By OCinSite At-Large | May 13, 2011 10:34 AM
By Somer Flaherty | Photos by Jody Tiongco | Newport Beach Magazine, June 2011
You could live in Newport Beach your entire life and never know about Cherry Lake.
Literally hidden from the traffic on Irvine Avenue sits a body of water not unlike a miniature version of Lake Como or Lake Tahoe, with 19 unique homes surrounding natural springs.
“It’s unlike anywhere else in Newport Beach,” resident David Fletcher says. “It’s rural, there’s quite a bit of space and all kinds of wildlife.” In fact, the lake, which is home to Osprey, Heron, Egrets and paddling ducks has a deep history, as it was used by Native Americans who would travel to the area to get fresh water from the natural spring.
The Santa Ana Heights neighborhood, which has been called, “Newport Beach’s best kept secret,” by local real estate agents, is unlike other developed communities; each house here is distinct in appearance from its neighbors. The homes, which offer a haven for residents seeking vacation-style living in the city, are found on Heather Lane, Lake Park Lane, 23rd Street and Tustin Avenue.
Cherry Lake’s friendly neighborhood water slide.
In 1954, the nine-acre area was developed and subdivided, and for a few years there was just one home on the land. “When you look on a plot plan it doesn’t show a lake, it looks like pie pieces together,” says resident Rod Medler. “The original home is on a 40,000-square-foot lot, while the others on the lake range from 8,000 to 10,000. But property lines meet underwater and many of that square footage may be found there.
“Living on Cherry Lake, you still have access to the restaurants and the beaches but you forget you’re in the middle of the city,” says Rod, who has lived on the lake for almost three decades. Cherry Lake residents truly live the life aquatic. During warm weather it’s not unusual to see kids swimming and fishing in the lake and homeowners boating to a neighbor’s for dinner. Rod also has a waterslide docked in the lake and lets residents use it for children’s parties.
Rod found Cherry Lake by accident. He was just 20 years old when he first visited a home on the lake for a party. “I walked in the back of the house and saw that body of water, and I was surprised and amazed—it was like Gilligan’s Island back there.”
From a visitor’s perspective this neighborhood looks like any other in Newport Beach—well-kept homes in various architectural styles, kids riding bikes up and down the Heather Lane cul-de-sac and neighbors chatting on front lawns. It’s not until you’re invited to a resident’s backyard that you see any signs of fresh water.
Cherry Lake: Newport’s best kept secret, according to some. ...‘Til now.
Socially, residents say not much has changed on the lake in the last few decades—neighbors still enjoy entertaining and kids still take advantage of what could be the ultimate slumber party setting. However, the area has seen strides in efficiency since its beginning years. When water was low, residents used to just drop their garden hoses and fill up the lake for a few hours. “Now we have a service that maintains it and since we swim in it, the water has to be kept at a certain cleanliness,” Rod says. Structurally the lake also used to have an island in the middle, but when it was dredged in the 1980s the residents took it out to open the lake more. There are also now walkways for residents that circumnavigate the lake.
Years after that party that first introduced Rod to Cherry Lake, he noticed a house for sale on 23rd Street. At the time he was unaware that three homes on 23rd actually looked out onto the lake. “It was vacant, muddy and there were bulldozers in the emptied lake because the residents were in the middle of dredging it,” he recalls. Unlike other potential homebuyers that stumbled into that house, Rod knew the view that was waiting when the lake was filled with water again. “I called the real estate agent immediately and made an offer. I knew it was out of my league and I was right. The owners turned it down.” However, a year later, with the home still unsold, a new bid from Rod was accepted and he moved in on Thanksgiving of 1984.
Rod, who raised two children, Maverick and Summer, in the home, has since remodeled his original four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot house. Although his children are grown, his house is still bustling with an impressive collection of more than 30 surfboards, 20 bicycles and a tree house, where when perched inside you have views of the Back Bay.
