La Jolla News Nuggets: Blessing of the Animals, payouts in La Jolla, school ranking, bike path cleanup, more

People and their pets attend Congregational Church of La Jolla's Blessing of the Animals on Oct. 17.
(Jon Wiggins)

News and events briefs


Congregational Church blesses La Jolla animals

Congregational Church of La Jolla held its annual Blessing of the Animals on Oct. 17 outdoors on the church patio at 1216 Cave St. in The Village.

The custom is conducted in honor of St. Francis of Assisi for his love of animals.

Pastor Tim Seery conducted the ceremony as part of his congregation’s traditional Sunday worship service, the first in-person service hosted by Congregational Church since May 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

San Diego paying out $354,000 over sewer failure and injury in La Jolla

The San Diego City Council approved settlements last week totaling $354,000 over a sewer failure and an injury lawsuit in La Jolla.

The largest of the payouts is $237,000 to the Stopler family and Bankers Standard Insurance Co. for a sewer “infiltration” in October 2018 at 1606 Clemson Circle, a residential property.

The payout will come from the city’s sewer fund, which draws its revenue from water and sewer ratepayers.

The other settlement is $117,000 to Anne Marie Welsh, who was injured when she tripped and fell on public property near 414 Nautilus St. in May 2018. Welsh argued in a lawsuit that the city was negligent by allowing a dangerous situation.

The council previously approved the payouts in closed sessions. The approvals Oct. 12 in open session finalized them. — The San Diego-Union Tribune and La Jolla Light

La Jolla Elementary ranked No. 2 in California

La Jolla Elementary School placed second in California in the U.S. News & World Report 2022 Best K-8 Schools rankings and No. 1 in the San Diego Unified School District with an overall score of 99.98 out of 100.

“La Jolla Elementary School is an incredibly special neighborhood school with a collaborative community that works together to serve our students’ academic, social and emotional needs. We are known for our rigorous academic program, which is taught by dedicated, experienced, innovative teachers,” Principal Stephanie Hasselbrink said in a statement. “Our entire team strives to provide an inclusive, welcoming environment ... allowing our students to flourish, thrive and realize their dreams.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, “At La Jolla Elementary, 95 percent of students scored at or above the proficient level for math, and 97 percent scored at or above that level for reading.”

This is the first year the magazine included elementary schools in its rankings.

La Jolla Bike Path cleanup this weekend

Volunteers clean up the La Jolla Bike Path in 2020. The cleanup will repeat Saturday, Oct. 23.
(Debbie Adams)

La Jolla Parks & Beaches and the La Jolla Kiwanis Club are co-sponsoring a cleanup of the La Jolla Bike Path at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 23.

More than 75 volunteers are expected to pitch in, clearing and hauling dry brush, raking, sweeping and removing litter. The cleanup is expected to last until dusk.

The surrounding designated open space and Starkey Mini Park also will be spruced up.

For more information, email

LaCava to take questions at Nov. 7 Open Aire Market

After spending a recent Sunday morning at the La Jolla Open Aire Market, San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, will return from about 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, Nov. 7, to answer constituents’ questions at a booth.

The Open Aire Market is on the La Jolla Elementary School campus on the Girard Avenue side. Learn more at

UC San Diego enrollment hits nearly 43,000, shattering record

UC San Diego transfer students get an orientation in September 2019.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Fall enrollment at UC San Diego in La Jolla has hit 42,875, smashing the record by 2,392.

These are preliminary numbers, but the increase is the largest in the university’s 61-year history and means the university has reached its planned capacity of 42,400 almost 15 years early.

Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said in September that the school is facing long-term growth pressures that could push enrollment to 50,000 within a decade, making the campus among the largest in the western United States. — The San Diego Union-Tribune

2 UCSD scientists elected to National Academy of Medicine

Pharmacologist JoAnn Trejo and microbiologist Elizabeth Winzeler, both professors and researchers at UC San Diego, are among the newest members of the prestigious National Academy of Medicine, which released its 2021 inductees list Oct. 18.

Making the list requires two confidential nominations from current members, and yearly admissions are capped at 100 — 90 from the United States and 10 from abroad.

“The entire academy weighs in on the voting process, so it takes several hundred members to be impressed with one’s contributions to merit election,” said Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research in La Jolla. He made the list in 2004 for his work in cardiology.

Trejo has been recognized for discovering the function of “G protein” cellular receptors, signaling pathways that have helped explain phenomena in the body such as vascular inflammation and cancer and helped researchers find new targets for drug development.

