| Print Story | E-Mail Story | Font Size

The Coast Road

Our 20-year journey began during a recession and has landed in, well, a recession. The survival story.

cover-staff-blythe-most
APRIL 2001/Nickname :: Baublehead/OK. Hands down, our most controversial cover. Cover girl Blythe, from the book 'This is Blythe,' by Gina Garan, was a plastic jet-setter photographed in a number of locations, from exotic beaches to the streets of Paris. She was spotted on Nordstrom's cosmetic counter at South Coast Plaza posing for Garan's latest book. Publisher at the time Chris Schulz and most of the sales staff lobbied hard to get her bumped from the cover, but the editorial staff stood united in our fascination with this babe.

COMMITTED
Advertisers are vital to any publication,
and here at Coast we’ve been blessed
with some very loyal ones. And among
them, there are a few that have been
with us since that very first year. So
we’d like to extend a special thanks to:

Boardriders
South Coast Plaza
AREO
Coldwell Banker
Hoag Hospital
John L. Blom Photography
Fashion Island
Francis Orr
Traditional Jewelers

In the early fall of 1991 in the midst of a recession, Jim and Nikki Wood mocked up an issue of The Coaster and took it around to community business leaders to see how they would respond. Aside from their real estate experience – Jim had sold his 17-year-old real estate business, Unique Homes, to Merrill Lynch, and Nikki had left her position as a Realtor at Coldwell Banker – the Woods’s journalism background included Jim’s columns in the Daily Pilot and OC Metro. Because Jim believed the essence of the Orange County area was not being conveyed to the outside world, he had hoped he could develop his Daily Pilot column into syndication.

“But just the opposite occurred,” says Wood. “In one week I was dropped from the Pilot and OC Metro. Nikki said, ‘The heck with that, let’s do our own.’” Seeking the opinions of trusted friends, the couple consulted with, among others, now retired Irvine Company Group Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Larry Thomas, Orange County Report publisher (and now Coast columnist) Martin Brower and Werner Escher, South Coast Plaza’s executive director, domestic/international markets, all of whom were lukewarm on the idea.

“We were in a recession,” says Brower, “and others had tried to start community newspapers and failed. I didn’t think it was a great idea.” Escher agreed. “I thought there was a lot of competition out there, Irvine World News, the Daily Pilot, The Orange County Register, and the Times Orange County. But they did it anyway,” says Escher. “Jim never worried about what other people thought. What he and Nikki brought to this community was an educational, interesting and fun-to-read publication with Jim’s strong beliefs. He had always been very considerate, and whatever the issues were, they were relevant and timely to the coast. You could agree or disagree with him, but you couldn’t disagree that he had done his homework and knew the facts.”

Despite a lukewarm reception from advisors, business owners such as Danny Bibb, Hans Prager, John Blom, and Dick Braeger were more encouraging and agreed to advertise. Rates were $800 a page for the first 16-page issue, which had a panorama of the coast on the masthead designed by a Cal State Fullerton professor and which Wood considered his “love letter to the community.” Many of the 25,000 copies were hand delivered by the Woods. “Nikki would do things without telling me that were wise and solid and reined me in,” Jim says. “I thought in the back of my mind that The Coaster would become a daily newspaper; Nikki envisioned it as a monthly magazine; guess who won?”

The Coaster’s first issue, on November 19, 1991, announced the opening of Newport Coast Drive, and explained that a methane recovery plant would take gases from the old dumpsite and use them to spin a turbine that would generate electricity for 20,000 nearby homes. The issue also questioned whether the planned $778 million, 14-mile San Joaquin Hills Tollway would be a milestone in the maturing Orange County, or a massive environmental mistake. At publication date, just four model homes were under construction in Newport Coast. Some 25,000 copies of the “magapaper,” as Wood liked to call it, were delivered the first and third Saturdays of the month. Columns included “Bold Ideas," inspirations that might improve our community, and “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch,” potholes of life that detract from the enjoyment of the community. The issue was 16 pages long and included “Secret Spot” and “Commentary.”

Early advertisers included John Blom Custom Photography, Forrest Pond Jewelers, Hart’s Rugs and Carpets, Haagen-Dazs, Pelican Point at Newport Coast (advertised homes began selling at $900,000), Recycled Rags, The Ritz, and Coast Newport Properties, among others. A year later, The Coaster logo changed, color photos took up the top half of the cover and the subhead “News That’s Good to Know” was added.

