Corona del Mar Today: Residents get Buck Gully project update

Letters have been sent to residents along Lower Buck Gully, advising them that an erosion project is moving along with construction still slated to begin after Labor Day.

The project "should stabilize the canyon bottom by retraining the creek to its historic location near the center of the canyon," the letter states.

Wire-mesh baskets filled with river rock will be placed in the lower part of Buck Gully, and rock structures will be installed in the upper bend of the creek.

Without the measures, officials fear that some houses may slide down the hillside if a major storm causes erosion.

The project required more than 20 homeowners to sign easements, which nearly doomed the project before it began when many were reluctant to sign.

In October 2009, City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner joined City Manager Dave Kiff and Bob Stein, the assistant city engineer working on the project, in a door-to-door effort to gain support. Eventually, last February, all easements were granted and staff began to move forward, but the project was delayed nearly a year.

The letter, dated Feb. 17 from Stein, says that community members have given feedback, as well as regulatory agencies, and that drawings and specifications are being updated.

Documents will be finalized next month, the letter states, and will be available for public review.

After the construction, the canyon will be re-vegetated with native plants, the letter states, and certain mature trees will be protected.

The project should have permits in place by June, and the City Council will award contracts in August, the letter states.

Construction should begin after Labor Day and take four months, with planting taking another four months. Work will be performed between 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays.

"The contractor will need to abide by all noise restrictions and good-housekeeping provisions in the project specifications," the letter states.

Also, Little Corona Beach access will be maintained.

The project was expected to cost about $2 million, with $800,000 paid for by grants.


Newport seeks artists' proposals for statue

Newport Beach has posted a request for proposals from artists who would like to create a statue or sculpture of Ronald Reagan for the Reagan Centennial Memorial.

A Reagan statue has been the topic of City Council and Arts Commission meetings that drew dozens of residents and stirred passion in the community during the past several weeks.

Artists will have a $50,000 budget that needs to include the sculpture, base, engraving and delivery to Newport Beach, according to the city's website. A committee of donors as well as city officials will evaluate the proposals.

The proposal guidelines specify that "(t)he President should be standing, in a suit and should be smiling … The facial expression should reflect the warmth, accessibility and inherent friendliness of President Reagan, but also capture his quiet dignity, presidential bearing and reflect his global vision and leadership…"

Other specifications are that Reagan should be depicted life-sized or larger, and be on a base about 45 inches square and 18 inches tall with room for a plaque.

"The project must be completed and delivered in 2011, as soon as possible," the guidelines say.

Proposals are due by noon March 23.

The statue eventually will be placed in Castaways Park, a site voted on by the City Council last month after a lengthy public hearing.

Originally, City Councilman Keith Curry sought to name a park after Reagan to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth year. The council rejected that plan, and Curry instead asked to create a bank account to collect private funds for a statue that he hoped to place at the new Civic Center.

Instead, many residents were critical of both the idea of honoring Reagan and the fact that the plans had not been submitted first to the Arts Commission. In the end, the Council voted 5 to 2 to seek artists to create the statue and to place it in Castaways Park.


Tree's fate remains a mystery

A tree in the 2800 block of East Coast Highway has been chopped down, but no one is sure what happened to it. Some city officials said it could have been vandalism, while employees at a nearby business said they thought a car had veered off the sidewalk and struck it, damaging it so badly that it had to be removed.

Police and city officials said they had no knowledge of such a crash, nor of any official report of vandalism.

The cost of the tree was not immediately known, but in other cases where drivers have knocked down Corona del Mar's trees, thousands of dollars were spent digging out roots and planting new trees.


Ghost bike

A ghost bike memorial has been placed near the crash site where a Newport Beach man was killed last month by a suspected DUI driver.

Amine Britel died after a car driven by a 22-year-old Newport Coast woman struck him as he cycled uphill on San Joaquin Hills Road. Emergency crews were unable to save him, and Britel, 41, died at the scene.

The woman was arrested and booked on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated but has been released from jail.

Britel, who was born in Morocco and grew up there and in France, owned a travel business based in Newport Beach. He was an Olympic athlete and graduated from UC Berkeley and Harvard.

The ghost bike memorial includes the plea, "Watch for bikes."


Bank requests bus stop be moved

A bus stop in the 2800 block of East Coast Highway might be moved to protect customers using a bank ATM just a few feet away.

Officials with the First Republic Bank say that transients often sit on the bench at the bus stop, sometimes harassing ATM customers, Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce President Linda Leonhard told members of the CdM Business Improvement District at a board meeting last week.

Bank officials asked if the bus stop could be moved further away from the ATM, she said.

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