Wednesday, January 26, 2022

2021: Recapping a Year in Coronado

2021 was certainly an eventful year. From a post-game basketball tortilla-throwing incident to multiple shark sightings to schools and businesses reopening, Coronado has slowly reopened to return to past traditions and awaken from its COVID-like slumber. But just when things appeared to return to some normalcy, variants such as Delta and Omicron were added to the daily lexicon.


The year got off to a bumpy start as San Diego county reported record high deaths and four cases of the COVID-19 new Alpha strain B.1.1.7. On a more positive note, the Coronado Playhouse celebrated its 75th anniversary and announced their 2021 season schedule of shows. Coronado local Renee Eader also won big on the Wheel of Fortune game show, bringing home nearly $20,000.

During the first City Council meeting of the year, the new COVID testing site was highlighted to be up and running at the Coronado Boathouse. The Ocean Boulevard Sidewalk and Street Improvement Project was discussed along with economic development options to help local businesses. 

After having begun the school year virtually in fall 2020, Superintendent Karl Mueller set out a district timeline for a return to on-campus experiences, including a transition for grades 6-12 to a hybrid schedule beginning on February 1 for the start of the second semester. 

Beginning January 13, the City of Coronado along with Sharp Coronado Hospital began receiving and distributing COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to move the San Diego region to the next phase of vaccination efforts. 

Parakeet Juicery landed a second home at 1138 Orange Avenue next door to the Parakeet Cafe. 

Parakeet Juicery is now located directly next to Parakeet Cafe at 1138 Orange Avenue.

For the first official meeting of the CUSD school board, members mourned the loss of three employees and discussed supplemental learning materials and the reopening of the campus. 

California lifted its Regional Stay at Home Order, which put San Diego County in the purple tier but eased some restrictions for businesses. 

Francaise French Goods opened its doors at 1037 Orange Avenue, and with its black and white ambiance and signature rooster enticed visitors to enter. 

At the Coronado Shores beach, the SS Monte Carlo resurfaced to reveal “buried treasure” after a big storm. It had crashed on January 1, 1937, and displayed her rusted hull as an invaluable piece of history. 

Photo Credit: The Coronado Times (January 27, 2021)


To start off the month, Coronado’s City Manager Blair King was selected as a finalist for the City Manager position in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Coronado MainStreet also announced that Elizabeth Riebe was selected to the Executive Director position recently vacated by retiring Rita Sarich. 

Coronado resident Raindrop’s CEO Jacques Spitzer created an ad with natural soap company Dr. Squatch that aired during the Super Bowl LV. 

Coronado High School (CHS) student Lauren Griffin was crowned Miss Coronado Volunteer 2021.

Coronado Unified School District reported a 16% drop in enrollment during the pandemic, with a total of 486 students. One Islander provided commentary on stepping foot on the CHS campus for the first time this school year. 

Mason Harrell was inspired by his daughter to change the world through the non-profit organization IDefine, which raises awareness and connects families with members with Kleefstra Syndrome. 

The CUSD School Board met for the first time in-person to discuss the 4 by 4 schedule, Equity Action Plan concerns, COVID testing, and summer school plans. 

VomFASS franchise’s Coronado Tasting Room opened its doors located at Suite 101 in the Coronado Ferry Landing. Owned by locals Colleen and Jay Cavalieri, the company has more than 300 franchises worldwide and just five in California. 

CHS celebrated its 2021 Homecoming week with an “enchanted” theme, including modified traditions such as Spirit Week, the Homecoming Court, a Homecoming Parade, Crowning Ceremony, and drive-in movie. 


At the start of the month, surfer Matt Erickson witnessed a shark off the Coronado Shores beach. 

City Council discussed the Shark Lab at the California State University, Long Beach, and Coronado’s Climate Action Plan. 

The 34th Annual Coronado Schools Foundation Telethon was held on March 24th via Zoom, and parents, community members, and local businesses combined efforts to raise more than $160,000 in support of STEM and Arts pathways for Coronado schools. 

Coronado resident Brandon Manson received a surprise while paddleboarding, spotting a whale surfacing nearby. 


On April 6, Governor Gavin Newsom outlined California’s plans to fully reopen on June 15 as the state surpassed a major milestone of administering more than 20 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. 

Hotel del Coronado announced the name for its new real estate offering: Shore House at The Del, which features fully furnished residences, an ocean-view pool, cabanas, a poolside bar, and an indoor/outdoor lounge. 

Dominique Albrecht was appointed as the City of Coronado’s assistant city manager. 

Trident Coffee opened its doors at 942 Orange Avenue, featuring a coffee taproom and keto bakery as well as showcasing brewery experience and applying that to coffee. 

The USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), commissioned August 15, 1998, was decommissioned on April 14 following its tragic fire in 2020. A decommissioning ceremony was held at Naval Base San Diego. 

On a busy Saturday afternoon, an event that garnered many social media photos and videos took place when an SUV drove over a hydrant on Orange Avenue, causing an enormous geyser to form. It took workers 45 minutes to shut off the water.

