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Commentary: Coastal Commission may act if council keeps meddling

February 08, 2014|By Michael Glenn

Recent City Council decisions on several key issues are going against the wishes of many Newport Beach residents and the Coastal Commission, which is tasked with protecting California's beaches against actions like these.

Newport is having several problems in which the Coastal Commission is being called upon to intervene. The two most publicized problems are the blackball issue and the fire rings but we also have the issue of raising rates on the Corona del Mar beach parking lot in hot dispute.

Some may say, "So let them get involved, who cares?" But the issue is much bigger than you might think. If the Coastal Commission begins getting involved in Newport Beach, we will lose control over the beloved beaches in our area and our unique beach personality.

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Let's review what this means for Newport now and in our future:

Who they are: The Coastal Commission was established to "protect, conserve, restore and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations."

What does this really mean? It means that it was created to ensure that people get equal access to the beach in a way that is nondestructive to the beaches that we all enjoy. They'll largely stay out of the way, as long as cities abide by some basic tenants of equal access, but Newport Beach has been catering to exceptionally small and vocal special interest groups.

The Blackball conflict: For 20 years (!), The Wedge and other Newport beaches have had loud complaints from board riders who are being excluded in the name of "safety" for nonboarders. There is a reason there is so much complaining: Boarders there are likely to spend more annual in-water-hours than nonboarders, yet they are taking a back seat when it comes to accessibility.

The fire rings conflict: The opponents to the fire rings invoke "health" as their main reason, saying that breathing in smoke is toxic to people who chose to purchase houses built in front of the pre-existing fire rings. Certainly, like breathing in car exhaust, breathing in smoke is not a healthy venture, but as in the case of cars, the benefit outweighs the risk. What this fringe eco-group has failed to do is to present any evidence quantifying how harmful this is. Without that data, our council is simply creating ordinances through knee-jerk reactions — not model for any city.

In both of these instances, and in the less-publicized beach parking cost issue, the Coastal Commission is being summoned to take a closer look. So what's the big deal? If the Coastal Commission decides to come in full bore, it will review all policies, events and amenities with a fine-tooth comb because Newport seemingly cannot handle keeping in line with state guidelines of accessibility.

If it does that, it will not leave anytime soon; the influence will not be temporary, nor will it be limited.

Newport's council needs to take a step back from blindly appeasing loud calls from a small faction of special interest groups, revisit these issues and demand sound and conclusive reasoning before issuing ordinances against its own people.

Newport's council needs to make decisions that don't negatively impact nearly as many beachgoers before this city's beaches face irreversible interference by the state.

City Council candidate MICHAEL GLENN lives in Newport Beach.

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