San Clemente’s Casa Romantica celebrates stability, progress in wake of landslide

Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente..
A landslide damaged the historic Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens and sent dirt and debris cascading down a hillside toward coastal railroad tracks on April 28, 2023, in San Clemente. On April 27 of this year, a soiree was held there to celebrate its progress and resilience.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, May 8. I’m Carol Cormaci, back from a brief visit to Arizona’s spectacular red rock country, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at some of the latest local news and events. My sincere thanks go to my colleague Gabriel San Román for picking up the newsletter pen while I was away. He also apparently found the time to write a number of interesting stories, some of which you’ll find noted below. Bravo!

San Clemente’s Casa Romantica, damaged in late April 2023 when the bluff it is perched atop gave way, collapsing its ocean terrace and leading to the yellow-tagging of its main salon, is nonetheless still hanging in there one year later, according to this follow-up story by San Román.

When early reports came out about the landslide, city officials advised closing the iconic cultural center, a registered historic landmark built in1927 by San Clemente’s founder, Ole Hanson. (It was decades later that it became the cultural center it is today, thanks to a generous donor.)


After the disaster, work began on removing mounds of debris left behind by the bluff’s collapse, and engineers got to work on plans to shore it back up. There was also the matter of the railroad tracks that were buried by rubble, where construction recently got underway to build a barrier wall to protect them.

A few weeks after the slide, Chris Duncan, who was then serving a term as mayor of San Clemente, told San Román for a story he was writing for The Times that it would “take time” to rebuild Casa Romantica. Estimates for stabilizing the slope and repairing structural damages to the building pegged the work at around $7 million to $8 million.

It partially reopened on Memorial Day weekend in 2023. Days later, another landslide occurred below the 2.5-acre estate.

“By then, a wave of cancellations cost the cultural center much needed wedding and event ticket revenue,” San Román reports.

The community rallied, fundraisers were held in support of its $500,000 “Building Hope, Preserving History” campaign, and the center regained its equilibrium.

In fact, since the bluff gave way, Casa Romantica has carried on with six garden renovations, exhibited 150 pieces of visual art and hosted 70 cultural events, according to San Román.

On the evening of April 27, the cultural center was host to a spring soiree in celebration of its resilience and progress.

“We didn’t focus on what we’ve lost,” said Kylie Travis, who serves as co-executive director of Casa Romantica’s nonprofit with Jacqui Groseth. “We put together the event so that no matter where people went on site, they would have more information about what we have accomplished.

“It’s a long haul,” she told the reporter. “We have made a comeback, we’ve made a lot of progress, but we still do need support from the community.”


Isa Bahu leans against a railing overlooking a vacant lot in Anaheim.
Isa Bahu leans against a railing overlooking a vacant lot in Anaheim where he sought to build an Arco gas station. In a federal lawsuit against the city, he claims a “civil conspiracy” denied him that opportunity.
(Eric Licas )

• The city of Anaheim and former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Todd Ament are the targets of a federal lawsuit alleging city power brokers engaged in a “civil conspiracy” against a proposed gas station. In this TimesOC piece published Monday, San Román, who for some years has been following the machinations of disgraced former Anaheim mayor Henry Sidhu, explains the background leading up to the suit. Specifically, he details the futile efforts of the plaintiff, Isa Bahu, who has sought for several years to put an Arco station on land near the intersection of Imperial Highway and La Palma Avenue. Although Bahu gained the required approval of the Anaheim Planning Commission, an appeal to the City Council resulted in his plans being thwarted. “The suit, which was filed on April 26, claims that the conspiracy was related to bigger corruption scandals in the city that ‘enabled a den of vampiric fat cats’ and is to blame for foiling Bahu’s gas station, which would have competed with the Shell station owned by a Sidhu supporter,” San Román writes.

