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FOCUS : Life and Death Dramas in Tranquil Newport Shores

November 09, 1989|Clipboard researched by Janice L. Jones / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

While other parts of Newport Beach are typified by ease and elegance, many life-and-death dramas take place each day at Hoag Hospital, the dominant landmark of the Newport Shores-Newport Crest neighborhood.

On a typical day at the 471-bed facility, located on a bluff overlooking Newport Harbor, an average of seven babies are born and at least 100 people receive emergency treatment. The Hoag Chemical Dependency Center is here, along with centers specializing in the treatment of heart disease and infertility.

The hospital has functioned in a state of constant change and expansion since it opened as a 75-bed facility on the site in 1952. The most recent addition, the George and Patty Hoag Cancer Center, is under construction and scheduled for completion next year on a portion of a 22-acre adjacent site purchased in 1984. Dubby Evins, president of facilities design, says plans for that acreage will triple the size of the hospital during the next 20 years.

Hoag Hospital functions as the main hub of the non-residential portion of the Newport Shores-Newport Crest area, coexisting with numerous professional buildings and other large businesses such as the Hughes Aircraft Newport Beach facility on 16th Street, just south of the hospital.

Several large condominium developments are on the bluff west of the hospital, including Newport Crest. But the portion of the neighborhood along West Coast Highway below the hospital is more typical of the relaxed, waterfront atmosphere associated with other portions of Newport Beach.

On a typical weekday morning, rush-hour traffic streams along West Coast Highway while a number of cars pull into Cappy's Cafe--as though lured by the smell of breakfast sausage and ham steaks frying on the grill. The aroma drifts out the door toward the parking lot as customers pile out of their cars and head in for a leisurely breakfast with friends or alone with the newspaper. The restaurant is a favorite among locals and others in the know.

T.K. Brimer, who owns the Frog House surf shop nearby, sleeps too late to be part of the breakfast crowd at Cappy's, however. Brimer's employees open the shop every morning at 9, usually after testing the early morning surf.

"I'm a night person," Brimer says. "I don't get in to work until around 9:30 or 10, and if the surf's good, I head right out and surf for an hour or two. The only reason I have this shop is so I can surf. It's no big moneymaker."

The big moneymaker in the neighborhood is the city-owned oil field behind Frog House, on marshland near the Santa Ana River. The 16 pumps churn out an average of 60,000 barrels of oil per year from ocean-floor wells one to two miles offshore. The wells provided more than $500,000 in revenue for the city last year. And when the price of oil is higher, revenue from the wells hits the million-dollar mark, according to Newport Beach utilities director Robert J. Dixon.

The oil field is across a canal from a residential area where Howard and Betty Jo Chace have lived since 1963, when they purchased their canal-front home new for $38,000 on land leased from Signal Landmark Corp. Fortunately for them, the Chaces were among those who decided to buy the property their home is built on for an additional $38,000 when Signal Landmark made the land available for purchase in 1976. Only 76 of the original 398 homeowners decided to purchase then.

When Signal Landmark offered the property for sale again in 1982, the asking price had nearly doubled, resulting in numerous lawsuits that are now reaching the settlement stage. "People were shocked at the increase," Howard Chace said. "I wouldn't take less than $500,000 for this home now."

Although the neighborhood was originally a tract-home development, some owners, like the Chaces, have added their own embellishments to the street and canal-front portions of their homes, giving many of the houses a unique look, in spite of uniformity in size. The slow-moving canal frequented by egrets and other sea birds gives the area a peaceful atmosphere distinct from other, faster-paced portions of Newport Shores-Newport Crest.

Population Total: (1989 est.) 5,469 1980-89 change: +15.3% Median Age: 39.4 Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino), 93%; Latino, 5%; Black, less than 1%; Other, 2% By sex and age: MALES Median age: 38.4 years FEMALES Median age: 40.5 years Income Per capita: $25,080 Median household: $41,575 Average household: $51,399 Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 30% $25,000-49,000: 31% $50,000-74,999: 18% $75,000-$99,999: 12% $100,000 and more: 9%

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