A bulldozer smashed its way across a debris-strewn yard Wednesday, its scoop aimed menacingly at two windows of a Spanish-style two-story home.
The first assault against the white-stucco arches and red-tiled roof of the 60-year-old home was about to begin. Earlier, nine eucalyptus trees surrounding the residence at 300 Fernleaf Ave. in Corona del Mar were felled. So had a small, one-bedroom cottage on the quarter-acre lot.
The home was something of a historic landmark to neighborhood residents, 11 of whom watched in dismay as the structure was razed to make way for a new development.
"All of the neighbors are just sick. For those of us who've lived here a long time, it's just sad," said Kim Davis, 31, who lives nearby.
"It just seems they tear down all the cute beach houses and put up duplexes. Progress, I guess," she said, watching from across an alley.
As the bulldozer's scoop smashed through two windows and tore out part of the stucco wall, Davis said: "I don't know if I want to stay and watch this part."
She left after the scoop shattered through a section of the roof, causing it to sag to the ground.
The home was built about 60 years ago, according to Paul Keil, an assistant vice president with First Interstate Bank in Newport Beach. First Interstate managed the home in trust for many years, renting it out to several families until it was no longer economically wise to continue, he said.
"It got to a point that the value of the property got so high that (the bank) could not justify retaining it for rental purposes," Keil said.
The home was placed for sale through Corona del Mar broker Robert Perlman. It listed at $925,000, Perlman said, a price that was too high for prospective buyers, who told him they wanted to restore the home.
A development partnership eventually bought the property. Members of the partnership were unavailable, but neighbors said they had heard that six condominiums will be built on the lot.
Some residents had mixed emotions Wednesday.
"I'm glad to get rid of those trees, to tell you the truth," said Margie Cagigas, who has lived in the area 16 years. She said she did not like the way tree roots were tearing apart the asphalt alley. But she added: "I kind of hate to see the whole house go. I think it could have been fixed up really nice."
Another neighbor, Don Sjostedt, was glad people would be using the property again. The large home had been vacant for more than a year. An elderly woman had lived in the cottage for 28 years until she moved in October.
Author James Altieri, who lives across the alley from the home, found irony in the timing of Wednesday's demolition.
He recalled that two years ago the people who rented the house held a small Christmas party there.
Referring to Wednesday's demolition, Altieri said:
"This is probably the worst Christmas gift the neighbors could get."