Corona del Mar Today: CdM entry project headed to City Council

A project that will enhance the Corona del Mar entryway at MacArthur Boulevard and East Coast Highway — its origins dating back to 1998 — should go before the Newport Beach City Council for further consideration, a city committee decided unanimously at a meeting held Thursday.

Members of the Newport Beach Neighborhood Revitalization Committee heard public comments and discussed the plans, which would move the point where three lanes merge to two and use the former traffic lane to expand sidewalks and improve landscaping. In December, a Citizens Advisory Panel approved the concept plans for the project.

At Thursday's meeting, several residents said they were against the plan, which would remove nine parking spaces at MacArthur Boulevard. Some complained about traffic problems, crowds and not having enough information.

"Nobody knew anything about it, and when I explained what it was, everyone was against it," said one woman, an Acacia Avenue resident. "They're ramming it down our throats."

Councilman Ed Selich, who sits on the NRC committee, suggested that city crews paint stripes at the intersection and use cameras to monitor how traffic flow is affected. He also provided background on the beautification project, which he said dated back to a community meeting held at the OASIS Senior Center in 1998.

That meeting spurred local leaders and members of the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District to begin working with urban planners to create a Vision Plan, and those leaders spent years presenting that plan to groups and organizations, Selich said.

"Over the years, the B.I.D. slowly, incrementally began working on implementing the Vision Plan," he said. "It met with broad support."

The entryway plan was an original goal of that Vision Plan. Last year, with the creation of the NRC group, the project became part of a citywide discussion of revitalization. The Citizens Advisory Panel began meeting over the summer, and their suggestion needed committee approval before being sent to the City Council for possible approval. If the council approves the plan, funding for the $1.3 million project would not be available until at least the 2013 fiscal year.

The City Council will consider the entryway plan at a Feb. 28 meeting. If they decide the plan should move forward, more public outreach will be conducted, as well as studies of traffic and a plan to replace the lost parking spaces.

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Lincoln student's haircut benefits Locks of Love

A Lincoln Elementary School first-grader took the plunge this winter and had her hair chopped short — all to help children in need.

"I donated my hair to children who have cancer," said Dylan Stephenson, 6. "It made me feel good. It was exciting."

Dylan's friend Kara Spieckerman of North Tustin gave her the idea when she had her hair cut to donate to the Locks of Love charity. Locks of Love, based in Florida, makes hairpieces for children who have lost hair due to alopecia areata or cancer treatments. The group uses donations of hair that is at least 10 inches long and is kept in a braid or ponytail after it is cut.

After deciding she wanted to contribute to Locks of Love as well, Dylan asked for help from her mother, Michelle Stephenson, and her grandmother, Toni Van Schultze, who owns Toni's Salon on Heliotrope Avenue in Corona del Mar.

Van Schultze began researching what she needed to do to become a participating Locks of Love Salon, and what she needed to do to make sure the donations were acceptable.

"Dylan's excitement was so cute," Van Schultze said. "We adults were more nervous, thinking at 6 she might not understand what she was doing. But she did. And she was excited to be helping a child in need. She just loved it. She was elated."

Stephenson, who works at Toni's, made the cut one afternoon in January.

"I was 100% for it," she said. "I think it's a wonderful, selfless thing to give back."

Dylan's friends said they liked her new look, and a few friends said they might also contribute to the charity.

"I think it would be a good idea," Dylan said.

Van Schultze said she is offering a blunt haircut to anyone who wants to contribute their hair to Locks of Love. For more information, call her at (949) 675-0655.

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Fire maps discussed at meeting

More than 60 people attended a recent meeting in Corona del Mar, where the city's new fire chief, Scott Poster, and the fire marshal explained Cal Fire's Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone maps.

The City Council discussed the maps at a Jan. 24 study session meeting, but council members delayed a vote on adopting the proposed ordinance, saying it needed refinement as well as more public outreach. The maps likely will be on an agenda in March.

About 5,000 Newport Beach homes fall within the state's Very High Fire Hazard Severity Map Zone, which includes homes along Buck Gully and Morning Canyon and stretches from Orchid down to Crystal Cove with most of Newport Coast also is included.

If the maps are adopted, homeowners would face more intense scrutiny of fire hazards, such as location of woodpiles, tree species, where trees and plants are located, and how many trees are clustered together as well as buffer zones for firefighters to access blazes. New construction also would face stricter regulation, and homeowners would have to disclose to future buyers that their houses fall within the Very High Fire Hazard area.

Fire Marshal Ron Gamble explained the maps' history and gave an overview of deadly and expensive wildland fires throughout the state.

He also answered audience questions, which included whether homeowners would be assisted with the cost of removing trees, and whether the city's Planning Commission should discuss the requirements of an ordinance that requires fire-resistant construction on new and remodeled homes as well as rules on setbacks for firefighter access.

Gamble said that homeowners who live within the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Map Zone had three main ways they will be affected — they will have to disclose the zone when they sell their home, they will have to follow guidelines when building or remodeling, and if they live near a canyon or wild land area, they will have to follow guidelines on clearing brush.

Fire officials, he said, would work with individual homeowners to assist them in ensuring their properties comply with the new rules. He said there was no timeline for enforcement, but he said the city had 120 days from receipt of the maps from the state to adopt them. The city received the maps in October.

Twitter: @coronadelmartdy

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