2020 Year in Review: Top lifestyles stories in La Jolla

2020 review

While the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of screen time — Zoom teleconferencing, more Netflix than anyone thought possible and FaceTime as a way to socialize — it also seems to have brought out a lot of authors and other creatives in our own backyard.

Here’s a look at the local books, murals and more of the past year, as well as the inventive ways that arts institutions have continued to provide programming during the pandemic.


Polar Bear Plunge: An estimated 400 people participate in the Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day at La Jolla Shores. Sponsored by the La Jolla Cove Swim Club, the plunge is a 30-year-old local tradition in which La Jollans and others rush into the cold ocean for play or swim.

Birch Aquariam celebrates “Turtleversary”: Birch Aquarium celebrates the fifth anniversary of housing a rescued loggerhead sea turtle. The turtle’s twice-weekly feedings draw crowds of up to 50 people after she was rescued and rehabilitated. The turtle is an ambassador for the aquarium, part of its education on conservation.

“Only the Trying”: Alex Cook, an adventurer who splits his time among Baja California, Indonesia and the Columbia River Gorge, self-publishes “Only the Trying,” a suspense novel starring La Jolla, inspired by his surfing trip here in 2015.

"Paintings are People Too" by Monique van Genderen
“Paintings are People Too” by Monique van Genderen was installed in January at 7661 Girard Ave. as part of the ongoing Murals of La Jolla public art series.

New mural installed with Berlin connection: Murals of La Jolla installs “Paintings are People Too” by Monique van Genderen. The mural contains the artist’s paintings laid over a photograph she took in Berlin, illustrating empathy for both people and paintings. It is on display at 7661 Girard Ave.

Third Music Society CEO resigns: La Jolla Music Society Chief Executive Ted DeDee announces his resignation only nine months after assuming the role, citing health concerns. DeDee was the society’s third CEO in two years.

Alan Alda unveils science communication program at Scripps Research: Actor Alan Alda announces he is making Scripps Research in La Jolla the West Coast home of Alda Communication Training, a Long Island-based program that sharpens the communication skills of people who spend much of their days immersed in academia. Alda aims to make scientific research and work more accessible to the public.

Gifts from “Wonderland”: Las Patronas gives more than $420,000 in grants to its major beneficiaries at an annual ceremony at The Marine Room in La Jolla, announcing that more than $947,000 was raised by its philanthropy efforts at the 2019 “Wonderland” Jewel Ball.


“Tijuana 1964”: The La Jolla Historical Society’s latest exhibit features the photographs of Harry Crosby, a lifelong La Jollan whose photographic documentation of Tijuana more than 50 years ago offers an “engaging and informative look” at the Mexican border city, according to Historical Society Executive Director Heath Fox.

Pack 4 Cubs become Scouts: Sixteen La Jolla Cub Scouts participate in a bridging ceremony to transition to Boy Scouts, an annual tradition that includes awarding the Arrow of Light, the highest award possible for a Cub Scout, to several Scouts.

Cherry Sweig shows the signature piece, "High Altar Echoes," of her exhibit “Finding Venetian Angels.”

“Finding Venetian Angels”: La Jolla artist Cherry Sweig opens a show at the St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church gallery containing paintings begun and inspired by her month-long stay in Venice, Italy. The paintings feature angelic images that Sweig found in her surroundings.

Age-friendly La Jolla: The city of San Diego hosts an age-friendly “listening session” at the La Jolla Community Center, asking for input from local senior citizens to incorporate into a citywide initiative to improve life for aging residents. The responses later would be used to draft a plan that covers transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, work and civil engagement, communication, community and health services, and outdoor spaces and public places.

World Bookmark Day: UC San Diego commemorates World Bookmark Day, Feb. 25, with an exhibit and a workshop at Geisel Library.

Lulu Lloyd brings Broadway home: Native La Jollan Lulu Lloyd returns home from a career on Broadway and starts The Broadway Clubhouse to teach children theater skills.


Zandra Rhodes speaks: British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes speaks to an audience of 84 people at the La Jolla Community Center about her life in fashion, showcasing many of her handprinted fabrics and telling stories about famous clients and her global shows.

Diana Serra Cary poses with a picture of herself when she was a child actress.
Diana Serra Cary, who was born in San Diego, poses with a picture of herself when she was a child actress and silent-film sensation known as “Baby Peggy.”

