Editor’s Letter: A little help from our friends

I’ve never been the kind of person who looked to historical figures or famous achievers for inspiration on how to lead my best life. Maybe it’s because my life is so rich with friends who amaze and motivate me with their determination, their intelligence and their heart.

Case in point: my friend Risa Groux, a certified clinical nutritionist in Newport Beach. We first met a couple years ago when, after a heavy-duty course of antibiotics for a dental infection caused a litany of digestive problems, I dragged myself into her office. I had received a couple press releases about her practice and was intrigued.

I don’t remember exactly what I was expecting – maybe to be shamed into eating more vegetables or something. What I found, though, was this firecracker of a person who all but vibrated with a passion for healing your life through the power of wholesome food. The innovator behind a program called The Newport Beach Cleanse, Risa advocates for the therapeutic use of nutrient-dense, high-quality foods, antioxidants, herbs and supplements to achieve optimal health.

Let me just get this out of the way and say that yes, I am probably her worst, most disobedient client. (I have a weakness for linguine alle vongole and a great Pinot Grigio, among many other things.) But when I listen to her and follow her very informed advice, I feel fantastic. I’m slimmer and my aches and pains disappear. (“So is that pasta and wine really worth the extra weight and feeling bad?” asks the angel on my shoulder, whose voice, strangely enough, has Risa’s slight East Coast cadence. “Of course it is! Yes, yes!” counters the devil on my other shoulder, who sounds a lot like Peggy Lee after a Scotch-and-cigarette bender.)

But what I appreciate about Risa possibly even more than her encyclopedic knowledge of food and the human body is her living testament to the power of “following your bliss,” to borrow that old Joseph Campbell phrase.

Risa was always the kind of person who paid attention to what she ate – she was the mom who made her babies’ food from scratch, who bought organic produce before it was a thing – but she was also a woman with a high-powered career as a marketing professional for professional sports teams.

Then, she unexpectedly fell ill. The diagnosis? A thyroid condition known as Hashimoto’s disease.

Unsatisfied with the limited options her doctors gave her for treatment, she furiously researched and embarked on a nutritional plan that radically improved her health. She sought the expertise of leading scientists and researchers, attended seminars, read everything she could – and in the process became convinced that her passion for nutrition could help other people. She decided to dedicate herself to a career doing just that.

It was a risk, starting a new business and leaping into a new career path. But she trusted herself, she trusted her knowledge and she was driven by the conviction that she could help others discover a new level of wellness and vigor.

At the risk of sounding like a dimestore version of Oprah, I think that’s inspiring – how Risa’s conviction doesn’t stop at personal satisfaction but uplifts others in the process.

You’ll notice a few other people like Risa highlighted in our pages this month – women such as UCI Foundation trustee Julie Hill who aims to be among the first “astrotourists” and our own Karen Kelso, who took a solo journey to find who she is now, apart from her role as mom, wife and creative director for this magazine. You might find inspiration, too.

Onward,

Samantha Dunn, EXECUTIVE EDITOR

samantha@coastmagazine.com

Twitter@SamanthaDunn

 

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Melanie Griffith is Mrs. Robinson in Laguna Playhouse’s ‘The Graduate’

We know Melanie Griffith from ’80s and ’90s films like “Something Wild” and “Nobody’s Fool,” but the curvaceous blond with the kewpie-doll voice is no stranger to the stage. She played Roxie Hart in the Broadway revival of “Chicago” in 2003 and starred opposite Scott Caan in his play “No Way Around But Through” at Burbank’s Falcon Theatre in 2012. Following stepson Jesse Johnson’s performance in last year’s production of “King of the Road” at Laguna Playhouse, this month Griffith bares all on the same stage as Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate.”

Based on the novel by Charles Webb and the classic movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, “The Graduate” premiered in London in 2000, where Kathleen Turner played Mrs. Robinson. And now, at age 60, it’s Griffith’s turn to take it off while trying to seduce Benjamin Braddock. “As long as I’m lit well, I’ll be fine,” the actress says, adding with a sigh. “I’m really fat and gone to hell.”

As the daughter of Tippi Hedren (Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”), Griffith grew up partly in Hollywood. Her break came in 1975 when she played a runaway nymphet in “Night Moves.” That role led to a string of seductresses and victims until Mike Nichols (who directed “The Graduate”) cast her in the career-defining “Working Girl,” which won her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe.

The A-list movies and A-list husbands are behind her now, but so is the cycle of addiction and rehab. These days, Griffith is single for the first time in her adult life after four marriages to three men, including Don Johnson, father of their daughter, “Fifty Shades of Grey” star Dakota Johnson, and actor Antonio Banderas, whom she divorced in 2015 after nearly 20 years together.

COAST: We haven’t seen you play an antagonist like Mrs. Robinson often in your career. What made you say yes to this?

Melanie Griffith: I really liked the whole idea of it, Mrs. Robinson. I’m 60. I figured might as well. Mrs. Robinson, she’s definitely age-appropriate. It just seems like it would be a lot of fun.

