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Apodaca: Not all construction is created equal

November 03, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

This is a tale of two schools, one church, and three construction projects.

The building projects are underway at Costa Mesa High School, Corona del Mar High School, and Our Lady Queen of Angels, the Catholic parish across the street from CdM in Eastbluff. All began about the same time in the summer of 2011.

Guess which one is nearly done, while the others won't be finished until early 2014, at least by current estimates.

If you chose the church, you'd be correct.

There are plenty of reasons why the dedication ceremony for Our Lady's grand new sanctuary is scheduled for Dec. 15, while the construction zones at CdM and Mesa are still mostly dirt lots.

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But the difference in timing can be lumped into two key issues: The bureaucratic entanglements encountered by the public schools and the surprises unearthed when digging commenced.

I'll get back to those, but first I'll quickly recap the three projects. In the case of Our Lady, the imposing, natural light-infused $15-million church, towering over Jamboree Road and Eastbluff Drive, is being erected on property acquired from St. Mark Presbyterian Church, which relocated to another Newport Beach site.

The old Our Lady church across the street, built in 1964, was deemed seismically inadequate and too small to meet the needs of a growing congregation. The land on which it sits will soon be a parking lot. The new, larger sanctuary will seat nearly 1,200. Once completed, another $5 million will be spent on a community room, childcare facility, and other improvements.

Meanwhile, CdM and Mesa, the school district's two 7-12 campuses, are in the midst of transforming their aging facilities. Plans call for both schools to build 350-seat theaters and separate middle-school enclaves where seventh- and eighth-graders will take most of their classes.

The funds for the school projects — estimated at $32 million each — are coming from the $282-million Measure F, which voters approved in 2005.

But observers today must use their imaginations to envision those projects, which reveal little to the untrained eye save for some neatly groomed dirt and a new weight room/storage facility at CdM, the lone new building to be completed so far.

The delay is largely the result of the slow pace of approvals from the California Division of State Architect, which was hit with budget cutbacks and staff reductions about the same time Newport-Mesa submitted its plans. DSA approval is required for all public-school construction.

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