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Happy February – the month I thought would never get here

By AMY SENK

Raise your hand if you, like me, are glad to see January in the rearview mirror. What a long month, full of falls and canceled plans and disappointments on all fronts. 

Today, we can start fresh with hope for a better month, including in Corona del Mar, where rumor has it that Chipotle will be opening soon at 3050 E. Coast Highway.

Happy February Chipotle

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Courtesy of Ron Yeo

Chipotle is expected to open this week

We first heard about Chipotle replacing the Baja Fresh more than a year ago, when company officials thought they would be open by autumn. Recently, they said a February opening. Then over the past week, workers painted a mural on the side of the building and late in the day on Saturday, there were people inside – were they workers training? One friend told me he spoke to the manager, and that staff training had indeed begun and that a Thursday opening is possible.

Happy February Chipotle mural

Photo by Amy Senk

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The mural being painted on the side of the Chipotle building

The location apparently has had a restaurant for decades. Before Baja Fresh, and before my time in CdM, there was a Boston Market restaurant. City Councilmember Joy Brenner, who grew up in CdM, said there was a Denny’s there in the 1960s, followed by a place called Puffins, according to CdM resident and artist Ron Yeo. In any case, soon we’ll be able to grab Chipotle, and I know tons of people who will be very glad about that.

Happy February roadwork

Photo by Amy Senk

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Roadwork improvements through CdM should take approximately eight weeks

Crews also have begun the sidewalk and roadway improvements through town, an eight-week or so project that will start in the west/north part of town and will move east and south. No parking zones and lane closures have already begun, and full road closures with detours will happen at some point, affecting East Coast Highway between MacArthur Boulevard and Newport Coast Drive and Marguerite Avenue from Bayside Drive up to Fifth Avenue.

When I first heard about this project, I felt super put-upon. There wasn’t even a precise schedule of which work would be done which days. Sheesh!

Then a few things happened. A Flower Street neighbor reached out to Councilmember Brenner with concerns about traffic safety if motorists begin to speed down alternate routes, like our street, Seaview Avenue. She reached out to city staff, and we planned a meeting to discuss our concerns and share ideas.

Then, I noticed traffic backed up heading into CdM from West Newport, where the lane closed near Goldenrod Avenue. I decided not to take a side street and just see how long I sat there while two lanes merged to one.

Two minutes.

Finally, I watched the City Council’s annual planning session meeting on Saturday, when the councilmembers heard reports about expensive future projects that they should begin thinking about. One was the need for road improvements before we see potholes and other problems, and how scheduling this work before its needed, rather than constantly making emergency repairs, is cost effective. I realized CdM is lucky to be getting their work done now. It’s not fun, but so far not horrible, and it will no doubt be totally worth it. 

That meeting also included discussion of the need to find a location for a new police headquarters building and plans for a new fire station on the Peninsula, an update on how we are dealing with our homeless issues and information on the city’s economic health. 

Meanwhile, speaking of road closures – the city’s website states that beginning Sunday (Feb. 6), construction work will close northbound Jamboree Road from Bayside Drive to East Coast Highway for about eight weeks. The northbound lanes will be closed from 8:30 p.m.-6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday; southbound lanes will remain open. The work will replace a large, nearly 100-year-old water main that serves the entire city.

And finally, a recent column took a look at how massive improvements at Fashion Island’s RH (formerly Restoration Hardware) store will affect other businesses. I wrote about how the project will convert the old Forever 21 space into a four-story, 80,0000-square-foot shop that will include in-house designers and a rooftop wine bar and restaurant when in opens, scheduled for May 2024. 

As part of this, California Pizza Kitchen decided to close instead of move within the center. Victoria’s Secret will move, and its sister retailer, Pink, will close, and the Apple Store with lose some non-public space but will remain in the same spot. 

A reader reached out to me to find out about specific other businesses, and here’s what I learned: No news on Le Pain Quotidien at the moment. PF Chang’s, Soul Cycle and Pressed will remain as is.

Happy February VALIA

Photo by Amy Senk

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Decorating for Valentine’s Day begins in town with VALIA Properties putting up a large red heart

Have a wonderful week everyone – and be kind. We can make February a truly great month.

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Amy Senk has lived in Corona del Mar for 20+ years and was publisher of Corona del Mar Today, an online newspaper that ran daily for seven years. Senk, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is involved in the Corona del Mar Residents Association. She and her husband have two children attending college at the University of Missouri and Duke University. She is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.