COAST: Do you remember the first time you saw “The Graduate”?

MG: I think I was too young to see “The Graduate” when it came out. I think I saw it more around when I did “Working Girl” because Mike Nichols directed it and I was more interested in the directing than in the acting or in the story even. I was interested in the story, but I think I’ve seen it a couple of times over the years. It’s such a good movie.

COAST: What do you recall about working with Nichols?

MG: I loved him. I loved him. Every single minute I got to be with him, I loved him. He was just an amazing director. He was an amazing human being.

COAST: The movie is such a product of its time. Is it as relevant today as it was when it came out in 1967?

MG: I think it’s relevant to today. It’s people trying to have relationships. It’s people being human and trying to find love.

COAST: I know there are some new scenes added to the play that weren’t in the movie.

MG: The play is kind of different. I like reading it better than the movie because it’s concise; it’s a play. It’s not like the movie in a lot of ways. The essence of it is like the movie, but I think it’s a little more intimate and you sort of understand the relationship a little better, and the needs of each character and why they do what they do. I don’t think it changes the end result. It’s kind of a more enjoyable ride, the play. I think the audience will feel more included in what the characters go through.

COAST: Your daughters are actors. I wonder if you run lines with them?

MG: With Dakota, not really. She’s a powerhouse. She doesn’t need me. Acting is a really personal thing. I don’t give them direction or tell them what to do or how to do it.

 

COAST: Following your divorce to Antonio Banderas, you said you were stuck. Can you elaborate on that?

MG: I was stuck in my marriage. So it’s been the past three years of me becoming unstuck, I guess you can say.

COAST: How does one become unstuck?

MG: It’s the first time I’ve been alone in my life. I’ve always had a man, and now I’m single for three years and I’m learning to be OK with myself, which is probably the best thing a person can do in life in order to be able to be really good with someone else. Hopefully that’s what it is, anyway, that’s what I’m thinking.

COAST: Now that you’re single again, might you take a tip from Mrs. Robinson and date a younger guy?

MG: I haven’t ever dated a younger guy, myself. But there are a lot of women that I know who … I guess you would call them cougars. I guess Mrs. Robinson is kind of the original out-there cougar. Not that that’s what I would go for, the character. I don’t know how you would do that.

SEE IT: “The Graduate,” Feb. 21- March 18, Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. $86-$101. 949.497.2787 :: lagunaplayhouse.com

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New 18 hole course comes to OC, Dana Point harbor gets facelift and other OC construction news

Dana Point Harbor redux

After 20 years, during which the Orange County Board of Supervisors mulled and the public debated the concept of refurbishing the 1970s-era Dana Point Harbor, the Board of Supervisors has selected a partnership of three development firms to do the job.

Accordingly, the county is in a three-month negotiation period with Dana Point Harbor Partners, consisting of retail specialist Burnham Ward Properties, hotel specialist R.D. Olson Development and marina specialist Bellwether Financial Group. If negotiations work out, the $399 million redevelopment of the entire Dana Point Harbor could begin next year with construction spread over seven years.

The concept is for Burnham to undertake 77,000 square feet of commercial development – restaurants and shops, a 32,000-square-foot market hall and food court, and a surfing museum on 29 acres of the property. Olson would develop two hotels on 3.5 acres. And Bellwether would refurbish 2,296 boat slips and provide a 388-space dry boat storage facility on 20.5 acres. The developers, who say the result will be “a world-class harbor,” would have a 50-year lease on the land.

 

Another 18 holes comes to OC

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Does the Orange Coast need another golf course? Although the question is being debated by onlookers, the Orange County Board of Supervisors has voted to begin lease negotiations with Chapman Investment and Guardian Capital to develop an 18-hole short course on 200 of the county’s 395-acre covered landfill in Newport Beach. The Coyote Canyon Landfill, off Newport Coast Drive, was closed in 1990 after 27 years.

Chapman and Guardian plan to develop the 18-hole course, sometimes called an executive course because of its short playing time and appeal to corporate outings. It will feature a double-decker driving range, a 12,000-square-foot clubhouse, and 16,000 square feet of ballrooms, wedding gardens and food court.

If the two firms cannot make a deal with the county, another company, Tait & Associates of Santa Ana, is standing by with plans for an 18-hole golf course, a driving range, an outdoor beer garden, a hotel and a four-star restaurant. The county plans to set aside 123 acres of its site as a habitat for the California gnatcatcher.

 

 

 

Goodbye Anabella, Hello Westin Anaheim Resort

Demolition of the 358-room California Mission-style Anabella Hotel, on Katella Avenue next to the Anaheim Convention Center, is underway to make room for Wincome Group’s 634-room, $245 million, four-star Westin Anaheim Resort. The seven-story hotel, designed by Michael Hong Architects, will include three restaurants and 11 meeting rooms.