Coronado High School teachers voiced concerns regarding the transition to a 4 by 4 schedule to begin the 2021-2022 school year. The history/social studies, science, math, fine arts, English, special education, world languages, and physical education departments all expressed worries for the new schedule and reasons for their opposition. 

National Volunteer Week was celebrated at the Coronado Vaccine Clinic at Sharp Coronado Hospital, where members of the community aided in the vaccination site. 

Another shark was sighted off the shore of Coronado Beach, which put the area in response level 2. 


After the May 2020 School Board meeting, members met again and the 4 by 4 schedule was green-lighted for a fall 2021 rollout in a 3-2 vote. 

4x4 schedule meeting sign cusd
4×4 meeting signs outside Coronado High School.

The Coronado Police Department stated that it is committed to its community, and Police Chief Chuck Kaye answered several community questions regarding behavioral health training, PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) training, pandemic impacted calls, and biased-based policing. 

Coronado School Foundation’s first-ever Balcony Bash Spring Soiree on May 7 raised over $35,000 for the Coronado Schools Foundation. Held at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort, this event included performances from local students, an auction, and live entertainment to benefit Arts and STEM in Coronado Schools. 

The Coronado School Board held a meeting which first praised the teachers of the year, then turned into a contentious debate centered around the No Place for Hate initiative and the equity committee. 

On a more positive note, Coronado Beach once again made the Dr. Beach “Top 10 Beaches in America” list. 

The Coronado Community Vaccination Clinic hit a major milestone of providing 50,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on May 28. 


Set to replace Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge at 1015 Orange Avenue, The Islander restaurant was announced. 

Coronado High School juniors and seniors celebrated a long-standing tradition with the Powderpuff flag-football game. The junior class of 2023 ultimately took the victory, but the event proved that activities could return to somewhat of a normal experience for Islanders.

The CHS class of 2021 announced their valedictorian (Samantha Lorr) and co-salutatorians (Alex Hurlburt and Paloma Ronis von Helms). The 2021 graduation ceremony was held on June 17 at the CHS Niedermeyer field. 

On June 15, California reopened for most businesses and the vaccinated in which capacity and physical distancing restrictions were lifted. 

The end of the school year and the beginning of summer break was an extremely eventful time for Coronado High School students, particularly the boys varsity basketball team. In the Division 4-A Regional championship held in the CHS gym, a controversial postgame altercation caused nationwide attention to the Coronado community and sparked reactions from across the nation. This tortilla-throwing incident was investigated by CIF and overshadowed the CHS basketball championship win. One of The Coronado Times writers interviewed Luke Serna, who answered several burning questions about the incident. Shortly after the CIF championship basketball game, the Coronado School Board met to address the incident, and members voted unanimously to fire head basketball coach JD Laaperi. Senator Ben Hueso called for CIF to revoke the CHS basketball championship status. CUSD Superintendent Karl Mueller sent a letter to the CIF Executive Director stating that the CIF basketball championship should not be forfeited. In Coronado, protesters marched against racism in response to the tortilla-throwing incident. CUSD board member Stacy Keszei submitted a letter to the Coronado community. On June 30, CIF levied multiple sanctions against Coronado High School including stripping Coronado of the basketball championship title. 


On a more positive note, Wendy McGuire, co-president of Indevia, helped to vaccinate 420 people in COVID-ravaged Mumbai, India. 

Sea La Vie Boutique opened as a summer pop up boutique at 1112 1st Street, and is now featuring gifts and decor reflecting Coronado’s unique coastal life. 

The CUSD School Board held a closed session with legal counsel where they pursued litigation against CIF and discussed other imposed sanctions. 

Highlighting the importance of spreading joy to others, a transitional storage facility for the San Diego homeless community called Think Dignity provides services and aid for the unfortunate. 

The City of Coronado and Port of San Diego celebrated the 25th anniversary of Grand Caribe Shoreline Park with the artwork “Sheltering Wings.” 

There were several leadership changes at Coronado High School as principal Shane Schmeichel transitioned to the Director of Special Programs where he now supports CoSA, Career Technical Education, Adult Education, TK-12 STEM and VAPA, and Department of Defense grants. Assistant principal Timothy Hopper announced his departure to join the William S. Hart Union High School District in Los Angeles. Karin Mellina was soon selected as new principal of Coronado High School, and she shared her goals and advice for the new school year. New assistant principal Shane Bavis was welcomed to CHS at the beginning of the school year. 


Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey announced plans to enter the 52nd District Congressional race, where his goals are obtaining basic rights such as public safety, infrastructure, and fiscal responsibility. 

Clayton’s Bakery & Bistro introduced DAX the Robot to the Coronado community, whose job is to deliver meals around the island. 

On August 16, the political committee Reform California held a town hall opposing Critical Race Theory. Radio show host Carl DeMaio led the meeting.

Another City Council meeting highlighted the lifesaving actions of Coronado paramedics and lifeguards. Also discussed were the Ocean Boulevard Project and the Cultural Arts Commission 2021 Public Art Master Plan. 

