About 250 people jammed Sherman Library & Gardens on Wednesday evening for the Corona del Mar Annual Town Meeting, which included time to socialize, learn more about civic issues as well as hear updates and a speech from Mayor Nancy Gardner.
The evening also celebrated the Corona del Mar Residents Assn.'s 25th anniversary. The CdMRA and Corona del Mar Business Improvement District co-hosted the event.
"My great dream is this meeting right here," said Debbie Allen, who was the group's first president. "This would not have happened 25 years ago. This is just amazing."
Allen told the standing-room only crowd that in the mid-1980s, Corona del Mar was a divided community with no leverage in City Hall. Then-Councilman Phil Sansone formed the CdMRA, and soon the city began to respond to the village's needs, repaving alleys, fixing pot holes and more.
Gardner played a game with the crowd, asking for a show of hands for those who could remember longtime businesses and landmarks — The Original Snack Bar where Ruby's now stands, Burger Island with 19-cent burgers where Gallo's Italian Deli now is.
"We have some old-timers here," she said, laughing.
But she quickly grew serious, describing the problems resulting from the rapid growth and development of a tiny beach town that once was surrounded by ocean and bean fields.
"Nobody understood the consequences," she said. "If you pave everything, you're starving the beach of sand. They didn't know a lot of that, they just didn't. In the '50s and '60s, we gave them a pass."
By the 1980s, however, everyone should have understood, she said, recalling a meeting she attended with then-city leaders where she expressed concerns about Newport Coast development.
"We need to pay attention to Newport Coast," she recalled saying. "It's going to affect our beaches and canyons in a big way. The city manager just looked at me. I wasn't a scientist, but I knew."
Restoration, she said, is a misnomer.
"You can't restore it," she said. "The bad news is we have totally screwed up all our natural systems. We have to mange it. We have to have artificial programs to put sand on beaches."
Before the program began, the crowd mingled in the gardens, drinking wine, snacking on chips and salsa and enjoying CdMRA 25th Jubilee birthday cake.
City Councilmen Keith Curry and Mike Henn attended, along with City Manager Dave Kiff, Police Chief Jay Johnson, Deputy Chief David McGill, Lt. Jay Short, Fire Marshal Ron Gamble, Fire Chief Scott Poster, Library Services Director Cynthia Cowell, Chamber of Commerce President Linda Leonhard and former Newport Beach Mayor Evelyn Hart.
Planning Commissioner and CdMRA board member Mike Toerge praised current CdMRA President Karen Tringali, who told the group, "We look forward to another 125 years of going forward with this."
Kiff: Flyovers need advance notice
Newport Beach officials believe military flyover tributes should be noticed in advance, and they have sent a letter to a U.S. congressman to try to make that happen.
The April 10 letter to Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine), and signed by City Manager Dave Kiff, was in response to a flyover that was part of a memorial service for John Francis "Jack" Callahan, a war hero who died this winter at age 94.
"The jets flew low and were, of course, loud," the letter states. "A number of our residents (including Mayor Nancy Gardner and myself) were startled. I immediately assumed that the jets were on a defensive mission along our coastline."