When open in late 2019 or early 2020, the resort will have a lush landscape created by Lifescapes International, Newport Beach. Lifescapes, which created landscapes for such hotels as the Wynn and the Bellagio in Las Vegas, is planning a fountain for the motor court, two swimming pools, a spa, and a rooftop with fire pits, shade structures and water features.

The Westin will be the third four-diamond hotel in Anaheim, joining the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian.

 

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Pendulum swings on Peter’s Landing

When Peter’s Landing on Pacific Coast Highway overlooking Huntington Harbour opened in the late 1970s, the two-story complex with restaurants and shops on the first floor and offices on the second floor attracted visitors from all over Orange and Los Angeles counties. But as the years went by, the once-hot development lost much of its appeal.

Now Pendulum Properties Partners, Irvine, has purchased the 100,000-square-foot property for a reported $33 million to undertake “a significant re-positioning” and once again make the mixed-use complex a regional draw.

The 300-plus boat slips at Peter’s Landing are not part of the real estate transaction and will continue to be owned and operated by Taki Sun Inc.

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Editor’s Letter: Finding your superpower

Mom, what superpower do you want?”

My son Ben often throws these kinds of hypotheticals at me while I’m driving him to school in the morning, like, “Would you rather be a polar bear or a grizzly?” or, “Who would win in a fight, Godzilla or Elsa from ‘Frozen’?”

“Wonder Woman’s golden lasso would come in handy when I ask you if you’ve done your homework,” I deadpanned. “And I also want the power to make you instantly pick up your dirty socks from the floor.”

Wisecracks aside, Ben’s question this day was not so random. Later that morning I joined hundreds of civic leaders and philanthropists for one of my favorite events, the OC Community Foundation’s annual meeting at Hotel Irvine. The theme of this year’s gathering was, “What’s Your Superpower?”

I thought it was a particularly resonant question, given the magnitude of the ills facing humanity, from the very local level to the global.

Here’s just one example: The offices of our parent company, Southern California News Group, look out onto the Santa Ana River, where homeless encampments have grown startlingly large. I find it daunting, whenever I’m at the main office for a meeting, to see so much obvious mental illness and the intractable hopelessness among many of those wandering the squalid encampments. Surely it will take superhuman efforts to permanently eradicate this one dilemma just in our county, let alone the entire country. Add to that the drumbeat of doom that has become our national conversation, and it’s easy to feel powerless. Helpless, even.

That’s what was on my mind when I slid into my seat at the sold-out luncheon. “I wonder who’s running Orange County right now?” OCCF president (and, full disclosure, my dear friend) Shelley Hoss joked. “Everybody’s here!”

The program kicked off with singers from Amazing Grace Conservatory doing a rendition of Bill Wither’s “Lean on Me” that raised goosebumps on my arms. It was hard to feel anything but hopeful after that.

But that turned out to be just the start of what would be the most uplifting day I’ve experienced in a long while.

This fiscal year the foundation’s assets grew to $302 million, more than doubling what it was just five years ago. And during that period, from 2012 until now, the foundation has granted more than a quarter of a billion dollars to causes near and far.

“Of course, the driver of this achievement is the passionate and inspired donors,” Shelley said from the podium.

“Inspired donors.” What does that mean, really?

It means people like Donnie Crevier, one of the luncheon speakers. Crevier is more than the name that seems to be on the license plate holder of every BMW in the county. He’s a man who didn’t have it so good growing up. The Boys Club in Laguna Beach gave him the stability he needed to flourish, and fueled what would become a lifelong commitment to giving local youth opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.

It means people like Ginny Ueberroth and her husband, Peter, two people raised in modest means who went on to become some of the most influential powerbrokers in the nation. What’s more, they created a family culture of philanthropy that shines in their daughter Vicki Booth, president of her family’s foundation.

But these are just a few well-known names. Hundreds of everyday superheroes are finding the power to right wrongs, change lives, find a way forward. The superpowers they use: Insight. Innovation. Passion. Strategy. Connection. Empathy. Characteristics that are as available to me – to all of us – as to them. I might not have the Ueberroths’ millions (although
I haven’t given up hope!), but I can make the choice to be more caring, to be more engaged, to be the person who says change starts with me. Yes, the problems are huge. But as the old saying goes: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

When I was leaving the luncheon I switched on the radio, only to hear a grim commentator talking about “inevitable human extinction.” I switched off the radio and thought, “Not without a fight.”

Determination, that’s the superpower I’m claiming. How about you?

 

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Get to know Irvine Public School Foundation’s Neda Eaton

Maybe Neda Eaton is driven to help kids because she remembers what it was like to be young and need help. She was 9 years old when her family pulled up stakes in their home country of Iran and resettled in Corona del Mar. “Not speaking any English, it was kind of rough for me to make friends,” remembers Eaton, who today is the president and CEO of Irvine Public School Foundation.

