Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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frequently asked questions (faq)
 1. What is the Coastal Zone?
 2. Is my property in the Coastal Zone?
 3. What is the Local Coastal Program (LCP)?
 4. Why did the City have the LCP certified?
 5. Did the LCP certification affect what I can do to my property?
 6. What happens after the LCP is certified?
 7. How did the LCP get certified?
 8. What types of projects require a coastal development permit (CDP)?
 9. How do I obtain a CDP??
10. What is the Cat Ex?
11. I want to know more about the Coastal Act...



1. What is the Coastal Zone?

The Coastal Zone was established by the California State Legislature as part of the Coastal Act of 1976. The Coastal Act requires a coastal development permit (CDP) for most development within the Coastal Zone. The City received certification of its Local Coastal Program (LCP) and can issue CDPs for most projects.


2. Is my property in the Coastal Zone?

About forty-seven percent (47%) of the City’s land area is in the coastal zone. Click here to search for an address. You may also review the Coastal Zoning Map here.

3. What is the Local Coastal Program (LCP)?

The Local Coastal Program (LCP) is a coastal management plan mandated by the California Coastal Act of 1976. A LCP contains land use, development, public access, and resource protection policies and regulations that implement the Coastal Act at the local level. It is comprised of a Land Use Plan (LUP) and Implementation Plan (IP). Every local government in the coastal zone (61 cities and 15 counties) is required to prepare a LCP and submit it to the California Coastal Commission for review and approval. The City received certification of its LCP with an effective date of January 30, 2017.

4. Why did the City have the LCP certified?

Prior to certification, residents and business owners with projects requiring a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) were required to apply to and have their projects approved by the Coastal Commission. Certification of the City’s LCP allows the City to issue these permits, in most instances. This has meant:

  • Newport Beach Control
  • Greater Accessibility to Staff
  • Faster Processing time
  • Lower Permit Costs

After certification, the majority of CDP applications are being processed by the City, instead of the Coastal Commission South Coast District Office in Long Beach, which covers all of Orange County and parts of Los Angeles County. In addition to the convenience of filing at Newport Beach City Hall, CDP applications are handled by your open and responsive Community Development Department staff. Your Community Development staff also has a strong record of processing applications within established timeframes, which means your CDP application can be processed in weeks, not months. All this will translate into less time and lower application costs. 

The CDP hearings are be conducted in Newport Beach. Depending on the nature of a proposal, CDP approval may be issued by the City’s Zoning Administrator, Planning Commission, or City Council. Currently, CDPs have to be approved by the Coastal Commission, which only meets once a month in different locations across the State. The Coastal Commission also attempts to schedule hearings in the region of a proposed development, which often delays project hearings for months. 

5. Did the LCP certification affect what I can do to my property?

Most of the LCP content is taken from the City’s Zoning Code. Therefore, land use, setbacks, height limits, floor area limits, off-street parking, and other development regulations are unchanged. More importantly, if your property is outside of the coastal zone  or you have a project that does not require a CDP, the LCP certification had no affect your property. 

If you do have a project that requires a CDP, the LCP provides a set of procedures for obtaining a CDP from the City. Like the Coastal Commission, the City will ensure that the CDP is issued in conformance with the policies Coastal Act. Therefore, issues of land use, public access, and protection of resources will have to be addressed as appropriate for Newport Beach. 

6. What happens after the LCP is certified?

The Coastal Commission will only retain CDP authority in “Original Jurisdiction Areas,” which includes submerged lands and tidelands (areas below the mean high tide line), and on certain public trust lands. 

The Coastal Commission will also serve as an appellate authority in certain areas. So, a CDP approved by the City in an appeal area can be appealed to the Coastal Commission. These appeal areas include properties

  • Between the sea and the first public road paralleling the sea
  • 300 feet from a beach or of the mean high tide line, whichever is greater distance
  • 100 feet of streams and wetlands
  • 300 feet of top of seaward face of coastal bluff

Coastal Development Permit and Appeal Jurisdiction Map

 7. How did the LCP get certified?

LCP certification oversight was provided by the General Plan/Local Coastal Program Implementation Committee. This committee consisted of three City Council Members, three Planning Commission members, and one member-at-large. After reviewing an administrative draft of the LCP Implementation Plan, it directed staff to proceed with a series of community workshops to present the LCP Implementation Plan and receive comments. 

The community workshops were organized around issues and geographic area. In order to promote the widest possible public participation, notice of each workshop was provided via mail, press releases, and electronic media. Study sessions on the LCP Implementation Plan by the Harbor Commission, Planning Commission and City Council were also conducted concurrently with community workshops. 

Input received from the community workshops and study sessions led to revisions to the Draft LCP Implementation Plan. Public hearings were then conducted by the Planning Commission and the City Council, as well as the Coastal Commission. See below for a summary timeline of the public hearing dates.

