Corona del Mar Today: Crews install city wayfinding signs in CdM

Crews installed a bright blue wayfinding sign last week on East Coast Highway at Fernleaf Avenue as part of a citywide project to add 65 informational signs.

The project briefly closed one lane of Coast Highway's westbound traffic while the sign was hoisted into place and secured. Crews said the sign was one of four left to install.

The bright blue, egg-shaped signs give directions to popular tourist destinations and landmarks, including Big Corona beach, Fashion Island, Balboa Island and Sherman Library & Gardens.

The City Council in March approved the project, which cost less than $100,000 with more than half the costs funded by Visit Newport Beach Inc. and various Business Improvement Districts.

Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Gardner, who represents Corona del Mar, was one of two council members who voted against the signs because she said they were difficult to read. Councilman Steve Rosansky also voted against the signs because he "took issue with the sign's appearance and readability," according to the minutes from the March 8 meeting.

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CdM Middle School's cheer coach steps down

The Corona del Mar Middle School's cheer coach and ASB advisor has resigned but will remain a faculty member, teaching special education this fall, sources said.

Nicole Fusaro sent an email earlier this summer telling her students and their families that her decision was based on health issues and family emergencies.

"I have given my heart and soul into both ASB and cheer and I have loved every minute of it," the email said. "I will still be on campus teaching students with special needs. Please don't be a stranger, I would love for you to stop by and say hello."

Fusaro did not reply to emails seeking comment.

Gary Almquist will be assuming the ASB advisor role for the middle school; he previously was advisor for the high school ASB program. The two current assistant coaches will take over the middle school cheer squad, a district spokeswoman said.

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B.I.D. honors longtime board member BJ Johnson

The Corona del Mar Business Improvement District board last week honored a longtime member, Beverley "BJ" Johnson.

"She doesn't remember how many years she's been involved, but it's well over 10 years," said Bernie Svalstad, the B.I.D. chairman.

Johnson was presented a plaque that honored her "many hours of dedication to the vision plan for the community of Corona del Mar."

Johnson, a real estate agent with Prudential California Realty, has been an active member of the Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce, B.I.D. and the Corona del Mar Residents Association. She has lived in Corona del Mar more than 25 years.

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Here's ... Johnny's pizza

Johnny's Real New York Pizza held a grand-opening celebration last weekend, handing out free slices of pizza, balloons and Italian ices.

Mayor Mike Henn and City Councilman Steve Rosansky attended the party and cut a red ribbon with an oversized pair of Newport Beach scissors.

Henn told a crowd of several dozen customers that he was from Chicago and knew good pizza. "I'm giving my official Chicago seal of approval," he said.

"I'm from Brooklyn," Rosansky said. "I know good pizza."

Corona del Mar resident Fiona Palitz sampled a slice while she watched the festivities at the restaurant at 2756 E. Coast Hwy.

"It's great; it's really great," she said.

Co-owner John Younesi said he was thrilled with how many East Coast transplants have told him his pizza is authentic.

"You can't fake it," he said. "If the East Coast people are saying it's good, you know it's true."

Johnny's first opened its doors in July, but the owners wanted to hold a party to thank Corona del Mar residents for their support, they said.

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Avila's El Ranchito expansion opening delayed

Avila's El Ranchito's expansion that will include a takeout deli and larger restrooms has been delayed until later this month.

The restaurant at 2315 E. Coast Highway was granted permission in October 2010 to expand to the next door space.

The Newport Beach Planning Commission voted unanimously to allow the expansion, and to waive parking requirements, and to allow the restaurant to open earlier, at 10 a.m. They also imposed restrictions, including changing the existing permit that allows the restaurant to operate until 2 a.m., and requiring the owners to provide municipal parking permits for all employees. The Planning Commission also agreed to reexamine the changes in October 2011.

The expansion construction was expected to be complete this week. Instead, the opening will be delayed until later this month.

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Jewelry store to replace boutique

A Kauai-based jewelry store will open a second location this summer in Corona del Mar, the owner has confirmed.

Sheldon Gate Jewelry Designs will open at 3545 E. Coast Highway, replacing the A Matter of Taste boutique that closed in March.

Sheldon Gate's owner, Paul McCarthy, said his shop will carry his signature seashell diamonds, titanium rings and other pieces.

McCarthy grew up in Massachusetts, the youngest of seven children. His siblings would tell him to quit tagging along, so he began playing alone, exploring the woods near his home and collecting stones. His interest led him to Carlsbad in San Diego County to the Gemological Institute of America, where he became a gemologist.

He has worked in emerald mines and as a mineralogist doing field research before he opened his Hawaii shop, which is named after a beloved dog that was killed many years ago while McCarthy was walking him.

The shop will carry pieces from several designers and in at different prices, he said.

"I try to get exclusive pieces and have something for everyone," he said. "Jewelry is something that makes people happy about themselves. I want to help people find things that work for them. The concept is to make people happy."

An opening date has not been set.

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