Corona del Mar Today: Students make sugar skulls

With just a few days before Día de los Muertos, Spanish-language students spent Thursday turning a Corona del Mar High School classroom into a veritable sugar skull factory.

"You take the sugar mixture," said Ethan Wu, a first-year student, as he swept sugar into a pile on his desk.

"You pack it in tight," added Bridgett Storm. After it's un-molded, dried and decorated, "It goes on an altar along with candles, photos, things they like to eat and marigolds, which are their flowers of death."

"It's Day of the Dead," added Kellen Givens. "It's a Mexican holiday."

Día de los Muertos, celebrated in Mexico and in Mexican American communities, is a day for families together to pray for and remember their loved ones who have died. Officially, the holiday takes place Nov. 1 and 2, but many communities hold celebrations during the weekends surrounding those dates.

"They spend the whole night out at the cemetery where their family and friends are buried," said student Tim Hanson. "They have a party and a feast."

"Where other cultures fear death, they embrace it," said Aaron Senk. "They fear it not."

Spanish teacher Shondra Yanno has had her students make calaveras — sugar skulls — for six years. This year, 220 students created three sugar skulls each, taking turns using molds and packing them with a mixture of sugar, meringue powder and water. On Friday, the students will decorate them with colorful frosting and then either save them or eat them.

"They last," she said. "Some students make Christmas ornaments out of them."

Earlier this week, students watched a movie about the holiday and sampled traditional sweet breads, she said.

"They love it absolutely," she said. "Anything that isn't bookwork."

City Council reviews solar panels

The Newport Beach City Council last week directed staff to develop policies that will give the city more control when it comes to solar panel installations.

At a study session, the council heard a staff report that outlined how a state law meant to encourage solar panel installations limits local city efforts to regulate unless there are health and safety concerns.

Some cities, however, have voluntary guidelines for solar installations. There are also a number of cities that offer perks to builders who follow the voluntary guidelines.

"I think we're too timid on these kinds of things," Councilman Ed Selich said. "I just think it's something we ought to take a more aggressive approach with."

The issue heated up last spring when an Irvine Terrace homeowner added 168 panels on a hillside above Bayside Drive.

Three neighbors testified at Tuesday's meeting that the panels created glare, and they were frustrated that the city didn't try to regulate the project.

"This could have easily gone on the roof," Robert Olson said. "Our neighbors aren't happy. It's what we call solar blight."

Olson invited city staff to visit his home between 3:30 p.m. and sunset, when he says the panels create a blinding glare in his Balboa Island home.

City Attorney Dave Hunt said he would schedule a time to check it out.

Hunt said he would return to the Council in three months with possible changes to the city's code.

He also said he would research whether the city could require some property owners to seek Coastal Commission approval for solar installations; because the Coastal Commission isn't restricted by the state solar laws, that could help give the public a chance to weigh in on future solar projects.

City staff inspects collapsed balcony

Officials with the Newport Beach Building Department have inspected the Goldenrod Avenue home where a balcony collapsed during a party last weekend, sending two people to hospitals.

The home at 422 Goldenrod Ave. is considered safe after the inspection, city officials said, although the balcony was tagged "unsafe." City staff planned to notify the property owner of the findings and help them when and if they apply for a permit to rebuild, said Tara Finnigan, a Newport Beach spokeswoman.

The balcony collapsed about 10:44 p.m. Saturday. Neighbors a block away reported hearing a loud boom that shook the ground as if an earthquake struck. Emergency crews received a 911 call that reported nine people trapped in the wreckage, but when they arrived there were three victims. One was treated at the scene and two were taken to local hospitals. Their injuries and conditions were not available to the public.

Low-Cost Rabies Clinic To Be Held Nov. 10

The Newport Beach Animal Control is hosting its annual low-cost rabies clinic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 10, police officials have announced.

The clinic will be held at the Dover Shores Pet Care Center at 2075 Newport Blvd. in Costa Mesa. Rabies shots for dogs and cats will cost $4, and other vaccinations also will be provided.

All dogs must be restrained on a leash, and all cats must be held in a carrier. To get the discounted prices, you must tell the staff that you are there for the Animal Control's clinic.

For more information, call (949) 722-7387.

NBPD To Use "Nixle" system to communicate with residents

First it was Facebook and Twitter, and now, the Newport Beach Police Department is adding Nixle, a system of communicating emergency news via text messages and emails.

"The Nixle Community Information Service allows us to create and publish messages to be delivered to subscribed residents instantly via cell phone text message and/or email," according to a police news release. Messages will include safety information, press releases or community event information. The police news release says the system is free except for standard text messaging rates.

To get the updates, sign up on the Nixle webpage,

CdM antique shop closes

A "For Lease" sign is in the window of the now-empty Charlene Asdourian Antiques and Decorative Arts shop at 3641 E. Coast Hwy.

Attempts to contact the owner for details on whether the shop has moved or closed permanently were not successful.

NB Police receive DUI grant

The Newport Beach Police Department has received a $222,355 traffic safety grant for a yearlong anti-DUI program, police officials announced today.

The state Office of Traffic Safety awarded the special DUI Enforcement and Awareness grant that will "specifically target impaired driving offenders as well as educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving," according to a news release.

Plans to fight drunk driving include conducting DUI and driver's license checkpoints, warrant searches and stakeouts for repeat DUI offenders, and saturation patrols and court stings that target DUI offenders with suspended or revoked driver licenses who get behind the wheel after leaving court.

Funding for the grant comes from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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