• O.C. Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen last week announced the hiring of Martin Plascencia, a veteran broadcast journalist long affiliated with Telemundo 52’s Orange County news bureau, to serve as a community outreach manager. “I wanted somebody who could feel comfortable with the Hispanic community to go out there and let them know about all the services that we provide at the Orange County Clerk-Recorder department,” Nguyen told TimesOC. In his new role, Plascencia will network with the Mexican Consulate, Latino organizations and colleges in helping to get the word out in Spanish about key services offered by Nguyen’s office, such as vital records, wedding ceremonies, passport photos, fictitious business name filings and more.

• Leaders at UC Irvine and Chapman University are among higher education officials statewide and across the nation who are grappling with pro-Palestinian protesters who have set up on-campus encampments to call for an end to Israeli military actions in Gaza. L.A. Times reporters Caroline Petrow-Cohen, Ashley Ahn and Hannah Fry took a look at how several Southland campuses are being affected by the encampments.


Officers investigate the scene of a double homicide and attempted suicide in Santa Ana.
A bloodied spear was found at the scene of a double homicide and attempted suicide in Santa Ana, though it is not clear if the spear was used in the attacks, police said Friday.

• A spear with blood on it was found at the scene of a double homicide and attempted suicide in Santa Ana on Thursday, the L.A. Times reported Friday. A woman called police at about 4:30 p.m. to report she and her uncle had been stabbed, according to Natalie Garcia, a spokeswoman for the Santa Ana Police Department. When they arrived at the scene in the 1200 block of East Chestnut Avenue, police found the woman and her uncle dead inside a storage facility, along with an injured man who authorities say is the suspect in the killings. Police could not say whether or not the spear was used in the attacks.

• A Newport Beach man was arrested April 27 for allegedly paying nearly $175,000 in illegal payments to receive referrals of patients to his sober living homes — a practice known as “body brokering,” according to authorities. Scott Raffa, 57, the founder and chief executive officer of Sober Partners Network, was taken into custody at the Los Angeles International Airport, according to the Daily Pilot report on the arrest.

• A man drowned while trying to swim across Fullerton’s Laguna Lake on Saturday, City News reported. Fullerton police and fire personnel were dispatched at about 7 p.m. “Upon arrival, police and fire personnel were notified that an adult male entered the lake, attempted to swim across, and was not seen exiting,” Kristy Wells of the Fullerton Police Department told CNS. A dive team from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department located the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene.


Ducks goalies coach Sudarshan “Sudsie” Maharaj holds a bell while standing with his wife and two daughters.
Ducks goalies coach Sudarshan “Sudsie” Maharaj celebrates being cancer-free with his wife, Yvonne, left, and daughters Alexandra and Katherine.
(Anaheim Ducks)

• During a jubilant family party held at his Toronto home over the weekend, Anaheim Ducks goaltender coach Sudarshan “Sudsie” Maharaj, who just a year ago was given a grim prognosis as he battled pancreatic cancer, announced he is cancer-free. Maharaj has been with the Ducks for more than a decade and has served as the goalies coach since 2016.

• Six Orange County women athletes were on the opposing teams Sunday when USC beat UCLA Sunday for its fourth straight NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship at Gulf Shores, Alabama. Playing for the Trojans were Newport Beach residents Grace Hong, Audri Nourse and Nicole Nourse. On the UCLA team were Laguna Beach resident Perri Brennan, Jessie Smith of Laguna Niguel and San Clemente’s Tessa Van Winkle.

• Once the dust settled, Jason Yang of San Pedro was declared the winner of the Hoag Orange County Marathon on Sunday, with a time of 2:25.11. But Yang came in behind Fountain Valley resident Esteban Prado, whose victory was disqualified after it was learned his father had handed him a bottle of water to drink during the race.

The city of Costa Mesa announced Friday it was in talks to bring the Las Vegas Raiders to town for their summer training camp this year. Last night, after this newsletter’s deadline, the City Council was expected to consider a one-year agreement during its regular meeting. The camp would be held at Jack Hammett Sports Complex, recently vacated by the Los Angeles Chargers, who had trained there since 2017. Under the proposed agreement, the Raiders would pay the city $165,000 in rent and would agree to make an estimated $600,000 worth of improvements to fields at the complex, according to this Daily Pilot story.


