No Loitering, Fifteen Minute Parking: Crystal Cove car show threatened by The Irvine Co.

Three years ago, a couple of guys who had been attending one of Orange County's longest running early morning hot rod gatherings decided they needed a change. Mark Greeley and Bob Cheatley loved meeting with their friends and fellow "Donut Derelicts" at the corner of Magnolia and Adams in Huntington Beach every Saturday, but the 4 am wakeup time was getting to be a pain. Also, it was a bit of a drive. So they decided to meet a little later in the morning at the newly opened Crystal Cove Promenade right down PCH from them. Little did Mark and Bob know that this would eventually grow to be one of the most talked about exotic and classic car gatherings on the planet. Follow the jump for the rest of the story and links to previous galleries.

As more of their friends found out that Mark and Bob were now at CC, they followed them over there. And as people started to notice the gathering, they'd stop in too, to see the cool cars. Every Saturday morning since they started meeting, a who's who of Southern California automakers and a roll call of every enthusiasts' dream garage has passed in and out of that parking lot. The Starbuck's had to eventually hire an additional 6 workers to handle the customers. On a non-show day, two is sufficient. The problem is that the show got too big. As word spread, the crowds grew from a couple hundred people to the point where the entire parking lot fills up by 7:30 each week. So who in their right mind would complain about having too many customers and too much traffic in its shopping center? The Irvine Company, that's who.

One of the problems with the location is that it butts up to a residential area. A residential area with $5 million condos. Those people tend to get a little annoyed by a Lamborghini wakeup call at 6 am. And so the owner of the property, the Irvine Company, has had to deal with a steady stream of complaints. Changes have been made over the years to help manage the traffic and noise, additional security was hired too, and finally, tickets were issued to slow people down and stop any reckless driving that might occur as enthusiasts gather and get overenthusiastic at times. Not that that was a major issue at this show. The CC crowd tends to be a little older and more mature. But the Irvine Company has decided that the show has reached a point where it would need a permit, more official organization, and most importantly, a new home.

In what appears to be a preemptive move, word is already spreading that it doesn't want these cars at any of its other, larger facilities either, and that has really upset many of the regular attendees. They are not only upset about losing their gathering place, but are also wondering how the company can enforce such a ban on nice cars, and the paying customers who drive them. Some select comments from regular attendees off of

"So, If I show up at 7 am on Saturday with the F40 to get some Starbucks and I happen to see a friend of mine and we sit down and talk, am I going to be arrested?!?!?"

"Make sure we all show our disapproval with our pocket books.

"Irvine CO SUCKS!"

"We all knew that this day was coming. Like others have said, they can not keep us out... we park our cars and have coffee or eat at Pacific Way Cafe; what are they going to tell us? The difference will be that the "show area" will no longer be there. Is that such a bad thing?"

...and the best yet...

"If Starbucks and Pacific Wayy are open then I guess I'll stop in on Saturday mornings anyway to have coffee and breakfast with friends. If they are open then we must be welcome no matter what we drive. They can't make us go away and be open."

"I can just see the newly posted signs: No Ferraris, No Lamborghinis, No Porsches, No Corvettes, No Vipers, No old cars, No new cars, No for sale cars, No fast cars, No expensive cars, No exotic cars, No trucks with trailers, No Motorcycles, No skateboards, No rollerblades. No loitering, No looking at cars, 15 minute parking only."

Good points there. It does seem a little counterintuitive for a landlord to tell a couple thousand fairly wealthy people it doesn't want their business. It's not like it's a bunch of hooligans doing donuts in the parking lot. So although this seems very short-sighted on the part of the Irvine Company, they are resolute, even turning down regular showgoer Barry Meguiar's plea to move it to a larger, non-residential mall down the road a bit. The lost business will probably be huge and will surely have a ripple effect throughout the community and the other properties the Irvine Company owns.

So what's next for the few hundred regulars who still need to have their weekly "church service?" Well, the most likely scenario has them breaking up into smaller shows at restaurants owned by individuals who are sympathetic enthusiasts, who also like the idea of having regular weekly customers. Apparently that's not something the Irvine Company needs right now.

Three years after Mark and Bob started this thing, only Mark remains to see the show's demise. Bob Cheatley passed away a few months ago and that made Mark appreciate the camaraderie the show represents more than ever. "The Irvine Co. is the biggest landlord in town and for the Irvine Co. ... to tell a group of guys they don't have the right to come here and gather, that's a blow to the community," Greeley said. Wherever the show ends up, whether it be all together or in smaller, marque-specific shows scattered around OC, we'll be sure to keep you posted.

We've brought you photos from this event a couple of times, including just last week, and it has been a truly must-attend event for anybody thinking of visiting SoCal. We've heard it time and time again how enthusiasts have made sure they arrange their vacations or business trips to make sure it includes a Saturday morning so they could attend the show. It is a very sad day, but thankfully we've been on hand to capture some of the good times. Check out some of the photos from another previous show.

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