“Baby Peggy” remembered: UC San Diego presents an exhibit on the life of Diana Serra Cary, known as “Baby Peggy.” Cary, known as the last living silent-film star before her death Feb. 24, became a star as a child. She overcame illiteracy as an adolescent and spent many years as the UCSD bookstore manager and general book buyer, becoming a literacy advocate and bestselling author.

Muirlands robotics team wins: Team Architech, composed of eight Muirlands Middle School students, takes first place at the First Lego League Spring Showdown. The team members practiced for months and had competed together at various contests since they were fifth-graders at Torrey Pines Elementary School.

British artist Isaac Julien’s "Eclipse (Playtime)" was installed March 30 at 7569 Girard Ave.

New mural installed: Murals of La Jolla unveils its 32nd public art piece, “Eclipse (Playtime)” by British installation artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien. The mural, which features a still from Julien’s 2013 film “Playtime,” shows a character silhouetted against a large, round, yellow window and is meant to be “an implied narrative,” the artist says. The mural is installed at 7569 Girard Ave.


Local wellness experts offer tips: UC San Diego psychologist Eric Hekler says that during times of social isolation, people should build self-awareness to recognize problems and pinpoint solutions, which can include reaching for help digitally or journaling. Life coach Alisha Hawrylyszyn Frank says to allow feelings to happen and use the time to implement healthier habits. Psychiatrist Katherine Nguyen Williams says parents managing their own stress as well as their children’s should focus on self-care and have a routine to help kids feel empowered.

Gizeh Guevara sings for Chateau La Jolla residents from a distance during a series of concerts at the complex.

Crooning during the coronavirus: Gizeh Guevara, an employee at senior living facility Chateau La Jolla, entertains residents at a distance with several concerts.

Church hosts drive-in Good Friday: La Jolla Christian Fellowship adapts its Good Friday worship service as a drive-in event in which a long line of cars moves through different stations to receive communion, take home treats and receive prayers from church staff.

New artistic director for Music Society: Leah Rosenthal is named the new artistic director of the La Jolla Music Society after serving as its director of programming since 2016.

Teens win entrepreneurship contest: Local residents Brett Kim, Lena Luostarinen and Caeden Mujahed team up and win the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship World Series of Innovation for their app Oikku, which they designed to help communities, governments and companies be more inclusive.

New mural shares vision beyond quarantine: Artist Hanna Daly paints “Quarantine Dreams,” a mural at 627 Pearl St. representing goals for life after stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Murals of La Jolla published its first book in celebration of its first 10 years.
Murals of La Jolla published its first book in celebration of its first 10 years.

Murals of La Jolla book: Murals of La Jolla publishes its first book, commemorating the organization’s first decade and 30 murals placed in public spaces in La Jolla.

Zoomers to Boomers: La Jolla High School student Max Stone establishes the San Diego chapter of Zoomers to Boomers, asking young people to help deliver groceries to older residents who are advised not to leave their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.


La Jolla resident and professional opera singer Alina Mullen performs for her neighbors from her balcony.

Opera on the street: La Jollan Alina Mullen, a professional opera singer, performs from her balcony to try to brighten the mood of those who listen. Her weekly concerts draw neighbors to stand along the streets, masked and socially distanced, to hear the arias.

“Five Trees for Mina”: La Jollan Tony Lovitt authors “Five Trees for Mina,” a children’s book based on his daughter’s cat that aims to help readers process losing a pet.

Ruby Minder turns 100: Ruby Minder, also known as Clumsy Mumsy the clown, celebrates her centennial with a parade of cars driving by her house. The caravan includes friends and neighbors as well as two firetrucks with sirens wailing.

“Cosmic Botany”: La Jollan Tanya Lichtenstein writes her first book, “Cosmic Botany,” intending to instruct readers on pairing crystals with plants for a better connection with nature.

La Jolla author Monty Nereim released the science fiction novel "Survival Beneath Yucca Mountain."

“Survival Beneath Yucca Mountain”: La Jolla resident Monty Nereim writes his second book, “Survival Beneath Yucca Mountain,” a science fiction novel in which a group of people are sealed in an underground bunker after an asteroid strike.

La Jollan encourages backyard gardens: La Jolla resident Jen Oliver has taken to growing much of her own food in her backyard gardens and teaching others to do the same as she sells her seedlings from her driveway. As a result, a few neighbors have taken on their own backyard garden projects.