Sports – volleyball is her game –became Eaton’s way of fitting in to her adopted country. By college she was coaching kids, many of whom came from “rough backgrounds,” she says. “I was drawn to them because I related to them. I didn’t have a rough background, but I did have my struggles fitting in.”

She graduated summa cum laude from Pepperdine University with a master’s degree in psychology; her goal was finding a career in social services and nonprofits. And that she did. After successful turns in administrative positions at Olive Crest Homes and Services for Abused Children and Boys Town USA – “like Olive Crest on steroids” – the position at IPSF came up. As the mother of Kyra, 10, and Gavin, 12, both students in Irvine schools, Eaton says working close to home and being able to make an impact in her own community was a no-brainer.

As CEO, she directs the development of programs and initiatives that enrich the education of the 33,000 students in the Irvine Unified School District. Since Eaton took the reins, the foundation’s role has expanded from providing limited educational enhancements to creating a $4 million annual juggernaut, funding critical school programs.

“I fell in love with the mission,” she says. “We do a lot of really great things, and try to serve a wide array of students. The overachievers, that’s great and we want to make sure we serve them, but also the students who need a little extra or students who can’t afford to take an after-school class because parents work or aren’t around. We are there to support every student and fit their needs.”

IMG_7170Where I live: Quail Hill in Irvine.

Why I live here: We live in Irvine because of the great family community. We live in Quail Hill because it is in Irvine, but the closest I can get to Laguna Beach!

Favorite local store: Gorjana. I like their pieces because they are not crazy gaudy.

Favorite restaurant: For romantic, Habana in Costa Mesa. My favorite sushi is Hamamori. We take the kids with us everywhere we go. Ever since they were little they have gone with us – they know to behave and try different kinds of foods.

My sanctuary: The beach, definitely. I’m there probably three days a week. My sport is beach volleyball. I’ve got the same group of players – everyone played either professionally or in college – and we meet early mornings and play. As a family we go down there too to play, and we also like stand-up paddleboards.

What my kids teach me: My kids taught me and continue to teach me to be true to myself. Maybe it’s an age thing – they’re not quite teenagers yet – but they are who they are. They voice their opinions and they are honest. My daughter is super creative so if she wants to dress a certain way, she will. They have taught me the importance of that as well.

Angels or Dodgers: Angels.

Red or white: Definitely red – a deep, bold Cab.

Why this interview was not done at a wine bar: I don’t know. Let’s go! Well, OK, next time …

On my nightstand: Too many books I don’t have enough time to read, and I have a journal that my daughter and I keep and pass back and forth to each other. I write in it, I give it to her; she writes in it, she gives it back to me. I think it allows us to reflect, especially when things are busy in the household – the kids, the dog, work and all that stuff. I love hearing how her day went. It is interesting to see what she chooses to write about, to see what is on her mind.

Pet peeve: People who aren’t generous. It really bothers me. I don’t know
what it is. I think maybe it’s culturally the way I was raised. I notice it. People who could give but don’t. Stinginess in general.

What surprises people about me: That I am actually kind of a homebody and an introvert. My job requires me to be so social; people are surprised to hear I would rather stay in, or just not talk. My kids make fun of me sometimes. We’ll be out, just us, and you might recognize people you would need to have a conversation with. I might hide behind my sunglasses and hat, or something. They’ll be, like, “Mom’s hiding, being antisocial again!”

Passionate about: Sounds cliché to say, but making a difference. I’m passionate about what I do.

 

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Oceana’s plan for saving our oceans

 

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Scarlet – a 55-foot humpback whale who had been known locally since 1997 – was discovered dead at sea. In mid-2016, Scarlet became entangled in fishing gear, struggling for six weeks and falling ill, before eventually being freed. The experience left her weakened and may have contributed to her demise. The end of the whale’s life, however, was not the end of her influence on the people of this area.

In July, Scarlet’s story had become a central theme of Oceana’s
10th annual SeaChange Summer Party, with master of ceremonies Ted Danson. The sold-out evening, for which Coast was the media sponsor, was held at a coastal villa in Laguna Beach. Nearly 400 guests attended, raising more than $1.3 million for Washington, D.C.-based Oceana and local ocean conservation efforts.

The evening’s special guests, Sam Waterston and Lily Tomlin, spoke of the whale’s death.

“It’s too late for Scarlet, but you and I, by having Oceana’s back, are going to rescue the oceans,” said Waterston.

“While we can’t know for sure that the entanglement led directly to Scarlet’s demise, we do know that she was one of at least 71 whales that got caught up in fishing gear off the West Coast last year,” Tomlin told the crowd. “The good news is that Oceana – and all of you who support Oceana – are working hard to stop this from happening again.”

Anne Earhart and Herbert M. Bedolfe III of the Marisla Foundation – headquartered in Laguna Beach – were honored as Ocean Champions for their tireless commitment to ocean ecology.

SeaChange was co-chaired by Oceana board vice chair Valarie Van Cleave and Elizabeth Wahler. We talked to Van Cleave and Wahler, both Orange County residents and longtime ocean advocates, about Oceana’s mission and the impact of SeaChange.