A spread with tea sandwiches, pastries, salad, teacups, a teapot, a glass of water and champagne.
The assorted and substantial lunch menu at the Tea House on Los Rios is extensive, with full-size entrees, several multicourse tea experiences, desserts, “young royal” experiences for children or even a plain-old pot of tea.
(Courtesy of the Tea House on Los Rios )

• A word to the wise: Don’t forget that Mother’s Day is Sunday. My colleague at TimesOC, Sarah Mosqueda, looked into afternoon tea service offerings in Orange County that could please any mom and narrowed in on four of the best for this feature story. The restaurants that made the cut are RAYA at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel; Knife Pleat in Costa Mesa, Hello Kitty Grande Cafe in Irvine and the Tea House on Los Rios in San Juan Capistrano.

• In commemoration of National Wildflower Week, Irvine Ranch Conservancy is holding a “Wildflower Takeover” on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages this week. The “Takeover” started Monday and runs through Saturday. Posts feature images and information about native wildflower species found on the landmarks, including cobweb thistle, longleaf bush lupine, southern bush monkey flower, California buckwheat, California goldfields, purple owl’s clover and black sage. Visit for more information.

Jessica Tran is a car detailer and digital media creator based out of her Studio 94 space in Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

• A 30-year-old Orange County entrepreneur, Jessica Tran, has found her bliss — and a huge following, thanks to TikTok — in running her own auto detailing business. For a feature story that was published over the weekend, my colleague Matt Szabo caught up with Tran and learned she first started detailing cars as a 16-year-old student Marina High School, when she worked on the weekends with her girls’ basketball coach. She went on to college but continued detailing cars on the side. Today she runs her business, Studio 94, in Huntington Beach.

• Organizers of the annual Orange County Fair are calling on all artists, growers and creators interested in entering the fair’s annual competitions, as entry deadlines are fast approaching. People of all ages are invited to submit entries into more than 20 categories, including visual arts, culinary, home arts and hobbies, horticulture and livestock. Separate divisions and competitions are available for youth-only entries. Deadlines for entries vary by competition and can be found, along with competition guidelines, at This year’s fair opens July 19.


A variety of beers
The South OC Microbrew & Seltzerfest on Saturday will celebrate Left Coast Brewing Co.’s 20th anniversary while raising funds for San Clemente’s military outreach programs.
(monticellllo /

• The South OC Microbrew & Seltzerfest for guests age 21-plus is set for this Saturday afternoon in the back lot of Left Coast Brewing Co., 1245 Puerta del Sol, San Clemente. The festival, which will showcase 20 different breweries, marks Left Coast’s 20th anniversary. Organizers promise unlimited tastings of beers and seltzers, food trucks from Wahoo’s Fish Taco, West Coast Hibachi and Savory Times, and Live Entertainment by Tunnel Vision. Hours are from 1 to 4 p.m., with noon admission for holders of VIP tickets. Admission prices are $75 VIP, $55 general early-bird admission and $70 at the door. Tickets can be purchased here. Proceeds will support San Clemente’s military outreach programs.

• A docent-led walking tour of Segerstrom Center for the Arts has been set for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15. The tour will take participants to areas rarely seen by the general public, including lobby spaces and the grand stage of Segerstrom Hall. Attendees will meet at the box office, located at the street level entrance to Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. To RSVP, contact Diane Pritchet at (714) 435-2109 or

• Might lawn bowling be up your alley? The Newport Harbor Lawn Bowling Club is hosting open houses on two Saturdays, May 11 and May 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days, to introduce visitors to the sport. The club is located at 1550 Crown Drive North, Corona del Mar. The invitation on the club’s website invites guests to arrive wearing “flat soled shoes and a smile.”

• Fountain Valley’s Crawfish Festival is coming up Friday, May 17, through Sunday, May 19, at Fountain Valley Sports Park. Hours are 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Master Chefs will prepare Louisiana-style crawfish along with Cajun potatoes, corn on the cob and remoulade dipping sauce. Advance tickets can be purchased here prior to May 17.


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