Corona del Mar Today: Parks commissioners to study beach fire pits

Newport Beach officials will study the safety of beach fire rings and whether they should be banned, nearly two years after the issue was tabled because of a storm of public outcry.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Gardner asked that the city's Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission put fire rings on a future agenda.

She cited a recent $500,000 claim against the city of Huntington Beach after a child was severely burned when he fell into a ring.

"Before I get all kinds of angry emails," Gardner said, "I'm making no recommendation. There's a spectrum from doing what we do now to no fire pits."

The council agreed to ask parks commissioners to study fire rings at a future meeting.

Two years ago, the City Council discussed whether to ban fire rings because of concerns of pollution.

Almost immediately, fans of fire rings began to email council members. A Facebook page called "Save the Big Corona Fire Pits!" was formed and currently has 1,801 fans.

By November 2009, Gardner asked that staff no longer make the fire ring ban a priority, saying that the passion on both sides was taking too much time when the city had budget concerns to address.

As of October 2009, there were 30 rings at Big Corona and 36 rings at the Balboa Pier. City officials did not immediately confirm whether that number has changed.

The Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission's next meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 4. The agenda is not yet posted.

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Patricia Beckman dies

G. Patricia "Pat" Beckman died earlier this summer in her Shore Cliffs home, sheriff's officials confirmed.

Beckman died of cardiovascular disease, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. She was 78.

Beckman's father was Arnold Orville Beckman, whose 1934 invention of the pH meter led him to found Beckman Instruments.

Arnold Beckman, who died in 2004 at age 104, also funded the first silicon transistor company, thus giving rise to Silicon Valley, according to Wikipedia.

Arnold Beckman also lived in Corona del Mar before his death. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation has given more than $400 million to various charities and organizations.

Pat Beckman was a director at The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, as well as a trustee for the UC Irvine Foundation and a senior trustee for the California Institute of Technology.

She was discovered dead in her home Aug. 18 when a worker became concerned and called police for a welfare check. The date of death is not known, Amormino said.

Several neighbors and friends described Beckman as a wonderful woman and a caring philanthropist.

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Officials provide Port Theater update

The Port Theater has been under construction for three years, but a completion date remains unknown, a city official told the Corona del Mar Residents Assn. this week.

Construction fences remain in place because "there is still construction going on internally," said Kimberly Brandt, Newport Beach community development director.

The owner has not applied for permits to serve alcohol, Brandt said. Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Gardner said the theater had a kitchen.

The theater, which opened in the 1950s, was slated for demolition a decade ago. The theater used to seat more 900 people, but its new occupancy will be 500, Brandt said. Bernie Svalstad, of the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District board, said he thought the theater would have about 250 seats and a flexible plan to arrange them depending on the event.

The theater has been designated a historical building, which means it must operate as a theater or lose that status and be required to provide additional parking.

Gardner said the theater was scheduled to open by the end of the year, but Brandt said no official completion date was known.

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Car show revs up at Big Corona

About 2,000 people attended the eighth annual Coastline Car Classic last weekend at Big Corona Beach.

They were checking out hot rods and vintage beauties and for the first time, in a nod to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, vintage military vehicles and other patriotic elements.

"Freedom is not free," said Richard Lopez of Tuscon, who created the Memorial on Wheels that was on display at the show.

Near the display of military vehicles, members of the 82nd Airborne WWII Living History Assn. talked to the crowd. Dressed in vintage paratroop uniforms, the men showed their vintage equipment and weapons to enraptured children and adults.

"We're teaching kids about World War II history," said Fred McDowell, a Costa Mesa firefighter. "Nowadays, those veterans are dying. Someday there will be no one left. We have to keep the stories alive."

Brian Roitman, 9, of Newport Beach, asked if he could try on the steel helmet — which was heavier than he thought. He also admired the old-style rifles.

"I've seen these things on TV," Brian said. "But to see it in person is cool. This is awesome."

Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce President Linda Leonhard called the show a success and added that she was glad to have Camp Pendleton Marines in attendance as guests.

This year the event also raised money for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.

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