First, why did Scarlet’s story become a focus of this year’s SeaChange event?

EW: The oceans are so vast and global that the problems they face can feel abstract. But when Scarlet died – a whale that so many people right here had seen and gotten to know over the last couple of decades – it hit home. Her story is also the story of our oceans:  The beauty and grace that we love so much are imperiled by the reckless ways we interact with them.

What is it about Oceana that appeals to you?

VVC: Ocean conservation is a cause that I have cared deeply about all my life. At SeaChange, we like to say that “a healthy ocean is every child’s rightful inheritance.” And if you believe in that sentiment, as I do, then there is simply no better organization to donate your time and money to than Oceana. That’s because Oceana is focused on results. With campaign teams in seven countries and the European Union, Oceana is fighting to win concrete policy victories that make real, in-the-water change.

EW: Growing up at the beach and having a father (Robert Wahler) who pioneered improving the health of our air are the things that led me to Oceana. It’s an honor to work with such amazing and dedicated individuals who so passionately advocate on behalf of our oceans. Ted Danson, an incredible actor who hosted our event this year, has been an activist for three decades now! And he just keeps going – he’s on Oceana’s board of directors and he’s been a tremendous advocate.

What particular victories has Oceana won on the West Coast that we should know about?

VVC: Just recently, we secured protections for hundreds of critical forage fish species right here in California. We’re making sure that these tiny fish and invertebrates aren’t fished unless it can be done without disrupting the larger ocean food web. Because of our efforts, similar protections are in place up and down the U.S. West Coast from shore out to 200 nautical miles.

Also this year the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to keep the U.S. West Coast Pacific sardine fishery closed for the upcoming commercial season because scientists estimated the sardine population in the water to be well below where it needed to be.

These big victories for small fish protect the building blocks of the ocean ecosystem. The small fish that we protect are a food source for all kinds of marine life, including whales like Scarlet.

Oceana promotes this idea that we can “Save the oceans and feed the world.” Can you explain?

VVC: We envision a kind of ocean conservation where feeding people and protecting the environment can coexist. The policies that we seek will restore fisheries to abundance. Simply put, we work to make sure there are more fish in the sea. That’s an outcome with a whole lot of positive effects. More fish means more food for both marine life and people. The same healthy seas that help feed humanity also create an environment where whales like Scarlet can thrive.

With nearly 800 million people living in hunger around the world, it’s important that we have healthy oceans. We’re going to need that protein to help feed a hungry planet. We’ve estimated that a healthy, fully restored ocean can provide a seafood meal, every day, to more than a billion people. That’s a tremendous amount of potential.

The 2017 event marked SeaChange’s 10th year. What’s your favorite memory?

VVC: Back in 2010, Jeff Bridges performed some great music for us. He had just won an Oscar for best actor, and he yelled out, “Oceana abides!” during his speech and the crowd loved it. I remember Morgan Freeman reading from “Moby Dick” and Leonardo DiCaprio speaking passionately about the urgent need to protect our oceans.

EW: And this year, Sam Waterston gave an amazing speech about the history of whaling, and Lily Tomlin has such a great energy. Having these co-stars from “Grace and Frankie” together onstage was a treat. It was a fantastic opportunity to mark 10 years of SeaChange in style.

VVC: But my biggest takeaway from all these years of SeaChange is the generosity of our community. The $1.3 million we raised this year brings our SeaChange total to more than $11 million since we started. It’s an incredible testament to the people here who care deeply about the oceans.

 

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More 405 construction, Island Cinema goes super luxe and other news you can use

55 is the New…

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During the more than 50 years of residential development in Irvine, there has never been a residential development restricted to age 55-plus buyers. That’s about to change. With the baby boomer generation entering retirement age and noting the success of 55-plus residential developments in Rancho Mission Viejo to the south, CalAtlantic Homes will unveil models at the end of this year for Travata in the Irvine Co.’s Cypress Village in Irvine.

Travata by CalAtlantic will have three neighborhoods with one- and two-story homes and no Mello-Roos taxes. Castillo will offer two- and three-bedroom detached and paired homes from 1,281 to 1,973 square feet. Aldea will have two-bedroom ”carriage-style” homes from 1,430 to 1,886 square feet; and Palencia contains two- and three-bedroom single-family homes from 1,848 to 2,567 square feet.

The gated community will feature the Travata Club with clubhouse, saltwater pool, spa, bocce and pickleball courts, and fitness center. Prices have not yet been released.

 

More 405 Construction

No pain, no gain? That might be the case when, beginning next year and continuing through 2023, the 405 freeway will undergo construction from the 73 freeway in Costa Mesa to the 605 freeway off Rossmoor, a distance of 14 miles.

The $1.9 billion construction program will add a general-purpose lane on both sides between Euclid in Fountain Valley and the 605, and express toll lanes in each direction between the 73 and the 605.