Pomp and unusual circumstances: La Jolla High School substitutes a drive-through celebration for its usual commencement ceremony, complete with cheering staff, signs, balloons and a DJ. Meanwhile, Muirlands Middle School hosts a drive-through promotion ceremony for its eighth-graders as local elementary schools give yard signs to commemorate the promotion of fifth-graders.

Osprey nest: Efforts by local environmentalists Art Cooley and Bev Grant and Greg Rouse, a professor of marine biology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, result in a pair of ospreys taking up residence in La Jolla. Cooley, Grant and Rouse worked to build a platform at the end of Scripps Pier so the ospreys — the population of which declined significantly from the 1940s to 1970s — could find a safe place to build a nest.

Artist Gennaro Garcia's "Unity in Diversity" mural at 1135 Prospect St.
Artist Gennaro Garcia’s “Unity in Diversity” mural at 1135 Prospect St.

“Unity in Diversity”: A new mural is painted on the CJ Charles Jewelers building on Prospect Street in response to recent demonstrations protesting racial injustice. “Unity in Diversity,” designed by artist Gennaro Garcia, features flowers, hearts, and hands reaching for each other. The idea came from La Jollan Michelle Lerach in response to local shops boarding up their windows in anticipation of protests.

La Jolla resident Vivianne Knebel published her first book, a memoir of overcoming hardship.

“From Rubble to Champagne”: La Jolla resident Vivianne Knebel writes her first book, a memoir titled “From Rubble to Champagne” that details her fleeing Nazi Germany for Canada, where she eventually married another German immigrant and moved to La Jolla 25 years ago.

Sidewalk chalk art: La Jollan Amelia Leidy draws colorful images on sidewalks in her Upper Hermosa neighborhood to give “kids a way to learn through movement,” she says.

“The JMT and Me”: La Jolla resident Lorraine Stiles writes her first book, “The JMT and Me,” about her 28-day trip with her husband on the John Muir Trail.


Front porch photos: La Jolla resident Cristina Schaffer launches a project to take photos of people on their front porch, driveway, balcony or out their front window. In exchange, she asks for donations to Feeding San Diego.

Lauren Poole’s poetry: La Jolla resident Lauren Poole authors her first book, “Life Twice Grown,” a collection of poems that serve as a memoir of survival and hope.

Beatriz Milhazes’ mural, "Gamboa Seasons in La Jolla," was installed at 1111 Prospect St.

“Gamboa Seasons”: Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes, known for her large-scale, vibrant paintings, brings her interpretation of the four seasons to The Village with “Gamboa Seasons in La Jolla” as part of the Murals of La Jolla public art program. The mural, installed July 15 on the back of a building at 1111 Prospect St., uses geometric abstraction in different panels to represent spring, summer, fall and winter.

“Play with Your Food”: La Jolla resident Sarah Appleman authors her second book, “Play with Your Food,” which is intended to help parents, caregivers, teachers and others who work with children who resist certain foods.

ArtPower goes online: It is announced that the 2020-21 UC San Diego ArtPower season will be online through the end of the year, with 14 debut performances among its 27 offerings. The lineup ranges from jazz musicians to dance innovators and authors.

Barry Jagoda wrote "Journeys with Jimmy Carter and other Adventures in Media."

“Journeys with Jimmy Carter”: La Jolla resident Barry Jagoda writes “Journeys with Jimmy Carter and Other Adventures in Media.” It’s about the early days of television use in presidential campaigns, the Watergate scandal, “fake news” and more.


“Virtual garden party”: The La Jolla Historical Society’s Secret Garden Tour is canceled, moving instead to an online “virtual garden party.” The program includes speakers discussing the history of the Secret Garden Tour, comments from garden owners, videos of gardens from years past, Historical Society board members talking about some of the most interesting and creative gardens from previous tours, and a live poll for those in attendance to vote for their favorites.

“Spectacular” livestream: The Jewel Ball, a summer staple in La Jolla, moves online for the first time in its 74-year history. The gala, themed “20/20 Spectacular,” features a livestreamed program of entertainment, messages from beneficiaries and a live auction.

La Jolla Country Day School student Jenna Rain Hernandez is the 2020 Miss American Teen pageant winner.