World War II veteran and Coronado native Tom Rice celebrated his 100th birthday by jumping out of an airplane to parachute down to the beach, the video of which has garnered over 2 million views on FaceBook. Tom dedicated the jump to the 101st Airborne Division and “The 4 Colonels of Carentan.”


In tragic news, a US Navy helicopter crashed off the coast of San Diego and five crew members were declared deceased. 

Coronado Chamber announced its new Executive Director Rena Clancy, looking forward to rolling out a four-part plan that focuses on having membership and providing value to business leaders and entrepreneurs in the Coronado community. 

Bistro d’Asia permanently closed much to the sorrow of owner Alaa Elsadek and local patroners. 

The Coronado community remembered 9/11 in a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony that commemorated the 20th anniversary of this terrorist attack. A local group called Let’s Pray Coronado! honored police officers and firefighters. The CHS NJROTC also presented the Nation’s Colors. Speaking of the NJROTC, the Islander Company cadets hosted and won the Neptune Olympics

The supermarket Vons also launched its expansion and remodeling in late September. This will include the upgrading of the exterior of the two buildings as well as an expanded deli, bakery, and meat/seafood service departments. 

The social media “devious licks” vandalism trend became evident in Coronado Schools when CHS and Coronado Middle School both suffered from these destructive acts. 

Tina Friend was announced as Coronado’s new City Manager. She has a law degree and masters degree in public policy as well as experience in economic development and recovery, tourism, libraries, public safety, housing, and homelessness. 


After several months, the Village Theatre ended its intermission and opened its doors on October 8, much to the joy of movie lovers. 

CHS brought back the annual tradition of Homecoming, which included a pep rally, parade, football game, naming of the king and queen, and a Homecoming dance. It was a delight for the Islanders to once again experience the regular festivities of CHS. 

The Hotel del Coronado also finished part of its $400 million masterplan restoration plan in which the grand new entry leads to its iconic porch and restored lobby. 

Preservationist Architect David Marshall, Hotel Del Coronado General Manager Harold Rapoza, and Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey did a triple ribbon cutting to open the newly restored front porch and lobby of The Del.

A bizarre crime was reported in which a woman had changed the locks of a house and pretended to live there. She was arrested and charged with burglary after a neighbor noticed suspicious activity in her house. 

The League of Wives Memorial Project launched to honor past generations and educate future ones. Their mission is to memorialize Coronado’s own Sybil Stockdale and her heroic group of wives with a statue located on the island. 

The annual Coronado Schools Foundation gala was themed “Back to Prom,” and featured fundraising for the Coronado Schools Foundation. An extremely generous donation of $250,000 by Nancy and Spiro Chaconas was the highlight of the event. 


The City of Coronado named Leon P. Firsht as its new public services and engineering director. Firsht, a current public works director for the City of La Mesa, has more than 25 years of experience in the civil engineering industry. 

Owner of Saiko Sushi Chef Anthony Pascale shared his story of eating local, how he coped with the COVID-19 pandemic, and celebrated ten years of restaurant business. 

In advance of Veterans Day, Village Elementary School students and staff honored military families and service members. 

The 2021 Coronado Island Film Festival wrapped up with extreme success with one of our writers attending the event for the first time. Films, panels, and industry leader events made up the program with the range of topics geared to people of all ages. 

CHS announced several of its student-athlete college commitments, including a Letter of Intent signing day event held in the CHS quad. Nine Islanders will continue on to play sports at the collegiate level. 

The California Interscholastic Federation Appeal Panel released rulings on the CUSD appeal against sanctions related to the events of June 19, some to the disappointment of Coronado community members. CHS 2006 alumnus Anthony Ott was welcomed as the new Islander boys basketball coach. 


Frank Urtasun was appointed as Coronado’s New Port Commissioner and replaced Garry Bonelli who served for two, four-year terms as Coronado’s representative. 

The Coronado Police Department co-hosted the 28th annual Shop With a Cop event, where 300 police officers teamed up with third-graders for a day at SeaWorld, followed by holiday shopping at Target. 

The Lorton Mitchell Surf Fest was deemed a great success where locals remembered Lorton Mitchell, a master home builder who built the structure and foundation of future surfers as a surf coach. 

Sharp Coronado Hospital earned the prestigious Top Hospital Award in a national safety survey by The Leapfrog Group for 2021. The staff and members of the hospital have deserved this award through the hardships of not only the past two years, but also over the course of the last 15 years. To end the 2021 year, Sharp Coronado Hospital CEO Susan Stone spoke with The Coronado Times about the status of the hospital as it prepares for the new year. 

The annual Ride the Lights event took place on December 12 with dozens of community members participating. 

And finally, the CIF appeal process for the incidents surrounding the boys basketball team concluded as CUSD released an official investigation report. 

What a momentous year it has been! 2021 has brought mixed emotions to the Coronado community, but we can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store for us. 

Bella Villarin
Bella is a proud military brat who has been a resident of Coronado since 2015. She was born in Japan and after a short stay in Virginia, traveled extensively throughout Asia while living in Singapore and picking up another language. A freshman at Coronado High School, Bella can be found at the driving range or golf course when not in school, studying, writing, playing the guitar, or spending time with her family. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]