The new toll lanes will allow single-person usage for a fee, two-person usage during non-peak hours only, and three-person usage free at all times, Caltrans says. The good news: Two-person use will be free after 2026.

The go-ahead was assured when the Orange County Transportation Authority recently received a $629 million federal loan.

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New San Juan neighborhood

Pacifica San Juan, the 259-acre site on the hills above San Juan Capistrano originally approved for 416 homes, has been a long time coming. In 2006, SunCal developed the first 98 homes; then entered bankruptcy during the 2008 economic crash. As a result, the rest of the site sat idle for seven years.

In 2015, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based homebuilder Taylor Morrison purchased the site at Avenida California and began developing the residential neighborhoods of Blue Harbor, Crystal Downs North and Belle Haven.

Now ground has been broken for a fourth neighborhood, The Cove. The Cove will consist of 70 attached homes with three floor plans.Models are scheduled to open this month.

Uptown Whirl

Several months ago, this column reported that Uptown Newport, one of the most significant real estate developments in Newport Beach in recent years, might be getting underway, having received approvals several years ago.

Groundbreaking has taken place and developers Shopoff Realty Investments, Irvine, and Picerne Group, Newport Beach, are moving ahead with the first phase of Uptown Newport on a portion of the 25-acre former industrial site on Jamboree Road between MacArthur Boulevard and Birch Street.

Island Cinema Gets Luxe Upgrade 

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Luxury cinema-goers were shocked to discover Island Cinema in Fashion Island, Newport Beach, was suddenly closed. After all, the seven-screen theater with its reserved leather seats and a lobby offering wine and snacks was touted as the first luxury cinema
in Orange County when it opened in 2011.

Not to worry. Forget luxury cinema. Scheduled to open in its place next spring is The Lot, an ultra-luxury cinema. The Lot, from San Diego, will offer leather recliner seats wired with a button to page a butler. A full range of cocktails and premium dining items will be offered from a stand-alone restaurant. The restaurants in the two San Diego Lots are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with menu delicacies including
$45 steaks.

A highlight of the development will be an indoor/outdoor social space. Oh yes, movies. The number of screens has not yet been announced.

The price of admission? In San Diego, ticket prices range from $15 to $23.50 with a $12 special all day Wednesdays and food and beverage happy hours during the week.

 

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Breaking the cycle of poverty one meal at a time

 

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A vivid red food truck summoned children from the playground at a Santa Ana after-school program with a loud burst of its distinctive horn: Aah-oooh-gah. A burly, bearded guy with a clean-shaven head steered Betsy, his 1986 truck, into a nearby parking lot where portable tables were set for dinner under pop-up tents.

Chef Bill Bracken had come to serve free, hot meals and take-home add-ons that he and a corps of volunteers prepared for the children and their families, all homeless or hungry, or often, both.

Betsy may be the most visible element of Bracken’s Kitchen, an innovative hunger-relief program started in 2013 by the former luxury hotel executive chef. The truck is one of a trio of services that also includes a recovered-food program and, coming soon, chef
training that gives at-risk youth culinary job skills while they provide Bracken’s Kitchen with labor assistance.

Together, they create a virtuous circle that feeds the hungry while giving farmers an incentive to harvest surplus and imperfect crops, reducing the environmental impact of food trash and eliminating prepared food waste. In 2017, Bracken’s Kitchen made more than 40,000 meals for Orange County residents who struggle daily to survive.

The program is notable because it introduced a new concept to hunger relief operations – the food recovery kitchen. “We feel that our trio of services is a unique combination that nobody has done before,” says Bracken. “Add to that the creation of our Recovered Food Production Kitchen, which takes mass quantities of food recovered from hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and suppliers and turns that into tasty and nutritious meals to support other smaller organizations and you have a one-of-a-kind operation.”

Unlike food banks that warehouse canned, dried or processed ingredients for donation, Bracken’s Kitchen uses top-tier, fresh food to create hot, nutritious and tasty meals. “We are a large, professional kitchen, so we have a lot more resources to deal in fresh produce and perishable food,” Bracken says.

Recent menus have included roasted chicken stew with red quinoa and summer vegetables; picadillo made with grass-fed beef, venison, elk and rabbit from the Newport Meat Co.; shepherd’s pie with Angus beef; organic beef lasagna; roast turkey with chestnut stuffing; and banana-and-chocolate bread pudding.

“I’m cooking the same way I always have,” says Bracken, who earned national attention as executive chef at the Four Seasons Hotels and The Peninsula Beverly Hills. The Peninsula’s restaurant earned five-star ratings for 12 consecutive years on the strength of Bracken’s cooking, known for elevated comfort food. Now when top suppliers and restaurants donate gourmet ingredients, Bracken knows how to make the best use of them.

There have been large, luscious shrimp and piles of beef cheeks that bolster jambalaya or stews; filet mignon for beef stroganoff; gourmet bread that he chunks into croutons and bread pudding; and enormous wheels of artisan cheese that are mixed into mashed potatoes or handed out by the brick.

