Corona del Mar Today: Diapers being dumped on Coast Highway

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A stretch of East Coast Highway in Corona del Mar has become the dumping ground for used adult diapers, but city officials say there's not much they can do unless they catch the culprits in the act.

The diapers first began to appear near the Cameo Highlands neighborhood in early summer, one resident said.

She asked her name not be published for fear of retaliation.

"I don't want them to Google me and leave poopy diapers at my house," she said.

"It's been probably eight months since I first noticed them," the woman said. "At first it only occurred every few months. Then it was every six weeks, and now it's been three times since December. This is a pattern."

On Dec. 3, there were about six to 10 diapers spread on the westbound lanes of East Coast Highway between Cameo Highlands Drive and Morning Canyon Road. The diapers were disintegrating and blowing in the wind as cars drove over them. They were clearly dirty, and eventually they were removed.

More diapers were dumped on Dec. 29, and then more were dumped sometime this week.

A few residents have called police to complain. The resident who spoke to Corona del Mar Today said she spoke to a Newport Beach municipal operations staff member who said the mess would be cleaned.

"He said it was unbelievable," she said. "I saw a bicyclist swerve to ride around one this week. It's not healthy at all. It's just bad."

Newport Beach's municipal code prohibits throwing garbage on streets and in public places, and fines start at $100.

"Unfortunately, from a code enforcement standpoint, this is considered littering or illegal dumping," said Tara Finnigan, a Newport Beach spokeswoman. "We need to catch someone in the act in order to cite them."

If anyone sees someone dumping diapers, police ask them to call general services at (949) 644-3055.

At a recent meeting of the Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission, resident Dan Purcell of Corona del Mar asked about whether East Coast Highway should have more frequent street sweeping because of the diaper problem.

Mark Harmon, Newport Beach municipal operations director, said his staff cleaned the diapers two hours after they were notified.

Staff also was working with code enforcement to find the perpetrator, he said.

"We believe it's from a collection vehicle," he said, which is collecting from a private firm that staff is trying to track down.

"We can only do so much," he told the commissioners.

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Pizza Royale closes after 24 years

Pizza Royale — known for its pastas, coconut cakes and accordion music parties every other Thursday night, has closed after 24 years in Corona del Mar.

Owner Philip Conte sold the business and is retiring, he said in an interview.

He plans to return to Italy, where he grew up between Rome and Naples, to work on a house he built there.

He might return in a few months and get back into the restaurant business, he said, but his plans are up in the air.

"I'm very, very sad, but it's like I'm happy," Conte said. "The last week, people came in and were so nice. For the past month, really. I took for granted how many loyal customers I had. I was overwhelmed."

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Fourth Ave. residents choose variety of trees

Residents along Fourth Avenue have selected to replace 33 Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees with five dwarf Southern magnolias, four African tulips and one gold medallion, a city official told the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission at a meeting Tuesday.

City experts chose the three trees and sent letters to residents asking them to pick what they prefer to have planted, said Mark Harmon, Newport Beach municipal operations director.

The letters went to 28 homeowners — some properties had more than one eucalyptus tree removed, he said — with 10 responses received.

Two homeowners said they didn't want any replacement tree, Harmon said.

"We've had people make comments that they like the new look" without trees, he said.

The blue gums were removed in October after inspections indicated that they were dangerous.

After the trees were chopped, crews spent weeks filling 4- to 5-foot holes that were "easily that big across," Harmon said.

They also replaced curbs and gutters that had been damaged by the tree roots or the removal process.

Homeowners who decide later they do want trees planted will be accommodated, but they may have to wait for money to be available for the trees, he said.

The magnolia trees that will be planted will be about 10 to 12 feet tall and cost $775 per tree, and the tulip trees will be about 8 feet tall and $225.

Corona del Mar resident Dan Purcell questioned the commission about why no native California trees were on the list, and he said his research showed that the African tulip tree was considered an invasive species that attracts bats.

"I won't disagree with what the gentleman said," Harmon said.

But the tulip trees have been planted in other areas of the city without problems.

"We will not put in trees that will drip sap or attract pests," he said.

Native California trees will be presented as options in the future as other parts of Newport Beach are reforested, he added. More than 100 blue gums were removed after the Sept. 15 death of 29-year-old Haeyoon Miller, who was killed when a blue gum fell on her car on Irvine Avenue.

The commissioners voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council change the tree designation on Fourth Avenue between Avocado and Poppy avenues from the Hong Kong Orchid to the new choices. If the council approves the change, the trees will be planted.

The commissioners also said Tuesday that they would tackle the issue of beach fire ring safety at their February meeting.

Twitter: @coronadelmartdy

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