Miss American Teen: La Jolla Country Day School student Jenna Rain Hernandez wins the title of Miss American Teen 2020 and plans to use her victory to help empower young minority women in her community.

SummerFest: The La Jolla Music Society’s annual chamber music fete, SummerFest, scheduled for Aug. 21-29, proceeds with six livestreamed concerts while shelving plans to allow a reduced-capacity, socially distanced audience to attend.

“Crack the Code: A Guide to College Success for First Gens” was released by La Jolla resident Susan Lieberman.

“Crack the Code”: La Jolla resident Susan Lieberman releases “Crack the Code: A Guide to College Success for First Gens,” a book intended for people who are the first in their family to go to college.


“Index of Haunted Houses”: The Bishop’s School teacher Adam Davis publishes “Index of Haunted Houses,” a collection of poetry 13 years in the making. The 37 poems are part of a project he started in response to the Great Recession and people losing their homes in the subprime mortgage crisis that began in 2007.

Marcos Ramirez ERRE's "In Chains," a new addition to the Murals of La Jolla collection, is at 7744 Fay Ave.

“In Chains”: The mural “In Chains,” done in the same style and by the same artist as its predecessor, “Is All That It Proves,” joins the Murals of La Jolla program at 7744 Fay Ave. Both works are Snellen eye chart-inspired pieces by Marcos Ramirez ERRE with quotes written in place of the letters one would read for an eye test. “In Chains” contains the Paul Whiteman quote “Jazz came to America three hundred years ago in chains.”

“Deep Tow”: Scientist-turned-novelist V. Elliott Smith releases his second novel, “Deep Tow,” influenced heavily by his studies decades ago in La Jolla. Smith’s work at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography helped shape “Deep Tow,” which is set in La Jolla and around San Diego in 1979 and ’80.

50 years of youth acting: The Young Actors Workshop, helmed by fourth-generation La Jollan Deirdre Andrews, celebrates 50 years with a virtual reunion.

Geisel Library at UC San Diego turned 50 this year.

Geisel Library turns 50: Geisel Library, known as UC San Diego’s “mother ship,” turns 50. The library, which bears the name of late children’s book author Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), has become so iconic that it is used in virtually all of UCSD’s advertising and promotions.

Concert adaptation: The La Jolla-based Bodhi Tree Concerts series migrates its shows, typically held in venues such as St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, to a YouTube channel, and its award-winning presentation of “8 Songs for a Mad King” is filmed for one-time streaming.


Painting the pandemic: As restaurants take their tables and chairs outside during the coronavirus pandemic, La Jolla artist Paula McColl has taken to her canvases and brushes to paint them. She showed three such La Jolla works at a one-night exhibition Oct. 13 at Bistro du Marché on Girard Avenue.

"Nugget the Nomad" was written by Janet Lawless Christ and illustrated by Ryan Hernandez.

“Nugget the Nomad”: La Jolla Realtor Janet Lawless Christ authors her first book, “Nugget the Nomad: Adventures of a Yoga Dog,” which aims to help children cope with difficult situations. She’s also started her own publishing company with similar books in the works.

“Arts & Ideas”: The San Diego Center for Jewish Culture, a division of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, begins its 2020-21 “Arts & Ideas” season in an entirely virtual format. The program is slated to include about 20 performances featuring music, dance, author talks, cookbook discussions, lectures and comedy.

Linda Olson released her first book, “Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body and Taking Back My Life.”
Linda Olson, who survived an accident 35 years ago that left her a triple amputee, released her first book, “Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body and Taking Back My Life.”

“Gone” book: La Jolla Shores resident Linda Olson, who survived an accident 35 years ago that left her a triple amputee, authors her first book, “Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body and Taking Back My Life.” It details her career as a radiologist and professor of radiology at UC San Diego, raising two children with husband David Hodgens and traveling the world despite her physical limitations.

Las Patronas raises over $941,000: After holding its Jewel Ball online, Las Patronas announces that it raised $941,562 to fund grants to nonprofits across San Diego County. Next year’s Jewel Ball theme is “Diamonds Are Forever.”


Lil Buck (left) and Boogz of Movement Art Is choreographed the movements for "Metamorphosis."

“Metamorphosis”: The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center hosts the livestream-only world-premiere performance of “Metamorphosis” from Grammy Award-winning group Third Coast Percussion and Movement Art Is. The collaborative performance blends percussion ensemble with street dance choreographed by MAI co-founders Jon Boogz and Lil Buck and performed by movement artists Ron Myles and Quentin Robinson.