11/10/15 - City Council Approves LCP Implementation Plan and Authorizes submittal to the California Coastal Commission for certification

04/14/16 - Coastal Commission approves minor modifications to the Coastal Zone boundary

09/08/16 - Coastal Commission approves LCP with modifications

10/25/16 - City Council Study Session on LCP modifications

11/04/16 - Coastal Commission hearing on extension of the Categorical Exclusion Order

11/08/16 - City Council LCP hearing

11/22/16 - City Council LCP second reading

01/30/17 - City’s LCP Implementation Plan is effective

8. What types of projects require a CDP?

The Coastal Act requires any person who wishes to perform or undertake any development in the coastal zone  to obtain a CDP. The Coastal Act definition for “development” is extremely broad, including erection of structures, grading, changes in the density or intensity of land use, subdivisions, construction, reconstruction, demolition, or alteration of the size of structures, and the removal of major vegetation. In short, just about everything. Fortunately, the Coastal Act provides exemptions from CDP requirements for common types of development, such as improvements to existing structures, and repair and maintenance. These exemptions are incorporated into the City’s LCP. 

The Coastal Act also allows the Coastal Commission to exclude categories of projects that will not result in a potential for any significant adverse effect on coastal resources or on public access from CDP requirements. One of these categorical exclusions has been in effect in the City’s coastal zone since 1977. This “Cat Ex” excludes single-unit and two-unit projects from CDP requirements, with the exception of the first row of lots on the shoreline and the Bay Shores Community. The “Cat Ex” has also been incorporated in the LCP. 

9. How do I obtain a CDP?

The City has a helpful informational handout and listing of all application requirements found here. You may also contact a planner at 949-644-3204 for additional information.

10. What is the Cat Ex?

Certain categories of development are excluded from the need to obtain CDPs, provided they comply with certain condition. Excluded developments are the demolition or construction of single-family residences and duplexes including appurtenant development within residential zones provided that these locations are not abutting beaches, Newport Harbor, Upper Newport Bay or coastal bluffs. The Coastal Commission approved Categorical Exclusion Order CE-5-NPB-16-1 in 2017 authorizing the exclusion and they established the conditions under which a project can proceed without the need to obtain a CDP. A map of these qualifying areas can be found here - Categorical Exclusion Map (See Categorical Exclusion Zone layer). The required conditions are summarized as follows:

  • Lot Coverage – structures shall not exceed 1.5 times the buildable area of the lot.
  • Parking – two parking spaces shall be provided for each unit and they shall be provided from an alley to the maximum extent practical.
  • Housing opportunities for as many renter- and owner-occupied households as possible in response to the demand for housing in the City. 
  • Density – duplexes may only be allowed on lots of 2,400 square feet or greater. 
  • Applicable Zoning – development shall comply with applicable zoning unless otherwise limited by the Categorical Exclusion Order.  
  • Implementation – notification of the California Coastal Commission shall be made at an appropriate point within the City review process and construction shall not commence within 5 working days of receipt of the notice by the California Coastal Commission. 
  • Public Trust Lands – if a competent agency or court determines that any lands excluded by this Categorical Exclusion Order are subject to the public trust, the Categorical Exclusion Order is inapplicable to those public trust lands.

11. I want to know more about the Coastal Act...

In 1972, the United States Congress passed the Coastal Zone Management Act (Title 16 U.S.C. 1451-1464). The CZMA declared a national policy “to preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance, the resources of the Nation's coastal zone for this and succeeding generations.” The CZMA sought to encourage and assist States to develop and implement management programs for the use of coastal land and water resources, “giving full consideration to ecological, cultural, historic, and esthetic values as well as the needs for compatible economic development.” 

The Coastal Zone Conservation Act (Proposition 20) was approved by a 55.2 percent vote in 1972. It prohibited development 1,000 yards inland from California's mean high tide without a permit from a regional or state coastal commission. It created a temporary California Coastal Zone Conservation Commission and six regional commissions to develop a statewide plan for coastal protection. The California Coastal Plan was submitted to the Legislature in 1975 and led to the passage of the California Coastal Act in 1976. 

The Coastal Act established the permanent California Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission’s mandate is to protect and enhance the resources of the coastal zone mapped by the Legislature. Coastal Commission membership is composed of twelve voting members, appointed equally by the Governor, the Senate Rules Committee, and the Speaker of the Assembly. Half of the voting commissioners are locally elected officials and half are representatives of the public at large. The Coastal Commission also has four ex officio (non-voting) members representing the Resources Agency, the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, the Trade and Commerce Agency and the State Lands Commission. 

The Legislature found that “to achieve maximum responsiveness to local conditions, accountability, and public accessibility, it is necessary to rely heavily on local government and local land use planning procedures and enforcement.” Therefore, implementation of Coastal Act policies is accomplished primarily through the preparation of a Local Coastal Program (LCP) by the local government that is reviewed and certified (approved) by the Coastal Commission. An LCP typically consists of a Land Use Plan and an Implementation Plan. The Land Use Plan indicates the kinds, location, and intensity of land uses, the applicable resource protection and development policies, and, where necessary, a listing of implementing actions. The Implementation Plan consists of the zoning ordinances, zoning district maps, and other legal instruments necessary to implement the land use plan. Any amendments to the certified LCP will require review and approval by the Coastal Commission prior to becoming effective. 

After certification of an LCP, coastal development permit authority is delegated to the appropriate local government. The Coastal Commission retains original permit jurisdiction over certain specified lands, such as submerged lands, tidelands, and public trust lands, and has appellate authority over development approved by local government in specified geographic areas and for major public works projects and major energy facilities. In authorizing coastal development permits, the local government must make the finding that the development conforms to the certified LCP. Furthermore, after certification of the LCP, City actions on applications for Coastal Act authority to conduct certain types of development and development within certain geographic areas are appealable, to the Coastal Commission.