Hotel to add 23-story tower, renovate current sections

The Wyndham Orange County hotel is set to undergo its largest expansion in history, as the Costa Mesa City Council voted Tuesday to approve the hotel’s addition of a 23-story residential tower and renovation of its lobby, rooms and restaurant.

The hotel is expected to close during the construction, which developer Howard Zelefsky said would take up to two years to complete. He added, though, that it would likely be more than a year before the crews began work. Wyndham General Manager Tom Smalley said many of the hotel’s community partners were thrilled that they could use its services for the coming months.

 Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza rose early in the morning — though not as early as some shoppers — the day after Thanksgiving, as the shopping centers prepared for the onslaught of customers on one of the busiest retail days of the year.

Despite dour predictions from the National Retail Federation and others about slow holiday growth, both shopping centers drew steady crowds throughout the day. Each center opened its first store at 5 a.m. and had employees park off site to free up spaces for customers.

Many shoppers said they braved the crowds on “Black Friday” to get a leg up on the holiday season. Others, though, just wanted to take in the scene.

“It’s fun just to be with the crowds and see all the action,” said Greg Zimmerman, a financial officer from Newport Beach who ventured to South Coast Plaza with his wife and son. “It’s kind of a sense of camaraderie.”


Students take five-day break, recognize their blessings

It was a short week for kids in the Newport-Mesa school district with the Thanksgiving holiday giving students a five-day break. Tuesday offered kids across the district a preview of what they had coming on Thursday with many schools hosting their own Thanksgiving feast. Some students could be seen donning pilgrim hats and bonnets during their afternoon feast, which at Paularino Elementary included turkey, rolls and vegetables. No Thanksgiving celebration would be complete without the kids recognizing all they appreciated, which many were more than happy to talk about.


Police reiterate legal gravitas of fleeing accident scenes

Costa Mesa police recently arrested at least five OCC students on suspicion of hit-and-run offenses.

All have been misdemeanors causing property damage and no injuries, but leaving an accident scene is considered a crime like any other, police said.

At least 13 hit-and-runs on campus have been reported to Costa Mesa police since January, and another 49 were reported in the same amount of time to campus police.

Thirteen of those reported to campus police were made in September.

Convictions for leaving the scene of an accident can lead to six-month prison sentences, $1,000 fines or both.

 An autopsy report released Tuesday on a Huntington Beach woman killed in an Oct. 7 crash on Adams Avenue in Costa Mesa showed she was drunk and had traces of marijuana in her blood, authorities said.

Sarah Noel Harris’ blood-alcohol level was .14, above the legal limit of .08, authorities said.

It is not clear whether the marijuana affected her driving, authorities said.

Harris lost control of her car, a late-model Audi, while swerving through traffic on Adams Avenue with her boyfriend was driving nearby, police said.

Harris’ boyfriend told investigators he and Harris had been drinking that morning at Billy’s on the Beach in Newport Beach, police said. The boyfriend has not been charged or cited in connection with the accident.


‘Turkey Bowl’ marks Thanksgiving tradition

What would Thanksgiving be without a little football?

Most of us watch it, but a group of buddies who grew up together actually get out there annually since 1993 and toss the old football around. Not just to burn off calories, but to renew friendships with their traditional “Turkey Bowl” game.

But the game isn’t about breaking records or settling rivalries, organizer Duncan Calegari said.

“We’re just thankful about being together and sharing a part of a great tradition,” he said during a sideline Gatorade break at Kaiser Elementary School. “That’s what this is about: family and friends.”

Players from the close-knit group of friends came from all over — Temecula, Chicago and even from overseas.

“I used to live here and play in the Turkey Bowl [in high school], but I moved back to Europe,” Brian Shortt said with an Irish brogue. “I try to make it back every year, but this is my first time back in three.”

The final score was 43-21, by the way.

Soup kitchen still cares, but now for up to 1,200 people

Someone Cares Soup Kitchen volunteers prepared enough Thanksgiving meals for up to 1,200 of the area’s needy, a big jump from the 30 meals served the first year, 21 years ago.

It was a poignant afternoon for volunteers who served for the first Thanksgiving since the death of Merle Hatleburg, the soup kitchen’s founder. Her presence was felt, though.

“There’s such a sense of peace, and I know it’s because she’s looking over and providing for us right now,” Hatleburg’s granddaughter Shannon Santos said.

Michael Kang, chef and owner of Five Feet restaurant in Laguna Beach, has volunteered with the Someone Cares kitchen for about 15 years. This year, the chef and his army of volunteers prepared most of the meal in the parking lot of his restaurant.

“I want to do as much as I can, and this is very little as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I’m just giving back.”


Ballot title changed to reflect neutrality on issue

Corona del Mar’s Chamber of Commerce treasurer removed the organization’s name from a ballot argument against City Hall in the Park ballot initiative. Bernie P. Svalstad removed the title “Vice President-Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce” from the argument against the ballot initiative, signed Oct. 23. Svalstad said he acted alone when he requested the change. Svalstad is now listed as the former chairman of the Corona del Mar Centennial Foundation on the document.

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