City, county and municipal governments often impose restrictions on the location and height of fences or hedges on residential and commercial properties. In the case of fences, there can even be restrictions as to the type of material that may be used in the construction of the fence.
For example, fences in residential zoned areas in the City of Newport Beach are forbidden from being constructed using barbed wire, electrical fences, razor wire, or other such dangerous and hazardous materials.
In Newport Beach, restrictions governing the construction and maintenance of fences, walls, and hedges are contained in Chapter 20.30, Section 20.30.040, of the Newport Beach Municipal Code.
Per Municipal Code 20.30.040, a fence, wall, or hedge may be no higher than 3.5 feet in the front setback area or any setback area adjacent or abutting the waterfront of Newport Bay, Pacific Ocean, the Old Channel of Santa Ana River, or the channels in West Newport.
In the rear or interior setback areas of the property, a fence, wall, or hedge may not be higher than 6 feet in areas zoned as residential or commercial, and may be no higher than 8 feet in areas zoned as industrial that are adjacent to residential uses.
For uneven property – defined in the Municipal Code as a property in which “the existing or proposed grade of a lot adjacent to the front setback area is more than twenty-four (24) inches above the adjacent sidewalk (of curb elevation where no sidewalk exists)”- the Municipal Code permits the construction of a retaining wall at the front property line, provided it is no more than 24 inches in height.
Exceptions do apply to these limits, however.
For example, if a residential property is adjacent to a nonresidential zoning area or commercial alley, Municipal Code 20.30.040(C)(4) provides that a fence, wall, or hedge on the residential side of the border may be up to 8 feet tall, so as to mitigate noise and protect privacy for residents on such properties.
Further exceptions in the Municipal Code pertain to fences surrounding swimming pools and spas. Municipal Code Section 20.30.040(3)(b)(i) allows exceptions to the 42-inch maximum height requirement based on the materials and design of the fence.
Specifically, fences and guardrails may be greater than 3.5 feet high if they are made of open grillwork, wrought iron, latticework, pickets, or something similar such at least 40% of the fence is open.
Additionally, the Municipal Code extends this exception for such fences in which glass or Plexiglas is used.