With unabashed happiness Rod declares that with Cherry Lake what you’re really getting is a home where you can sit outside and, “completely forget you’re in the middle of a city.”
Rod and his son Maverick
Day job: Rod is in property management with several properties in Orange County
Space: 3,000 square feet (four bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms)
Year moved in: 1983
Year remodeled: 1987
Fabulous feature: Rod’s house has been described as the ultimate park n’ play. Not only do guests take advantage of the home’s lake waterslide but the adult-sized tree house, giant teeter-totter and trampoline are put to good use.
Room With a View
David and Leah Fletcher have owned their home on Heather Lane in Cherry Lake since 1984. “The reason I moved here was that it was very much unlike a lot of Newport Beach, and I’ve always loved being close to the water,” David says.
The Fletcher home rests unobtrusively in the lake’s landscape. David and Leah have remodeled twice, and during the most recent phase the couple almost took the house down to the ground. The result is a more modern revision of what was formerly the home created by the area’s developer. During the remodel the guiding design principle was to take advantage of the views, a feat that was accomplished as a family affair—three of David’s brother-in-laws helped design and construct the home, including the architect Britton Jewett.
“Much of the houses here were built around 1960—and there are still some original owners here—but we’re starting to see more families, which is also nice, and people have also been upgrading their houses,” says David of Cherry Lake’s changes.
The couple rented for two-and-a-half years while the home was being overhauled, so coming back to an almost new home also afforded them a new outlook on living on Cherry Lake. “The lake is what keeps us here, it’s a wonderful asset we all share. There’s nothing else like it in Newport. It’s a jewel.”
Dave and Leah
Day job: Dave, who is a businessman, is now also spending time enjoying his remodeled home with his wife Leah, a local art teacher.
Square footage: 3,200 square feet (four bedrooms, 3.5 baths)
Year moved in: 1984
Year remodeled: 2010
Architect: Britton Jewett
Fabulous feature: The expansive lake view is enhanced by the metal, wood and glass accordion-style doors that open on to the decks and allow for access to upper and lower perches.
Resident Nanette Sutherland, who is president of Cherry Lake’s homeowner’s association Lake Park, says living here feels like you are in, “a cabin up in the woods.”
Before buying a home in the area, she often visited because her best friend lived on Cherry Lake. When the opportunity to also purchase there was presented she jumped at the chance, putting a home in the Bayshores neighborhood of Newport Beach up for sale (it sold in 24 hours) the same day the offer was accepted on Cherry Lake.
As soon as Nanette and her partner Roger Flaherty moved in 2002, the two went to work remodeling the outdoor area. The result is a series of spatial Redwood and stone decks, which provide a magical setting for an annual holiday chili party, where Cherry Lake neighbors and friends from one of their favorite local restaurant’s—La Cave—come together to celebrate the season. The spectacular decks, which Roger created, don’t compete with the surroundings but instead seem perfectly fitted in them. On many nights you can find him and the family dogs, Charger and Buddy, enjoying a lakeside fire.
When not taking advantage of the waterfront fireplace or the lake breeze, the two can relax in the home’s living room, where they house a substantial collection of antiques. The room’s floor-to-ceiling windows capture views of the water while filtering in light that changes the ambiance throughout the day.
In a larger sense, Cherry Lake hearkens back to a time when pastime was still spent enjoying your own neighborhood. “You’re around fresh water and it’s nice and private,” Roger says. There’s nothing better.”
Nanette and Roger
Day job: Nanette is president of the Cherry Lake Homeowners’ Associate and Roger works in construction, specializing in hardscape design and has worked on many homes on the lake.
Pets: Two Beagles, Charger and Buddy
Square footage: 2,700 (three bedrooms, 2.5 baths)
Year moved in: 2002
Fabulous feature: Usable outdoor space was high on Nanette and Roger’s list when they moved to Cherry Lake. The result is 3,000 square-feet of tri-level Redwood and stone decks that forge a connection to the outdoors.
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