This issue included an interview with watercolorist Rex Brandt, a Fletcher Jones Mercedes ad offering the first free car washes for Mercedes owners and a story about Cannery Village Realty Owner Russ Fluter, who lost a sale on a $5 million house on the Lido bayfront because he wanted to go to a Fourth of July picnic. “My open house signs were only bringing in boatfuls of yo-yo types wanting to use the bathrooms,” he said at the time. One family arrived by boat, however, and made an all-cash offer through one of Fluter’s agents.

Later that year, The Coaster let go of the copy on the cover, as well as the “The” in our name, and began what was meant to be a yearly holiday cover ritual – a 1982 painting by Susan Newcomb called “The Year Newport Harbor Froze,” depicting the Balboa Pavilion frozen over (we ran it three years in a row until we decided to give someone else a chance). This issue in December of 1992 was Coaster’s transformation from community newspaper to regional magazine. Earlier that year, Coaster reported the news that $27 million lots sold on Pelican Hill, that Newport Beach was not going to buy a locally invented Water Rake to clean its harbors (it eventually did) and that Five Feet chef Michael Kang cooked 850 Thanksgiving dinners for Merle Hatleberg’s Someone Cares Soup Kitchen. Coaster’s Commentary promoted Orange County Airport’s move to MCAS El Toro and also broke the news that Jim Jacobs didn’t want the NBPD’s chief’s job. Coaster’s mission was already “to create a sense of community and vitalize the local economy.” At 32 pages, advertisers joining up included POSH, the newly opened Rag Baby, At Ease, Sterling BMW, Garys and Company, AREO, Pacific Coast Audio and Video, Traditional Jewelers, Cannery Village Realty, Lexus of Westminster, Gina’s Pizza, Recycled Rags, Farmer’s Market, lots of local restaurants, and others.

In November of 1993, The Coaster was now Coaster magazine and the cover story was a feature about the urbanization of South Coast Metro, highlighting its transformation from beanfield to urban center in less than 10 years. Coverage of the effects of the October 27 Laguna Beach fires was also in this issue, including devastating photographs, a heartfelt look at what people along the coast were packing to evacuate and moving memories of the fires, which included this quote from Emerald Bay resident Tom Redwitz: “I have new appreciation for how fast nature works and how quickly years of effort can be erased. When my wife and baby and I were safely together, I really didn’t care about our house. Maya and I thought, what can’t we replace? We decided that as long as we had our family, there was nothing that couldn’t be replaced.” Coaster set up a successful fire relief fund that raised money for the Red Cross’s Disaster Relief. In November of 1993, sales of homes in Newport Coast were up to 159, 41 of which sold in California Pacific’s Montserrat in the high $300,000s. Adding to the Coaster advertiser family were South Coast Plaza, Triangle Square, Nabers Cadillac, Grubb and Ellis, Coldwell Banker, and Stonemill Design Center.

In December of 1995, Coaster changed its logo design once more, and in this issue, revealed a local version of “Stargate” called “CoasterGate.” We thought that if the U.S. government could spend $20 million on psychics in their “Stargate” program, the Coaster should ask local psychics to stargaze into the year ahead. We asked about the county’s coming out of bankruptcy (most said yes but it would take time); if Robert “Bob” Citron would go to jail (most said to jail’s door, but not in it); if voters would reapprove the decision to make El Toro an airport (most said no, one said not without a fight); what was in the future for the El Toro Y and Irvine Spectrum (lots of traffic and business); and whether or not Disney would develop a resort along the Orange County coast (a definitive no). Reflecting on the entire year, Jim Wood had his own predictions, discussing where the county had been and where he believed it was headed. Orange County had gone through a political laundry process with the bankruptcy. Wood predicted that the bankruptcy recovery plan would stagger through as a “Band-Aid approach to an injury in need of major surgery.” He also noted that while the openings of the sprawling Twin Palms and the tiny Memphis restaurants were hugely different in scope, what they had in common was “energy and imagination.” A final Wood projection was this: “Look for Coaster magazine to harness its energy and imagination and come out with an all new format for the competitive years ahead.”

Coast magazine (still saddle stitched) was launched in late January of 1996. In this issue, feature stories included the merging of the Newport Harbor and Laguna Art Museum to form the Orange County Museum of Art, a debate on Measure S – the initiative to designate MCAS El Toro for its highest and best use, aerial photos of the Orange Coast from a Piper Warrior, and OC’s top 10 residential resales of 1995 (The Betchel House in South Laguna sold to a General Dynamics exec for $5,050,000 in one afternoon. In 1989 the same house was listed for $22 million.)

