A.K.A. a love letter to my town.
Ophelia has so many loves. One of them is the town of Corona del Mar in Newport Beach, California. Until the late 1920s, Corona del Mar was a tiny village, reached from the peninsula by small boat at high tide, or by a muddy dirt road that crossed over the Irvine Ranch. Now Corona del Mar, which means “Crown of the Sea” in Spanish, is part of the City of Newport Beach, but has it’s own zip code and it’s own Chamber of Commerce, as well as a representative on the Newport Beach City Council.
Corona del Mar is small, approximately 3 miles by 3 miles, fronting along the beautiful Pacific Ocean. I love how our beaches are backed by cliffs, providing spectacular views to those above.
One of the many reasons to love Corona del Mar is the spectacular weather. On average, there are 278 sunny days per year. The ocean breeze keeps us comfortable, perhaps too comfortable! Many of us are so spoiled by this perfect weather that a hot spell (90°!) for 3 or 4 days drives us indoors to our almost-never-used air conditioning.
The topography provides variety and interest. The village isn’t flat and boring. There are hills and slopes, as well as steep cliffs and canyons. At the base of the deepest canyon is Bayside Drive, which runs basically parallel to Pacific Coast Highway. Within the Village, there are 3 areas as far as real estate is concerned. North of the Highway (the inland side), South of the Highway (the ocean side), and South of Bayside (this basically means you are within 3 blocks of the beach.) The Village is also referred to as “The Flower Streets” and the streets are laid out in a basic grid pattern and botanically-named alphabetically from Avocado to Poppy, traveling East to West. Of course, we have our quirks (I’m a big fan of quirks), as there are 2 A’s, no E or K, and 2 M’s, and 2 P’s. We stop at Poppy but then add on Hazel. It’s all very fun, but personally I would have named that last street Queen Anne’s Lace or I would have skipped the Q and gone straight to Rose.
The houses aren’t boring either. Every one is unique and original. There are very few actual original cottages (less than 5, probably) built before the 20’s. The majority of what is considered “original” was built in the 40’s. Most of these have been developed into duplexes, with a “back unit” over the garage. Newer construction comes in all styles from Cape Cod to Mediterranean to Modern Farmhouse. Many of these homes also take advantage of the R-2 zoning prevalent in the village and are built as two units. Instead of remaining as a duplex where one party owns both units and rents one out, they have been turned into condominiums and sold off separately. Lot sizes are typically 30′ x 118′ and built out as much as the law will allow. Beach town living often means being 6′ from your neighbor’s kitchen window.
CdM is a walking village. The businesses are clustered along Coast Highway and nearly everything you need is within walking distance if you live in the Flower Streets. Banks, Coffee, Hair and Nail Salons, the Post Office, the Hardware store, the Grocery store, the Drug store, Real Estate offices, and of course, shopping and fine dining! You can grab a breakfast burrito, get your shoes re-soled, pick up your dry cleaning, scope out some flowers, admire some artwork or beautiful furniture, and make a stop at See’s before heading home. You can shop for a new cell phone, see your personal trainer, get frozen yogurt, or stop for wine and cheese – all without getting in your car. In the late 40’s, my mother used to work at the soda fountain in the town drug store. It was located right in the center of town at Marguerite and Pacific Coast Highway, where Berkshire Hathaway is now located. Her boss lived just a few blocks up Marguerite and she said that she and her co-workers could see him walking back down to the drug store after his afternoon nap and knew it was time to stop goofing off!
Of course there are other areas to Corona del Mar besides the village. Irvine Terrace, Cameo Shores and Cameo Highlands, Shorecliff, Jasmine Park, Harbor View Hills… These are beautiful neighborhoods in a more traditional “suburbia” kind of way. The lots are bigger, streets are wider, houses have a little more room to breathe, but you do lose the walkability. Residents here still benefit from the gorgeous weather and the close proximity to Fashion Island and activities of the village. And of course, all property owners in Corona del Mar enjoy a high return on their investment! Property values in Corona del Mar increase faster than other areas and hold their value better through the tough times. There’s definitely a wide variety of real estate here, from condominium complexes to front or back units in the village, to single family homes to breathtaking mansions, often all in one block! I think it’s the variety that I love the most. For this article, I searched high and low for my favorite property currently for sale in each of 5 different price ranges.