The donations are what chefs call over-prepared food, the often-necessary but excess ingredients required to meet peak demand and expectations. Through programs such as Chefs to End Hunger, restaurants and other food preparers use a standardized system to safely package and deliver the extras to places like Bracken’s Kitchen. That’s where the chef shows his genius in creating meals with broad appeal.

The self-described Kansas farm boy has tapped into virtually every aspect of his 35-year culinary career to attract support for the enterprise. Bruce Hecker, president of Bruce’s Gourmet Catering, retired Betsy from movie set catering and gave the truck to Bracken to launch his mobile dining effort. Andrew Gruel, founder of the Slapfish restaurants, ran a fundraiser for a second food truck. To reach the 49 percent of Orange County children who receive government-subsidized lunch during the school year, Bracken launched an Indiegogo campaign to help keep them fed through the summer. And then there was the “Pizza Showdown” he organized, a friendly competition pitting young chefs against “old” to see who could make the tastiest pie, all for the sake of charity.

At a shared commercial kitchen space in Huntington Beach, Bracken offered the owner access to his top-grade kitchen equipment in exchange for free rent. Nearly daily, friends, fellow chefs and members of his place of worship, Seabreeze Church in Huntington Beach, volunteer there to transform the industrial-size donations. As the crew dices bushels of onions, blends gallons of salad dressing or slices mounds of pork chops under Bracken’s guidance, the kitchen turns out three-course meals for an astonishing 30 cents each.

The virtuous circle continues to attract cash, service and product donations from sources such as the Allergan Foundation, Solutions for Urban Agriculture, Impact Giving, Waste Not OC Coalition and LA & SF Specialty.

The services of Bracken’s Kitchen aren’t just about charity. Food waste is estimated at 30 to 40 percent of the nationwide food supply, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If crops aren’t perfect or become too costly to harvest, they’re left to rot in fields. Restaurants once feared lawsuits if they donated food that was inaccurately perceived as old or spoiled. Laws have changed, and so have attitudes and awareness about the impact of food waste on the population and the planet.

Hunger-relief organizations have worked for decades to close the gap between excess waste, or “recovered food,” and hungry people, but there’s often been a missing link. That’s where Bracken, like a contestant on the reality show “Chopped,” illustrates how to take random ingredients and cook them into delicious, healthy meals.

“He has a skill set that goes far beyond most people in the world of philanthropy,” said Jordan Perkins, executive director of Solutions for Urban Agriculture, which runs a program to glean produce from area farms for Bracken’s Kitchen. “He clearly left a very lucrative career to do something that he’s very passionate about. We want to support that.”

Those skills also caught the attention of Mike Learakos, executive director of the Waste Not OC Coaltion and president of TJM Inc./Katella Grill. As Waste Not OC was developing a model to eliminate hunger and reduce food waste with wholesome, fresh recovered food, Bracken was thinking along the same lines.

“One critical element of our model is the use of ‘food recovery kitchens’ to repurpose and/or repackage recovered food in a manner that extends the product shelf life, eliminates waste at the food pantry level and ensures food safety,” Learakos wrote in an email. “After meeting Bill three years ago, we immediately hit it off, and it was then I identified Bill as a vital part of the model and Bracken’s Kitchen as our pilot food recovery kitchen.”

The model is extending even further into the community.  With a tasty meal as the draw, Bracken’s Kitchen boosts attendance at other charitable events. He’s partnered with the Beach Coin Laundry’s Laundry Love Project to feed participants while the laundromat’s volunteers wash up to 100 loads of clothing. In the works: Doctors from the Edinger Medical Group of Fountain Valley will ride along with Betsy to perform free medical checkups. “The doctors recognize what we do in terms of nutritious, healthy meals,” said Bracken. “They know all of the issues related to food insecurity.”

Now the chef has expansion plans. He envisions a fleet of trucks, a permanent kitchen, a statewide or national program, and additional staff who can help Bracken move from behind the wheel (or the stove) to share his management and cooking skills.

“I spend a lot of my time guiding and teaching my volunteers. Teaching a young person culinary skills helps break the cycle of poverty,” Bracken said. “We can feed them all day long, but guess what? Tomorrow they wake up hungry. If we can have impact on the long-term cycle of poverty, then we can really make a difference.” Bracken knows that his meals aren’t just about food. “It’s the idea that someone cares, that there is hope,” he said.

At the end of the meal in Santa Ana, Bracken packs Betsy for the drive back to Huntington Beach, where he’ll end a typical 12-hour day. Turning to explain why he works so hard, he repeats a favorite saying, “Feeding people isn’t the same as nourishing them.”

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Pulitzer Prize winner William Finnegan to speak at Newport Beach Library

Cold New World, A Complicated War, Dateline Soweto – these are exactly the types of books you’d expect a writer like William Finnegan to author. Gutsy reporting on geopolitical conflicts and the horrors of rising poverty have been the stock-in-trade on which Finnegan, a staffer at The New Yorker since the late 1980s, has built a sterling journalistic career.

