'Jolly Jewel Parade?' 'La Joy-a in La Jolla?' La Jolla merchants group requests neutral name for Christmas Parade

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An opening scene from the 56th annual La Jolla Christmas Parade down Girard Avenue on Dec. 8, 2013. Greg Wiest

Editing Note:

An earlier version of this story stated that the city’s Human Relations Commission voted to support adopting a non-religious name for La Jolla's December parade. In fact, the commission only voted to suggest that parade organizers enter into mediation with the group seeking to change the name.

By Pat Sherman

During the July 9 meeting of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) — the second largest of San Diego’s 19 business improvement district (BID) groups — trustees voted to request that the name of La Jolla’s annual Christmas Parade be changed to one that does not reference a particular religion.

The vote followed a presentation by La Jollan Howard Singer, lightning rod founder of the roughly 18-member San Diego County Diversity and Inclusiveness Group (DIG), whose mission he told trustees is solely to remove “Christmas” from the name of La Jolla’s December parade.

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A scene from 2013's La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival. File

The issue previously came to a head in March 2005 when Singer proposed the name change to the La Jolla Town Council, which at the time produced the event. The council narrowly voted down the name change proposal in an 11-10 vote, via secret ballot.

In recent years town council trustee and longtime Christmas Parade Chair Ann Kerr Bache formed a separate, 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation to organize the annual parade, removing it from the town council’s auspices.

LJVMA President Claude-Anthony Marengo said he consulted the board’s executive committee — specifically vice-president and attorney Mark Krasner — before placing the item on this month’s agenda, because he said he “didn’t feel comfortable” weighing in on the issue, and questioned whether taking a position was in conformance with LJVMA bylaws.

“It was determined that it was OK for us to do this, to look into it,” Marengo said, noting that the group invited Kerr Bache to join the discussion, although she demurred via e-mail (for nearly a year, she has declined to discuss the name change further with DIG, the

Light

or other media outlets).

Last fall, San Diego’s Human Relations Commission voted to suggest parade organizers enter into mediation with DIG (which they declined to do), while earlier this year the La Jolla Democratic Club voted unanimously to support the name change.  The Bird Rock Community Council opined in 2010 and again last month that it was not within the group’s purview to take up the issue (although after the June meeting about 10 members remained to express their individual support for the name change).

Singer said the name should be changed, given the present day religious and ethnic diversity of La Jolla, and the historic sting of its long defunct exclusionary housing policies, which once prohibited selling or renting to Jewish people, blacks and other minorities.

“Why can’t this community evolve like everyone else has? … Christmas trees, angels, Santa Claus and nativity scenes could still be a part of group (parade) displays, but the name change would make it clear that those who wish to display other symbols, such as menorahs, are no less welcome than their Christian neighbors,” Singer said, adding that some alternate names his group is considering include “Jolly Jewel Parade” and “La Joy-a in La Jolla.”

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