“Anonymous” book: One-time La Jolla resident and professional private investigator Elizabeth Breck authors “Anonymous: A Madison Kelly Mystery,” in which the protagonist lives in Windansea.

“Spark” documentary: A group of La Jolla friends and colleagues produce a documentary exploring systemic racism, with plans to release it widely as a public service. “Spark: A Systemic Racism Story” is viewed more than 2,500 times on YouTube and Vimeo in the first month of its release.

La Jolla resident Spencer Robertson was a suitor on ABC's "The Bachelorette."

Looking for love: La Jolla resident Spencer Robertson makes his primetime debut on ABC’s “The Bachelorette” when the show shakes up its usual format, introducing a new leading lady and some new suitors five episodes into the season. Robertson receives the “first impression” rose for a contestant who makes the best first impression. However, he was eliminated about halfway through the season.

“The Girl from Cairo”: La Jolla resident Peggy Hinaekian, 85, completes “The Girl from Cairo,” in which she details her memories from several decades lived on three continents, including significant decisions made “on a whim.” She says she was compelled to write the book after reviewing files containing memoirs she started and didn’t finish.

From La Jolla kitchens: La Jolla-based St. Germaine Children’s Charity creates a cookbook featuring more than 50 recipes donated by chefs from more than 40 La Jolla restaurants, with proceeds from sales of the book going to local child abuse prevention agencies. The cookbook, called “Dining In: Recipes from La Jolla’s Finest Restaurants,” was created in place of the 2020 Silver Tea, the organization’s traditional fundraiser.


Cars proceed up Herschel Avenue to view La Jolla Christmas Parade floats stationed along the street.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

“Reverse parade”: The 2020 La Jolla Christmas Parade is held in The Village with a coronavirus twist Dec. 6. In the “reverse parade,” ticketed spectators drive by while the floats are stationary.

“BattleBots”: Team Gigabyte, including 13-year-old Bishop’s School student Anouk Janssen, participates in its first battle on the Discovery Channel program “BattleBots,” which is shown at 8 p.m. Thursdays. According to Discovery, each match consists of two robots competing in a single three-minute bout in which the goal is to destroy or disable the opponent.

Rabbi Baruch Ezagui, center, speaking against a backdrop of Hanukkah balloons and a fire dancer.
Rabbi Baruch Ezagui (center) speaks against a backdrop of Hanukkah balloons and a fire dancer during a Dec. 13 menorah lighting.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Hanukkah celebration: Chabad of La Jolla holds a menorah lighting ceremony outside the La Valencia Hotel on Dec. 13, adapting the annual Hanukkah celebration as a drive-through to align with pandemic-related restrictions. The hour-long celebration includes music, a fire dancer, and balloons and decorations strung across Prospect Street.

Marine-life mural: La Jolla High School graduate and muralist Melanie Atesalp paints her latest work on the Arcade Building on Wall Street, featuring leopard sharks, kelp and garibaldi found in the waters off La Jolla.

50 years of flying: The Torrey Pines Gulls, a club whose members engage in remote-controlled and motorless model plane aviation, celebrate 50 years of operation at the Torrey Pines Gliderport.

“Viruses, Plagues & History”: Dr. Michael Oldstone of La Jolla updates his 1998 book “Viruses, Plagues & History” to include the current coronavirus pandemic, believing that readers can learn from the past. Oldstone, a professor emeritus in the department of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research in La Jolla, says the book is about “how viruses cause plagues and epidemics and the consequences of those plagues and epidemics in terms of health, politics, culture and governments rising or falling.”

Book spotlights The Conrad: La Jolla’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center is featured in an upcoming book chronicling acoustical masterpieces worldwide. “Concert Halls by Nagata Acoustics: Thirty Years of Acoustical Design for Music Venues and Vineyard-Style Auditoria” is set to be published in early 2021.

La Jolla Music Society names new CEO: The La Jolla Music Society names Todd Schultz as its new president and chief executive, effective Jan. 4. Schultz, 54, has spent the past year as senior vice president of development for the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert. Before that, he was the San Diego Symphony’s vice president of institutional advancement, the Old Globe theater’s director of development and the San Diego Opera’s director of marketing and public relations. He will be the fourth person to head LJMS since January 2018. ◆