Yet it was a memoir he wrote about his lifelong hobby, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, that earned him that coveted writer’s laurel, the Pulitzer Prize, in 2016. The irony is not lost on the Manhattan-based Finnegan, who was born in Woodland Hills and raised in California and Hawaii. “[Memoir writing] goes against your training as a journalist, your inclination to write about other people’s problems, which is what I have done for 90 percent of my work,” he says. “Sometimes in writing this book I’d go off for 15 pages on something that was terribly interesting to me, reflecting on recent Indonesian history or something. My editor would have to snap me back, ‘Why are we reading about this guy?’ I had to try to stick to my story.”

Stick he did, and the result is riveting. Reading Finnegan on surfing is “like reading Hemingway on bullfighting,” Sports Illustrated noted. The author comes to the Newport Beach Library Foundation on Nov. 9 for a “Library Live” appearance at 7 p.m.

Coast: I am sure you have heard this far and wide from other nonsurfers – and I am the most nonsurfer of nonsurfers – but I found Barbarian Days mesmerizing. Does that still surprise you to hear?

William Finnegan:  It is very nice to hear, needless to say. The book is written for the general reader, not for surfers. Which was a bit of a trick, because surfing seems to be impossible to write about for anyone who doesn’t surf. It is weird how difficult it is to get anything right.

With the development of modern surfing, there is a vocabulary, a tribal language that’s been developed to describe what the ocean is doing, the maneuvers, the situations. It is incomprehensible to outsiders, and outsiders are unable to break in and get it right.

Surfing gets more coverage than it used to, and I have noticed stories in the New York Times really working to get the terms right, making an effort to not sound too lame. Then there will be the caption to the photo on the surfing article, and there will be four mistakes in a short caption, and you think, wow, it really is hard to describe surfing. For instance the use of prepositions – at, in,

out—are very specific and you have to get them right or it means something different.

In Barbarian Days I was careful to use each term of ours, each bit of ocean description and surfing description, carefully. The French edition has a glossary, but in the basic American edition I just tried to define each term and trust that the reader paid attention. I had a couple of readers like my wife who, like you, have no interest whatsoever in surfing—and I said “Flag anything that had anything to do with water or surfing.” I would get these queries, some of which were just infuriating.

“Channel? That’s not even a surfing term! How can you not know what a channel is?”

“Well I don’t know what it is.”

“OK, so ocean channel: deep water where no waves break.’

The intent was not to leave anybody disoriented or not understanding. But it kind of picks up speed, so by the middle of the book, when I describe a scene, I am describing it in the terms that I naturally would to people who know the language. And I think there might be some pleasure, a bit of a thrill, for the reader who has been paying attention and now realizes they are getting a kind of picture in a language they didn’t know before starting this book.

Coast: People who write memoirs are almost universally concerned with how people they write about will react to their story. How has the reaction been to the book from people in your life?

WF: Pretty good. It’s complicated, you know. Some people with big roles in the book have said nothing. And others have had small corrections – and even not so small. I did tons of fact checking with all the main people in the book before it went to press. The fact checking was often hilarious, because many of the stories I had told many times, improved here and there and polished a little too much. Then I would take it back to the people who were there and it was, “Wrong.

That’s not how it happened.” Then we would go back and forth and negotiate a version we could agree on. It’s quite complicated with old friends. The basic thing is asking yourself, “Is it right to tell the story?” Normally when I am talking to people it’s on the record, part of work, but this is real life, off the record. Giving yourself the right to share, or publish, all these unguarded moments with friends and family and loved ones is a big decision. You have to decide what to leave in and what to take out, and it is always tricky. You really don’t want to pull your punches, but by the same token, do you have the right to embarrass or distress this person? Absolutely not.

Coast: Now for the really important question: When you come to Newport Beach, do you bring your board?

WF: Newport? No, I wouldn’t, but I might go surfing. Traveling with this book, which I have done for the past couple of years now, I get a lot of people who say, “Hey lets go surfing – I’ll loan you a wet suit, I’ll loan you a board.” So if the waves are pumping and someone wants to loan me a wet suit when I’m there, I’ll probably go. ν

 

Tickets to William Finnegan’s “Library Live” appearance for the Newport Beach Library Foundation are $25.
949.548.2411 :: events@nbplfoundation.org

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Philip Glass’ “Dracula”

Among Philip Glass’ myriad accomplishments, the influential composer has reimagined the relationship between music and the moving image. Glass’ many scores include the atmospheric music composed for the 1999 re-release of one of the earliest talkies, 1931’s “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi. In a concert with film (some might consider it a film with concert) Glass himself plays piano with the Kronos Quartet for two screenings of the classic horror film timed for Halloween celebrating.

SEE IT: Oct. 28 and 29, Segerstrom Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, $59-$175. 714.556.2122 :: scfta.org

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