Winzeler’s work has earned her recognition in the field of functional genomics, using yeast to begin studying the worldwide increase in malaria cases and helping to discover several new drug candidates to fight malaria. — The San Diego Union-Tribune

UCSD researchers get $30 million to expand brain study

The National Institutes of Health awarded researchers at UC San Diego about $30 million over five years to expand and deepen studies of the developing brain in children.

Specifically, the funding will accelerate a larger effort to better understand how young brains develop from infancy through early childhood and how some are affected by a variety of factors, such as prenatal substance exposure, trauma and environmental pollutants, as well as positive environments.

UCSD will serve as the study’s administrative core through the Center for Human Development, managing 25 study sites across the country, including one at the UCSD School of Medicine.

New stem cell identified by La Jolla researchers offers hope to people with rare liver disease

Researchers from Sanford Burnham Prebys in La Jolla have discovered a new source of stem cells just outside the liver that could help treat people living with Alagille syndrome, a rare, incurable genetic disorder in which the bile ducts of the liver are absent, leading to severe liver damage and death.

The findings were published recently in the journal Hepatology.

SBP professor Duc Dong, the study’s lead author, said “the existence and nature of liver stem cells remains an intensely debated topic,” as researchers have been looking in the wrong place.

“The stem cells that we found are actually outside the liver, not within it, which may have made their discovery difficult,” Dong said.

Over 4,000 babies each year are born with Alagille syndrome, which is caused by a mutation that prevents duct cells from forming in the liver. While treatments available to manage the symptoms, the disease is incurable and carries a 75 percent mortality rate by late adolescence for those without a liver transplant.

In animal studies, the SBP team showed that by genetically restoring a signaling system involved in embryonic development and adult cell maintenance, the regenerative cells could remobilize to form liver ducts, restoring the function of the liver and improving chances of survival. The researchers are now using their discovery to develop new therapies for Alagille syndrome.

City seeks feedback on Village Merchants Association

The city of San Diego is seeking residents’ feedback about the organizations that run the city’s business improvement districts. In La Jolla’s case, that’s the La Jolla Village Merchants Association and its executive director, Jodi Rudick.

A survey produced on the direction of the City Council to collect feedback is live through Monday, Nov. 15, at The survey is expected to take three minutes.

Given there is an option to rate Rudick’s performance, LJVMA board President Cody Decker said during the group’s Oct. 13 meeting that “everyone has been exceptionally happy with the hard work, dedication, commitment and willingness to go above and beyond that [Rudick has] given the association” and that “everyone had amazing things to say” about her.

Barbara Bry to run for county assessor in 2022

La Jolla resident, former San Diego City Council member and 2020 mayoral candidate Barbara Bry has filed to run for San Diego County assessor in 2022, according to multiple reports. Bry did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the county, the assessor’s primary responsibilities include locating, identifying and appraising land and certain other property for tax purposes; accepting and recording legal documents and maintaining birth, marriage and death records; issuing marriage licenses and performing civil marriage ceremonies; and registering fictitious business name statements.

Bry served on the City Council from 2016 to 2020 before running unsuccessfully for mayor.

La Jolla Institute for Immunology receives new research technology fund

The La Jolla Institute for Immunology, the Jewish Community Foundation and invited guests celebrated a gift from philanthropist Sylvia Liwerant in September.

Liwerant elected to honor the memory of her husband, Jaime, by naming the Liwerant Family Endowed Research Technology Fund at the La Jolla Institute. The fund will provide support for the technological needs of the 21 labs and four research cores at the institute.

UCSD receives $11.7 million to expand genome database

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine said they have been awarded $11.7 million to increase the DNA sequence database for people who are not of White, European descent.

One way to make health care more personalized is to use a person’s DNA sequence — or genome — to predict the person’s risk of disease. But as the field of precision medicine grows, so have concerns that scientists may be leaving a large fraction of Americans out.

Disease prevalence and severity can vary considerably across racial and ethnic groups due to genetic and social factors. However, most of what is known about the genetics of human disease comes from datasets of predominantly White, European people. The lack of genomic data from people of other backgrounds makes it harder to accurately predict their health outcomes. Even less is known about the genomes of “admixed” peopl,e whose DNA reflects multiple ancestries.

UCSD will use the largest genomic datasets of individuals with diverse ancestry, in combination with socioeconomic data, to better predict health and disease in admixed people, officials said — City News Service

— Compiled by La Jolla Light staff