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NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE: CORONA DEL MAR

FOCUS : Corona del Mar Neighbors Preserve Newport Enclave

March 09, 1989|Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Just off East Coast Highway, southeast of Newport Harbor in Newport Beach, is a community of cliff dwellers and custom homes called Corona del Mar.

The picture-postcard bluffs, ocean and bay frontage quickly caught the eye of prospective developers as the perfect spot for a seashore resort. In the early 1900s, businessman George E. Hart bought 600 acres of land from James Irvine Jr. for $150 per acre. Hart named the area Rocky Point, later renamed it Crown of the Sea and finally Corona del Mar. He then bought three pre-built cottages and had them shipped across Newport Bay, making these the first homes in his new settlement.

An urgent need for a dependable source of water became inevitable. So in 1923, Corona del Mar residents voted to become part of Newport Beach. Shortly thereafter, the bridge over Newport Bay, tying West Coast Highway to East Coast Highway, improved access to eastern Newport Beach, including Corona del Mar. Hollywood's most famous couple, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, were there for the ribbon-cutting festivities.

During the time that Howard Hughes was still seen in public, he and celebrity friends were frequent visitors of the area.

In 1957, Corona del Mar's Chamber of Commerce was formed to counteract plans by Newport Beach to close the local post office. The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce has subsequently tried unsuccessfully to merge the two bodies, but Corona del Mar has remained independent. In fact, the composition of the Corona chamber is today quite unusual, because many of its members are not just business people but ordinary residents.

Clusters of shops, restaurants, galleries, post office alternatives and real estate offices on East Coast Highway make up Corona del Mar's main commercial strip, which resembles some of the avenues in the pricier parts of the Mediterranean. Boutique owners, restaurateurs and most others appear to have a relaxed but affluent, small-town attitude.

Many streets have been given names of flowers, including Carnation, Poppy, Poinsettia and Orchid--not inappropriate, because land and home prices have blossomed. With this has come a more apparent change in the village as some of the smaller, more traditional cottages are torn down and replaced with box-style modern homes.

Two of Corona del Mar's most popular spots are along the coastline: China Cove Beach, a small, sandy cove along the Newport Harbor channel, and Corona del Mar State Beach, larger and next to the eastern jetty of the harbor entrance. Just southeast of town is another sunbather's favorite, Crystal Cove State Beach.

Corona del Mar is also home to one of the county's most impressive historical research facilities. The Sherman Library & Gardens, at East Coast Highway and Dahlia Avenue, was opened to the public in 1966. It houses more than 15,000 books and pamphlets, 200,000 papers and documents and more than 2,000 reels of microfilm, maps and photographs.

The Art and Public Places Project, sponsored by the city, each year selects a renovation project. This year's project is the upgrading of Inspiration Point, a landscaped spot overlooking Corona del Mar State Beach. Renovations will include stabilizing the bluff and the path that leads to the beach, a mere 4-minute walk.

On most spring and summer days, workers from Newport Center and other nearby businesses eat their lunches at the point. For just a $15 fee, residents of Corona del Mar sometimes reserve the point for weddings.

Corona del Mar works hard to maintain its small-town ambiance, but here, as in so many other neighborhoods and communities, traffic mars the milieu.

Residents hope, though, that Pelican Hill Road will provide some relief. Ground breaking for the road--which will run from Coast Highway south of Corona del Mar through the San Joaquin Hills and end on Bonita Canyon Road in Irvine--took place Feb. 7. Completion of the $40-million project, which the Irvine Co. paid for, is expected in the winter of 1990. It is aimed at eliminating about 16,000 of the 41,000 cars that now pass through Corona del Mar every day.

Population Total: (1988 est.) 12,494 1980-88 change: +4.1% Median Age: 40.4

Racial/ethnic mix: White: (non-Latino) 95% Latino 3% Black: *% Other: 2%

By sex and age: MALES Median age: 40.1 years FEMALES Median age: 40.6 years

Income Per capita: $33,958 Median household: $77,077 Average household: $99,483

Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 13% $50,000-74,999: 18% $25,000-49,999: 18% More than $75,000: 51%

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