Corona del Mar Today: Officials still hoping for 'Restaurant Row'

Imagine driving down MacArthur Boulevard toward Coast Highway and seeing a quaint row of outdoor cafes with fountains and landscaping — and not a snarl of traffic as three lanes squeeze to two on the way into town.

"This would be a beautiful entrance," said Bernie Svalstad, chairman of the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District advisory board. "This is one of the main entrances to Newport Beach as well as to Corona del Mar. This could have a big impact."

Plans for "Restaurant Row" have been under consideration for years as part of the BID's ongoing beautification and vision plan for Corona del Mar, which dates back to 1999 and was revised in 2004. Part of the process included the relinquishment of Coast Highway from CalTrans to the city of Newport Beach in 2004, which allowed local officials to make improvements to medians along with other changes, like pedestrian crosswalks.

Recently local leaders have renewed their interest in the plans and are determined to take a proposal to the City Council in the next few months.

"Restaurant Row" would be created by reducing traffic to two lanes along Coast Highway, starting near Irvine Terrace instead of near Carnation Avenue — a change that traffic studies have shown would create less congestion in the area. The sidewalk would then be pushed out into the old traffic lane, creating a space for outdoor seating for about five restaurants in that area.

Jim Walker, owner of The Bungalow and another BID board member, said the changes would be good for business, but also they would create a vibrant village experience.

"It would almost be like the Gaslight area in San Diego," he said. "I don't know why we wouldn't want to do it."

Walker said he met recently with other restaurant owners in the area, and they all were "enthusiastic."

That doesn't mean the project is easy, he said. Restaurants that expand their seating capacity will need to create more parking, and the city will have to figure out who owns the new seating area that used to be part of Coast Highway. Landlords might not want to own it and pay extra property tax, so the city of Newport Beach could retain ownership and charge a nominal rental fee, Walker said.

Alcohol regulations, as well as grading where the highway slopes downward, all must be considered, Walker said.

Preliminary plans for the project could cost about $50,000, which the BID board members said the group could pay over two years. The project could cost as much as $1 million in total including construction, said Councilman Ed Selich. Walker said he could see that figure doubling.

For now, members of the BID board plan to review their plans and get a sense of actual costs, then work with city staff to come up with a plan to send to the City Council.

The Council would review and discuss the plans at a future Study Session, said Councilwoman Nancy Gardner.

Coming up with the money could involve some creativity, including looking at leftover money from Measure M or gas tax funds, Gardner said.

"It may not happen, but if we could get it in the pipeline, maybe we could get something going," she said.

She added that the BID should make sure to emphasize how such a project would benefit the entire city, not just a few business owners.

"It could be beautiful…something that benefits everyone," she said.

"Where there's a will, there's a way," Svalstad said.

Dog beach hours on Oct. 5 agenda

The Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission will consider — for the second time since June — whether to expand dog beach hours, according to a public notice posted on the city's website.

The commission will consider changes to the city's municipal code regarding dog beach hours at its meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 5.

In June, the commissioners voted 3 to 2 to permit dogs until 10 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m. every day of the year, adding 90 minutes to the existing rules that ban dogs year round between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

At that meeting , several dog owners testified that they wanted longer beach hours in winter, when daylight was limited and beaches often were empty.

But when that recommendation went to the City Council a month later, the Council voted 5 to 2 to keep dog hours the same during summer months but eliminate restrictions from Sept. 15 to May 15.

That led to a flood of calls and e-mails to City Council members from residents concerned about dogs and their waste polluting harbor beaches, and from those who were afraid that dogs would overrun local beaches without restrictions.

So at its August meeting, Mayor Keith Curry admitted being too hasty and sent the matter back to the parks commissioners for further review.

The public is welcome to attend and to comment at the Parks meeting, which will be held in Council Chambers at City Hall at 3300 Newport Boulevard.

Jeweler to open studio, flagship store

A custom jeweler will be opening his flagship store in Corona del Mar later this year, with a showroom and a design studio where you can watch craftsmen and women work on original pieces, the shop's owner has confirmed.

"It's not going to be a typical retail store," said Mark Patterson, who says his eponymous store should open in November. "It's going to be really unique."

Patterson bought the retail space at 3425 E. Coast Hwy., which has been vacant for more than a year after the old tenant, a rug shop, left. He spent 12 weeks working on plans to give the shop a complete makeover both inside and out, and he said the plans, created by architect Ross Andrews of Ross Andrews + Associates in Costa Mesa, are in the final stages and construction could begin this month.

The front of the shop will have about 600 square feet of showroom space, he said, to show off his custom pieces and bridal collections. In the middle of the shop, behind a glass wall, will be another 600 square feet that will be used as a studio so you can watch the 11 men and women create the pieces that Patterson and his wife, Josette, design.

"That's the best feature," he said. "That's our strength — it's so personal."

Patterson, 49, met his wife of 27 years when they attended the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica. She was a designer, he a gemologist, and after completing their coursework, the two headed from California to New York to expand the Institute's East Coast presence.

On the side, they designed jewelry pieces that sold so well that they turned it into a business, spending 22 years working in the city's Diamond District, making pieces that sold in more than 80 retail stores throughout the country.

They returned to Southern California three years ago, opening a studio in Costa Mesa while they looked for the perfect place for their flagship retail space, which ended up being in Corona del Mar.

"For us, it had all the right combinations of what we were looking for," Patterson said. "We wanted no mall or strip mall. We wanted freedom, so we bought the building. We wanted our own space, in a neighborhood. Right behind our store is a beautiful residential area. We see people walking by and hope they will stop in."

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