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ORANGE COUNTY VOICES : 'Real' Newport Shows Up to Celebrate Library : Civic pride: Those who lobbied for and helped finance larger facility savor the moment at topping-off ceremony.

June 03, 1993|MARTIN A. BROWER | Martin A. Brower is a Newport Beach resident and publisher of the Orange County Report

The "real" Newport Beach showed up on a recent morning to celebrate the topping out of the steel frame for the new Newport Beach Central Library in Newport Center.

Hardly a black Mercedes, Jaguar or Lexus was in sight. And all but absent were the owners of such "with it" cars--the slender, dark-suited men and thin, designer-clad women in their 30s and 40s with whom Newport Beach is generally identified.

Instead, cars driving up to the library site near East Coast Highway and MacArthur Boulevard were green, red and blue Buicks and Lincolns, with Mercurys and Oldsmobiles thrown in.

And the men and women emerging from the cars were in their 50s, 60s and 70s, a few on the heavy side, wearing sensible clothes for the warm morning.

The invitation suggested that flat shoes be worn because of the uneven construction site. But those in attendance almost always wear flat shoes during the daytime hours.

These are the "real" citizens of Newport Beach. Oh, they live in homes worth from $500,000 to well over $1 million. But most have no views and were bought 20 or more years ago for $70,000 or so. So mortgages, and the accompanying drive for ever-more income, no longer exist.

And these are the people who rejoice the most in their city's getting a new, two-story library at a time when many cities are closing libraries for lack of funds.

Moreover, many of those in attendance contributed toward the nearly $2 million raised by the public to augment the city's funds and a gift of land from the Irvine Co.

Speaking proudly at the ceremony was Lucille Kuehn, a soft-spoken motherly lady in her 60s who once served on the Newport Beach City Council. It was Kuehn who, while serving on the council in the early 1970s, convinced then-Irvine Co. President Raymond Watson to give the city two acres of land in Newport Center for a central public library.

Then she led the battle for the city to fund a central library, only to see a far smaller building emerge than she felt the city should have.

And it was Kuehn, as the library she had spearheaded was bursting at its seams 15 years later, who wrote to Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren asking for a new, larger site in exchange for the smaller site on which the current library is located.

Now, at the topping-off ceremony, the "real" Newport citizens sipped decaffeinated coffee from paper cups and nibbled on breakfast pastry supplied by Nordstrom's catering--an odd sight to see so near Fashion Island which has no Nordstrom store. And everyone applauded the new library they helped to create for their city.

They chuckled with deep respect at comments during the ceremony about the strong hand of City Librarian LaDonna Kienitz, a respect younger people might show for a multimillionaire business mogul.

The young, slender, fashion-attired yuppies were working in the nearby office towers, waiting for noon, when they would drive their sleek cars to the "in" restaurants and private clubs for business meetings. But when they and their children are ready for a new, spacious and well-equipped library near a prime corner in Newport Center, it will be there for them. The "real" Newport Beach residents have seen to that.

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