Coast went monthly in August of 1998. This November fashion issue was 120 pages plus national advertisers such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and Co., Bulgari, Max Mara, Cartier, Mikimoto, Jil Sander, Ashworth, and Galleri Orrefors had joined the Coast family. In this issue, Jim Wood hung out on the grimy dredging barge Columbus II slopping mud out of upper Newport Bay, and took a shift on one of the 70-foot barges hauling “the goo” out to the sea. Coast also produced a Coastal Q-and-A about the future of Orange County which included Treasure Island, the revitalization of the Balboa Peninsula, the safety of the waters off Crystal Cove State Beach, the development of Crystal Cove, the San Joaquin Toll Road’s financial status, the annexation of Newport Coast, the state of new resorts on Newport Coast, the El Toro Marine Base becoming a commercial airport, development of the Dana Point headlands and Banning Ranch, the lease on Laguna Beach’s Festival of the Arts, and the possibility of a light rail system being developed from Irvine to Fullerton.

In April of 1999, Coast transformed into a perfect bound format with a more modern logo. Two years later, in the April 2001 180-page issue, Coast stepped up Orange County society and fashion coverage with the addition of Donna Bunce as Coast’s executive editor, had local florist Andrew Gromek create whimsical flower headdresses for a fashion shoot that corresponded with South Coast Plaza’s Southern California Spring Garden show, and we asked Orange County moms the greatest gifts they could receive – as predicted, most of them said “love.” In September of 2000, after considering a number of other buyers, the Woods sold Coast to OCR Magazines, an affiliate of The Orange County Register.

Under the Register’s banner, and with Christopher Schulz as the new publisher, Coast continued its rise in popularity. Readership increased, as did advertising revenue, culminating in the thickest book in its 15-year history in November 2005 – it weighed in at 332 pages. Also in the fall of 2005, Orange County Kids (now Coast Kids) launched, a quarterly magazine dedicated to the families of the county.

In September 2008, Erin Zilis became the latest publisher and in October of 2009, a newly redesigned Coast was launched. The November 2009 issue won Coast the Maggie award for Best Regional & State/Consumer magazine from the Western Publishing Association. While still committed to creating a sense of community, the new Coast adopted the interactive experience, which more accurately reflected the digital revolution that was shifting the sources of storytelling. Eager to present the many ways to be involved with the community besides reading about it, the new format worked to inspire readers to take action. The interactive magazine was supplemented with an equally interactive website. In 2010, Coast left the coast (our hearts will always be there) and took its place on the second floor of The Orange County Register building in Santa Ana.


 

The Coast Chronicles
Since when coast printed its first issue, the Orange County coast has gone from a bustling beachy area to the OC we know today. Here is a brief history.

November 1991
The Ocean Course at Pelican Hill Golf Course opens followed by the Link Course in November 1993. Both courses use reclaimed water for irrigation and lakes with $1.3 million spent on landscaping annually. In November 2005 Pelican Hill Golf Club closes for the building of the Irvine Company’s five-star resort, The Resort at Pelican Hill, in Newport Coast, which makes its debut in November 2008.

June 1992
Triangle Square, which takes its name from the triangular structure of the property and the upper level, which is designed as a town-square, opens. Coming in at 200,000 square feet, tenants following anchor business Edwards Theater include 12,000-square-foot Barnes & Noble, 21,000-square-foot Virgin Megastore, all in 1993. Another major tenant, Niketown and Virgin Megastore pull out in 2005. By 2010, the mall begins redevelopment under the direction of Richard Kelly of San Diego’s Ivy Hotel fame.

May 1993
Now completely extinct west of the 405, buffalo roamed near the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Ford Road. It was the last of some wild local history: In the mid-‘50s a Kansas entrepreneur shipped 100 buffalo west to create the Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch, a tourist attraction that lasted less than two years.

October 1993
The great fire hits Laguna Beach, burning 17,000 acres in one day due to strong Santa Ana winds ripping down out of the Mojave Desert. Smoke and ash envelop the coast for days and 10s of millions of dollars worth of property damage is sustained. In one heads-up decision, Santa Ana school buses are called in for an emergency evacuation of Laguna Beach High School students.

June 1994
Newport Beach Central Library opens in Newport Center. The two-story library will not only house thousands of books and provide a vast research department, but also be the location for scenes in the movie Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.

August 1994
The Laguna Canyon Deer on Laguna Canyon Road makes a last defiant stand against the inevitable development of the San Joaquin Hills Toll Corridor. Made from coastal sage scrub branches uprooted by bulldozers and erected by Laguna Beach’s Linda Eckmann, it stood in the corridor right-of-way until it lost its “life” to bulldozing on December 23, 1994.

