Los Angeles Times

Corona del Mar Today: Fire chief explains fire maps

Newport Beach Fire Chief Scott Poster met with about 40 residents Wednesday evening, explaining the seemingly flip-flopping position that Corona del Mar has on state fire hazard maps.

State law requires the Newport Beach City Council to adopt a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone Map with special building and landscaping requirements for homes within the map.

The state's maps, which the council considered in January, originally included most of Newport Coast as well as homes along Buck Gully and Morning Canyon and stretched from Orchid down to Crystal Cove. But the City Council declined to vote on that map, asking for more public outreach and refinement.

Poster, who was sworn in as chief last month after that council meeting, told the group at the OASIS Senior Center that he spent time reviewing the fire hazard zone, flying over it in an Orange County Fire Authority helicopter, as well as studying maps, reviewing weather and wind conditions, and more.

As a result of his studies, he suggested that most of Corona del Mar be removed from the fire hazard maps.

"We're proposing to the state that their cautions are different than our calculations," he said.

About 270 homes along Morning Canyon and mid- and Lower Buck Gully already are in fuel modification zones, which means city fire officials inspect and require clearing vegetation to limit fuel supplies in case of a wildland fire. Those restrictions are adequate, he said, without adding the homes to the state fire maps, which would mean even stricter landscaping and building requirements.

Homes along Upper Buck Gully would remain on the state's maps, he said.

The Corona del Mar Residents Assn. hosted the meeting.


Vegetation returning to Lower Buck Gully

Crews are spraying the slopes above Lower Buck Gully with seeds, revegetating the area after completing most of an erosion project that began last September.

The $2-million project used a series of multi-layered cages filled with rocks that were designed to divert and slow water as it flows from Upper Buck Gully toward Little Corona Beach. The goal was to protect the hills on Evening Canyon and Hazel Drive from collapse.

Crews built a temporary road down to the creek bed before spending months adding the cages and rocks. They also removed invasive plants and wildlife, and plans include capturing non-native cowbirds and moving them to another area.

The hydroseed spray is part of plans to revegetate the canyon slopes with native plants.


Show face at bank

Hats, hoods and sunglasses are banned in Union Bank in Corona del Mar, according to a sign in the window.

"This is a bank-wide policy that's been in effect since 2008," bank spokeswoman Tanya Peebles-Hill wrote in an email.

The sign at the branch at 2865 E. Coast Hwy. states, "For Your Safety and Ours we ask you please No Hats NO Hoods NO Sunglasses."

This branch had a robbery Jan. 28 where the suspect wore a beanie and dark sunglasses. Police continue to investigate the robbery, and no arrest has been made, said Kathy Lowe, a Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman.

Other banks don't have official dress codes but may ask a customer to remove a hat or glasses, two bank spokeswomen said.


Police to crack down on texting drivers

April is Distracted Driving Awareness month, and the Newport Beach Police Department is planning a zero tolerance campaign against drivers who text or operate hand-held cell phones during the month, according to a department announcement.

The minimum ticket cost is $159, with subsequent tickets costing at least $279, police said.

Newport Beach will join more than 225 other agencies, along with the California Highway Patrol, in issuing tickets to texting and distracted motorists.

"Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to enforce zero tolerance," Police Chief Jay Johnson said in a statement. "Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159, or worse, injuring or killing someone?"

Police said drivers using hand-held phones are four times as likely to get into crashes that cause injuries, and drivers younger than 20 have the highest number of fatal crashes related to distracted driving. Other studies have shown that texting can delay a driver's reaction time as much as being legally drunk, the statement said.


Chamber seeks 5K sponsors

The Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce is looking for sponsors for the 31st annual Scenic 5K Race on June 2.

More than 3,500 participants are expected for this year's event, according to a chamber email.

"All proceeds assist in funding youth and senior programs sponsored by the city of Newport Beach Recreation and Senior Services Department and community event programs hosted by the Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce," the email states.

For sponsorship packet information, call (949) 673-4050.


Twitter: @coronadelmartdy

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