solution to the issue.

Under the plan, homeowners who want to keep their 15-foot encroachments would have to pay an annual fee that would help fund beach access improvements. The exact cost hasn’t been determined, but it could range from $728 to $3,656 annually, depending on the depth of the encroachment, according to city staff.

Staff suggested the council wait to adopt a set fee for encroachments until the Coastal Commission has weighed in on the issue.

Encroachment fees could help pay for the Balboa Peninsula shuttle that is expected to be running next summer. The money also could be spent on improving the boardwalk transition at E Street to Ocean Boulevard, improving pedestrian and bicycle access in McFadden Square, additional parking on the peninsula, improving beach access for the disabled, safety improvements to the boardwalk or additional lifeguards on the beach, according to Brandt.

“This is a range of menu options that could be considered by the City Council at a later date,” Brandt said.