December 1994
Largely due to the high-risk investments of County Treasurer Bob Citron (aka Vegas Bob), Orange County’s Investment Pool takes a $1.7 billion hit and the county files for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

August 1995
After a lawsuit induced a two-year delay, construction on the Toll Corridor between Laguna Canyon and MacArthur Boulevard begins. Though the expected completion date is early 1997, it opens in 1996.

November 1995
“The Big One” hits Irvine Spectrum. Edwards Theaters and the Irvine Company launch the Irvine Entertainment Center at Irvine Spectrum at the confluence of the I-5 and 405 Freeways, shooting to make it the future downtown of Orange County. Centerpiece of the $50 million, 250,000-square-foot Moorish/North African-inspired center is the Edwards 21-screen theater complex, including an IMAX 3D auditorium with a 90-foot screen.

March 1996
The first Newport Beach International Film Festival opens with 80 films over two weeks. After three years, however, the fest will claim bankruptcy, only to be revitalized with new directors in 2001. The new entity, the Newport Beach Film Festival, is still going strong with more than 350 films screened in 2010.

September 1996
The Orange County Performing Arts Center celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Its centerpiece is the $73.7 million, 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall, with Fire Bird, Richard Lippod’s red, gold and silver aluminum and steel sculpture soaring through the façade. In 2005, OCPAC breaks ground on the Renèe and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

June 2000
After two years under construction, South Coast Plaza’s 600-foot, bougainvillea-laden Bridge Of Gardens opens to shoppers, allowing them to cross above Bear Street between the eastern part of the mall and Crystal Court. The bridge was part of the $120 million renovation of the shopping center and is now traveled by up to 14,000 shoppers per weekend.

July 2001
The Tuscan-styled St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa opens on 200 acres of land near The Ritz-Carlton. At a cost of $240 million to build and featuring a world-class spa and 60,000 square feet of outdoor function spaces, the St. Regis dramatically upped the bar for what a five-star OC hotel must be and was even named Best Pool in the World in 2010 by Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award.

Fall 2002
Crystal Cove Promenade, a 125,000-square-foot retail center opens at the foot of Crystal Cove on PCH. With anchor tenants Trader Joe’s and The Gap, it boasts the best views of any shopping center in town.

February 2003
Montage Laguna Beach debuts on 30 lushly landscaped acres on the site formerly occupied by Treaure Island mobile homes. The casually chic architecture of this beachfront luxury resort pays modern homage to the Arts & Crafts Movement. There are views of the Pacific Ocean from the resort and access to Treasure Island Beach.

November 2005
El Morro residents end their year-long dispute with the state and agree to pull out by March 1, 2006 and pay the state $650,000 in legal fees and rent. By 2008, construction is underway for a campground, picnic area and the restoration of El Morro Creek.

April 2006
After years of being a county divided over the reuse of Marine Corp Air Station El Toro, the community activism and ballot measures followed by more ballot measures finally comes to an end with Orange County decidedly anti-airport. A plan is proposed to build a 1,347-acre Great Park, more than twice the size of New York City’s Central Park, surrounded by modest development and open space. With a great park comes great expectations and designers and creators begin to feel the pressure.

June 2008
The Anaheim GardenWalk opens on Katella at Clementine Street, near one of Orange County’s biggest draws, Disneyland. The mall takes its name from its central walkway of water-feature gardens. Anchored by upscale dining choices like Roy’s, McCormick & Schmick’s and The Cheesecake Factory, it is the newest addition to the City of Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort District. The opening of a 14-screen Ultrastar cinema follows.

August 2009
Great Park Board Corporation Chair Larry Agran announces the beginning of a $61 million construction project for development of the first 500 acres of the Great Park in the City of Irvine. Touted as America’s first great metropolitan park of the 21st century, there are also plans for a 100-acre working community farm, sportspark, lake and amphitheater, most of which will be open by 2011.

May 2010
The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum announces plans to develop a new facility in the 34,000-square-foot space at the Balboa Fun Zone it has occupied since moving from the tiny Pride of Newport mock paddleboat in Newport Bay. Changing its name to ExplorOcean, the new museum will feature a Grand Hall, Balboa Discovery Center and a Transpacific Adventure Zone. Also in the works are plans for a theater, weather station, gift shop, and dining option.


See archived 'Features' stories »
 



What is this?

Save & Share this Article

powered by
google
Search
        Search: Web    Site