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Corona del Mar Today: Sidewalks being smoothed on Poppy Avenue

The "caution uneven sidewalk" signs on Poppy Avenue are gone — and so are the bumps caused by 80-year-old eucalyptus trees.

Crews began work this week to remove damaged sections of sidewalk and replace them with smooth stretches of concrete, a few weeks after 33 trees were removed after arborists said they were in danger of falling.

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City staff said they would work with residents on a reforestation plan that would include selection of new trees and redesigning the sidewalks and parkways.

Workers today said they were leveling the sidewalks on one side of the street this week and would return next week to complete the project.

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"The work includes removing the raised section of sidewalk adjacent to where the trees were removed and repairing a few sections of curb and gutter," said Mike Pisani, co-director of municipal operations for the city. "Once the sidewalk was removed, Great Scott Tree Service returned in certain locations to grind large roots from under the sidewalk."

The total cost, including contract services for root grinding and concrete saw cutting, as well as concrete materials and staff costs, is about $14,000, he said.

Two years ago, a neighbor in the 300 block of Poppy Avenue complained about one of the trees, calling it a dangerous nuisance, with people tripping on it. The bump also attracted skateboarders who would use it for dangerous stunts.

That tree, along with others in the block, had roots that uplifted the sidewalk, and in the 1980s, city crews replaced some sections of sidewalks with arched ramps.

The city's Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commission voted in 2013 to remove that particular tree and level that area of sidewalk, but former City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner appealed the decision, and the council later voted to ask staff for more options before making a decision.

The matter did not return to the City Council, and this summer, two independent arborists reported that many of the trees along Poppy Avenue were diseased or in danger of falling. City Manager Dave Kiff ordered their removal. Some residents asked for reconsideration, and a few trees were saved, temporarily.

*Developer says condos would decrease traffic

The Newport Center Villas project, a proposed seven-story, 49-unit condominium project that would replace a car wash at 150 Newport Center Drive, is on hold while an environmental impact report (EIR) is created, developer Tod Ridgeway explained during the Corona del Mar Residents Assn. meeting this week.

The meeting was supposed to include a slide show and presentation by the project's architect, but the architect did not show up.

Dennis O'Neil, a lawyer involved in the project, said the project was currently tabled while they work on the EIR, which would take a few months. The developers may return to a CdMRA meeting in the future to discuss it, they said.

The developers did show a series of photographs of views from Corona del Mar streets, including Goldenrod Avenue and Crown Drive, to show the minimal impact of the completed project on views.

Replacing a car wash with the residential units, O'Neil said, would reduce water usage and reduce traffic 75%.

"It puts residential in Fashion Island," he said. "We think that's important."

Resident Kenneth Jaggers attended the meeting and was critical of the project, particularly because it needed to have the land rezoned from commercial to residential, because it would allow the project to be built on one acre instead of 10 acres and because it needs a height variance of 50 feet.

"I have a problem with that," he said, adding that the Planning Commission seemed to be tougher on residents with smaller requests. "I have no problem with you building a commercial building on that site, but this is ludicrous."

Ridgeway said the community wanted more residential units in the Fashion Island area.

"It's a residential project, and there is a demand for it," he said. "We still think our project is gorgeous."

The units, he said, would be multi-million dollar units, and the complex would feature a view deck and pool.

Some members of the audience said they supported the project.

"We have a suspicious nature about developers, and that's too bad," said Elizabeth Torelli, a CdMRA board executive. "I think it's a wonderful project."

The Newport Center Villas project would demolish an existing 2,085-square-foot car wash and gas station on a 1.3-acre site, then build the condominium complex, which includes three stories of underground garage.

According to a Planning Commission staff report, the project would need a General Plan amendment to change the land use from commercial to multi-unit residential. The project also would need a waiver of the minimum site area of 10 acres, and the developer also requested an increase in height limit in order to build to 87 feet.

Corona del Mar Today appears Sundays in the Daily Pilot. Read daily updates at coronadelmartoday.com.

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