A house with a history

The single-story ranch house at the end of Irvine Avenue offers a commanding view from its perch above West Coast Highway.

The bay, Duffy boats and an enviable slice of coastline are visible from the 3,166-square-foot home built in 1965 at 2201 Cliff Drive. Few things set the 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house apart from the rest of the quiet Newport Heights neighborhood.

Except, that is, for the hole in the front, caused by a suspected drunk driver who came crashing through the garage Sunday night.

It wasn't the first time, and residents were describing a sort of deja vu this week.

In 2006, drunk driver Jesse Thompson evaded police, speeding through stop signs as he approached Cliff and Irvine. His Volvo hit a parked Ford truck, propelling it into the garage, killing Helen Chu, 26, of Cerritos.

Thompson was later convicted of evading police, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and inflicting great bodily harm. He is serving a 12-year sentence at Corcoran State Prison, according to court documents and prison records.

Although no one died in Sunday's crash, not everyone escaped unscathed. Michael Joseph Anderson, the driver of the vehicle, a silver GMC Sierra, went to Santa Ana's Western Medical Center with minor injuries, according to police. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

"I feel terrible for them, the people leasing this house," said next-door neighbor David Grant. "They're very nice people."

The lessee and the home's owner could not be reached for comment.

Many chalk up the two events as an odd, unfortunate coincidence — a consequence of the home's unusual location. As the home is repaired, the city will mull changes to the street and general area that include a larger stop sign, or signs warning approaching drivers.

Grant remembered that about 10 years ago the neighborhood's landscape looked a bit different, with a roundabout stationed in the middle of the T-shaped intersection.

Many drivers ended up traveling clockwise around the small traffic circle, causing headaches, rather than safer conditions, Grant said.

It was gone within about two months, Grant said.

"[The roundabout] would have done no good at all," he said of Sunday's accident. "There's no accounting for people when they drink."

Newport Beach Public Works Director David Webb echoed Grant's sentiments.

"You can't design for that kind of reaction," Webb said.

As the city examines whether anything can be done in the area to improve traffic safety, Webb said more street lights are one consideration, although many residents are adverse to the addition of bright lights.

The fact that two accidents happened at the same spot years apart is more happenstance than trend, Webb said.

What, if anything, needs to change remains unclear.

"It's hard to say what would do it," Grant said. "They have to do something because now the house has a reputation."


Twitter: @lawilliams30

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