I think all of us year-round residents of La Jolla feel incredibly lucky to live in this beautiful oceanside community. But just as people on cell phones treat the rest of the world like deaf mutes, one can’t help but notice that summer tourists at a beach resort seem to have beamed themselves mentally to a parallel universe where traffic laws do not apply.
I actually do my best to make out-of-towners feel welcome here – loading up on extra La Jolla maps to hand out, offering to take group photos, suggesting restaurants to people who ask, and especially to pointing seriously lost people toward The Cove. (They’ve usually overshot it and ended up in Bird Rock.) I’ve been a tourist a lot myself and I always appreciate kindness from the locals. I’m proud of my community and I want people to have a good time here.
But I also want them to live to tell about it. At the Shores, beach chair-laden visitors wander at will across busy streets in front of oncoming cars. They look stunned to hear the screech of tires, a blank look appearing across a puzzled face as they attempt to process what that annoying sound might have been.
In downtown La Jolla, meanwhile, visitors with the same Normal-Rules-of Safety-Do-Not-Apply expression obliviously walk behind cars that are clearly backing up, launch their own cars in reverse into oncoming traffic, and even stop dead in the middle of the street to point out a scene of interest. Sometimes it amazes me that so many locals and tourists survive the summer season.
In vacationers’ defense, their confusion in negotiating our town is probably linked to the fact that all the street names in La Jolla are basically permutations of the same ten Spanish words. Some long-ago real estate developer figured out that places with Spanish-y names sell better. (And sí! they do!) The street words camino, avenida, paseo, rancho, playa and via are variously followed by the descriptives vista, hermosa, villa, mira, bella, mar, alta, baja, cresta, monte, bonita, oro, sol, posada, mesa, norte, sur, and corona. Then you just mix and match, as in Paseo Bella Mar Norte, Vista del Monte Oro, Via Rancho Mesa Alta, etc. Occasionally an Americanism creeps in in situations that the early Spaniards couldn’t have anticipated (Avenida del Discount Drug). That the long-ago developer didn’t speak Spanish himself is obvious when streets labeledmonte or alta are on flatlands. A visitor stops and asks you for directions to Caminito de la Cresta Bonita, and you say to yourself, is that the one next to Posada del Mira Monte? No, that’s Camino de la PLAYA Bonita. Or is that Cresta de la Vista Bonita? Vista de la Bonita Cresta? Sorry, folks, the locals can’t figure it out either.
One could not have a discussion about summer in La Jolla without discussing parking. Or more specifically, a lack of it. Parking is never easy in the downtown area any time of the year but becomes a statistical impossibility come July 4. Those of us who live here know where the two hour spots are and are prepared to hike a few blocks to a lunch destination, but people who don’t end up making endless frustrated loops before parking in a guaranteed-ticket one hour spot or stumbling upon that rare garage that still has room.