Landscaper Ron Rogers mows a lawn on E. Ocean Front in Newport Beach. Technically… (Los Angeles Times )
People who live along the shimmering coastline of Southern California have found many creative ways over the years to discourage the public from using the parts of the beach they would prefer to consider their own. They have put up gates that block public access and have taken down signs that say "public welcome."
The latest gambit, by residents in Newport Beach, involves planting lawns and hedges, installing sprinkler systems and fire pits, and plopping down furniture and ornaments that spill over from their property onto the public beach.
Newport Beach is a city beach. Residents don't own anything beyond their property lines. Yet dozens of them have added landscaping that extends too far and essentially privatizes a chunk of public area, intimidating beachgoers from traipsing across land they have every right to enjoy.
City officials warned residents in 2006 about lawns creeping beyond property lines, but the issue remained unresolved. This year, the Coastal Commission sent out warning letters to the worst offenders, whose plantings and pavers extend as much as 30 and 40 feet onto the beach. The homeowners have not exactly rushed to comply. Some say they'll hire lawyers to fight the orders. Really? On what grounds?
It's simple: If you live on the edge of the sand in Newport Beach, you are living on the edge of a public beach. Pretending it's not by planting grass beyond your property is illegal. Unfortunately, the Coastal Commission doesn't have the power to issue fines. The attorney general essentially has to sue homeowners to extract penalties. And while this dance of threats continues, so do the encroaching lawns.
Unless, of course, homeowners do the right thing and rip up the grass and cart away the lawn jockeys. That's what they should do.