EDITED to correct time of mayor’s Buck Gully walk.
About 250 people jammed Sherman Library & Gardens Wednesday evening for the Corona del Mar Annual Town Meeting, which included time to socialize, learn more about civic issues as well as hear updates and a speech from Mayor Nancy Gardner.
The evening also celebrated the Corona del Mar Residents Association’s 25th anniversary. The CdMRA and Corona del Mar Business Improvement District co-host the event.
“My great dream is this meeting right here,” said Debbie Allen, who was the groups first president. “This would not have happened 25 years ago. This is just amazing.”
Allen told the standing-room only crowd that in the mid 1980s, Corona del Mar was a divided community with no leverage in City Hall. Then Councilman Phil Sansone formed the CdMRA, and soon the city began to respond to the needs of the village, repaving alleys, fixing pot holes and more.
Mayor Gardner played a game with the crowd, asking for a show of hands for those who could remember longtime businesses and landmarks — The Original Snack Bar where Ruby’s now stands, Burger Island with 19 cent burgers where Gallo’s Italian Deli now is.
“We have some old-timers here,” she said, laughing.
But she quickly grew serious, describing the problems resulting from the rapid growth and development of a tiny beach town that once was surrounded by ocean and bean fields.
“Nobody understood the consequences,” she said. “If you pave everything, you’re starving the beach of sand. They didn’t know a lot of that, they just didn’t. In the 50s and 60s, we give them a pass.”
By the 1980s, however, everyone should have understood, she said, recalling a meeting she attended with then city leaders where she expressed concerns about Newport Coast development.
“We need to pay attention to Newport Coast,” she recalled saying. “It’s going to affect our beaches and canyons in a big way. The city manager just looked at me. I wasn’t a scientist, but I knew.”
Restoration, she said, is a misnomer.
“You can’t restore it,” she said. “The bad news is we have totally screwed up all our natural systems. We have to manage it. We have to have artificial programs to put sand on beaches.”
Gardner invited the group to join her on a May 12 walk along Upper and Lower Buck Gully to check out erosion problems and fixes. The walk begins at 9 a.m. and meets at the OASIS Senior Center.
The meeting also included an overview of the Corona del Mar entryway project. Several people asked questions about the plan’s removal of nine parking spots and where they will be replaced. Deputy Public Works Director Dave Webb said the spots would be replaced although it was not yet known where.
“Before I become a pedestrian in this village, I have to park somewhere,” one woman said.
The plan, which would move the squeeze lane, where three lanes reduce to two on East Coast Highway near MacArthur Boulevard, would improve the entryway by converting the former traffic lane to wider sidewalks and improved landscaping.
Webb said a traffic study of the plan could begin in July or August, but that no other action will be taken on the plans until the City Council begins budget discussions next month.
Before the program began, the crowd mingled in the gardens, drinking wine, snacking on chips and salsa and enjoying CdMRA 25th Jubilee birthday cake.
Attendees chatted with representatives from the Newport Beach Film Festival, the library, the police department and code enforcement. City Council members Keith Curry and Mike Henn attended, along with City Manager Dave Kiff, Police Chief Jay Johnson, Deputy Chief David McGill, Lt. Jay Short, Fire Marshal Ron Gamble, Fire Chief Scott Poster, Library Services Director Cynthia Cowell and Chamber of Commerce President Linda Leonhard.
Former Newport Beach Mayor Evelyn Hart also attended the event.
Planning Commissioner and CdMRA board member Mike Toerge praised current CdMRA President Karen Tringali.
“I want to salute Karen Tringali,” he said.
Tringali told the group, “We look forward to another 125 years of going forward with this.”