In the $1M – $2M range, I found that you can still have quality finishes and all of the benefits of CdM, but you may sacrifice a little in the “location” department. Especially in the lower half of this price range, most were back units or located extremely close to Pacific Coast Highway. I settled on 1433 Keel Drive as my favorite. Located in Harbor View Hills South, this lovely home was built in 1969 and has been tastefully remodeled into a beautiful and serene oasis. The neighborhood is quiet yet close to Fashion Island and convenient to either the beach or the freeway. I loved the leaded glass windows in the living room and the high ceilings. The house has an airy, spacious feel to it.
In the $2M – $3M range there was less disparity between the highest price one and the lowest price one than there was in the previous category. All were either lovely or a great opportunity, so it really came down to personal taste. 712 Fernleaf Avenue was my personal winner. I loved the modern, sleek appeal, the finishes that had been chosen, and the fabulous roof deck. No, I’m not a fan of the bathtub in the master bedroom, but I do love that the owner was true to herself and built it for the way she wanted to live. I would actually feel a little guilty changing it, but yes, I would change it. The back unit here (712 1/2 Fernleaf) is also for sale and I’d LOVE to have both.
Between $3M and $5M you can have your choice of styles and locations. You can be in the village or the neighborhoods and you will generally get over 3,000 square feet, unless you’re in a really, really prime location. There were so many gorgeous homes to choose from and a lot of variety. I found my favorite in the village, South of Bayside. 320 Iris Avenue is on a dead-end street, so it is a pretty quiet location, but still close to everything and only 2 blocks from the beach. This house has great architectural appeal. The rooms are interesting, not boring boxes. Finishes are high quality and well-thought out. One of my favorites was the brick wall behind the bathtub.
In the $5M – $10M range, I found myself gravitating toward Irvine Terrace. (I actually have one I love more down in ShoreCliffs but it’s already sold. You can read about it here.) There is, of course, a ton of luxury to be found in this price range, so it really does come down to personal taste. Dolphin Terrace is a coveted street, but the other side, with the ocean and harbor views, can be nearly twice the price per square foot. I fell in love with 1536 Dolphin Terrace, on the inland side of the street. This is a very current/fresh feeling modern farmhouse with glossy shiplap walls and reclaimed wood. In addition to an ideal neighborhood and tons of space, the outdoor space is SO inviting and so easily accessed from the indoors. One of my favorite features was the kitchen ceiling with it’s inset portion of reclaimed wood.
Finally, the ever-so-important category of $10M and up. Helloooooo, gorgeous! There are currently only 7 properties for sale in Corona del Mar with a price tag of over $10M. But that’s mostly due to the time of year. In this range, there are lawns that look like green velvet, Master closets that look like Neiman Marcus, bars that look like they belong in a hotel, and wine rooms straight out of my dreams. It was difficult to narrow these 7 down to just one winner. The most expensive one ($24.7M) was very tempting but I’d also want to do a great deal of updating. What it really had going for it was location and size. The “second cheapest” one (nearly $12M) had my favorite finishes and design, especially the bar and wine room. But my winner is 2735 Ocean Blvd. There was a great article written about this house a little over a year ago. The originality of design and the unparalleled location are what moved this house into first place for me. I’m fortunate enough to walk past this home a few times a week and one of my favorite features from the outside is also one of my favorite features of the interior as well – the natural limestone block walls. There are imprints of shells in each block and it is so perfect for the location, yet elegant and timeless. There is one factor, however, that seals the deal for me and firmly roots this home as my favorite in Corona del Mar. When the iconic “Chinese House”, for which China Cove was named, was about to be torn down in 1986 after watching over the harbor for 60 years, the owner of 2735 Ocean tried to get them to save it. When they demolished it anyway, he procured large portions and incorporated them into his own house. The Chinese house lives on at 2735 Ocean, with a tile roof, the wood corbels with gold leaf painted dragons and copper horns. I have great respect for a man who felt such a connection with a home in his community that he not only kept portions of someone else’s house, but also included an inscription about the history of China Cove for future generations to read and learn.
I love Corona del Mar and all it has to offer, and happily give this community 10 hearts out of 10. ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️
Below are some of my favorite CdM places.
Whenever I tell people I live in Corona del Mar, they always say “oh, I love Corona del Mar” and they don’t even live here! Imagine how much they’d really love it if they’d experienced the CdM life themselves. Are you ready to join us in paradise? Give Ross a call!