New ‘Safe Place’ decals coming to La Jolla businesses

This decal will be displayed at participating La Jolla businesses as part of San Diego's "Safe Place" program.
This decal will be displayed at participating La Jolla businesses as part of San Diego’s “Safe Place” program.
(Courtesy of city of San Diego)

After voicing support for the city of San Diego’s “Safe Place” program during its August meeting, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association voted Oct. 13 to sign a letter formally supporting the program’s expansion into La Jolla.

Through the program, a participating merchant receives a decal to place on windows or countertops that has phone numbers and a QR code for a web page where discrimination, hate crimes or suspicious activity can be reported.

Natasha Wong, representing San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s recently assembled Asian Pacific Islander (API) Advisory Group, spoke to the merchants group about San Diego’s history with Chinese people, recent upticks in violence against the API and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, and the Safe Place program.

Wong, who was born in San Diego and attended La Jolla High School, is president of the House of China in Balboa Park. She formerly was an educator and a lawyer.

“Chinese people came to San Diego to work on the railroads and stayed, working as fishermen, in restaurants and laundromats, and faced a lot of discrimination and racism [through] things like the Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned Chinese immigration into the United States,” she said. “My grandfather came here and joined the military and fought for America. Because of the Exclusion Act, he couldn’t bring his wife, my grandmother, here until the latter part of the 1940s.”

In 1943, Congress passed a measure to repeal the exclusion law against Chinese immigrants.

Wong said there also were measures that prevented Chinese people from owning real estate, including in La Jolla.

Now San Diego has “one of the largest API communities in the nation,” she said.

But spurred by recent incidents of violence and hate crimes against the API/AAPI community, the San Diego Police Department expanded the Safe Place program to include AAPI people. It originally was created for the LGBTQ+ community. It launched in businesses in San Diego’s City Council District 6 earlier this year.

“Since March 2020, more than 9,000 reports of hate crimes against Asians have come in from the group Stop AAPI Hate” in the United States, Wong said. “Seven percent involved elderly people, 10 percent involved youth under 18 years old. Women are twice as likely to be attacked. In these incidences, race is cited as a primary reason.”

The La Jolla Village Merchants Association meets Oct. 13.
The La Jolla Village Merchants Association discussed San Diego’s “Safe Place” program, an upcoming art walk and more during its Oct. 13 meeting.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Of the expansion of the decal program into La Jolla businesses, Wong said, “We’d love to have a way to promote a message of welcome and inclusion in La Jolla … that this is a safe place.”

A news conference is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 20, with Gloria, City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, and representatives of the Police Department and LJVMA, at which time the decals will be distributed to local business owners.

For more information about the Safe Place program, visit

Other LJVMA news

First Friday Art Walk: LJVMA member Katey Kalanges, manager of the Peter Lik Fine Art Gallery, said an effort is underway to launch a First Friday Art Walk in The Village starting in December. Of the 25 galleries in The Village, 14 “have very enthusiastically responded about the idea,” she said.

LJVMA Executive Director Jodi Rudick supported the plan, saying, “We think this could be the start ... of something that we can be proud of, and the possibilities are endless. … We want people to think of La Jolla as a cultural and arts mecca in San Diego County. So that is what we are working toward.”

LJVMA used to have a community sip-and-stroll event known as Enjoya La Jolla, which included music and other entertainment, shopping deals and demonstrations, refreshments, prizes, contests and more to promote what The Village has to offer. Another event known as La Jolla Nights invited businesses to stay open later for community gatherings.

“We want this to be a very fun and exciting event,” Kalanges said of the First Friday Art Walk. “So one of the ideas is to have the galleries partner with local restaurants, maybe have a fun cocktail pairing. … We’re talking about entertainment scattered throughout The Village.”

A motion to support the event passed unanimously.

“This thinking outside the box ... is going to drive us forward and do more for our Village,” said LJVMA board President Cody Decker.

Election results: Ten people ran for 10 available seats in the board’s annual election. Eight incumbents, some of whom were filling a seat vacated in the middle of the year, and two new candidates were elected.

The incumbents are Decker, Natalie Aguirre, Amber Anderson, Morgan Barnes, Andy Fotsch, Michael Matthews, Kelli Metcalf and Lauren Turton. The new members are Bang & Olufsen store manager Nicole Perez and Team Chodorow office manager Karen Roque.

Annual report: The Oct. 13 meeting doubled as the board’s annual meeting, and Rudick presented a snapshot of the annual report.

“Our mission is to bring business to La Jolla Village, and over COVID we made the modification [to state] we bring business to La Jolla Village business,” she said. “That was to help people that were operating online and operating other curves. As we open back up, we continue to help people with those modifications and work closely with the city of San Diego. … We are moving out of COVID restrictions and want to make sure we get back to what we do best, which is to try to energize The Village, bring people in that wouldn’t normally come.”

The full report is at

Next meeting: The La Jolla Village Merchants Association next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10. The meeting format will be determined by COVID-19 standards in effect at the time. Learn more at ◆