News Nuggets: Andy Garcia among film fest honorees; Blessing of the Animals; vending ordinance hearing; more

Actor Andy Garcia is scheduled to receive the annual Gregory Peck Award during the San Diego International Film Festival.
Actor Andy Garcia is scheduled to receive the annual Gregory Peck Award at the San Diego International Film Festival’s tribute event Thursday, Oct. 20, in La Jolla.
(San Diego International Film Festival)

San Diego International Film Festival holds tribute event in La Jolla

The San Diego International Film Festival, which runs online and at theaters in La Jolla and San Diego through Sunday, Oct. 23, is scheduled to honor actor and director Andy Garcia with the annual Gregory Peck Award during a tribute event Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla.

Other honorees are actress and producer Regina Hall, Cinema Vanguard Award; actor, producer and author Tony Hale, Fairbanks Award; actress Lisa Ann Walter, Virtuoso Award, songwriter and actor Colson Baker, Spotlight Award; and author and justice advocate Brook Parker-Bello, Humanitarian Award.

Nocking Point Wines, a winery based in Walla Walla, Wash., is being honored with the 2022 Impact Award for donating more than 5 percent of its lifetime revenue to causes and organizations.

For more information, visit

Congregational Church of La Jolla to present Blessing of the Animals

Congregational Church of La Jolla will present its annual Blessing of the Animals at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at 1216 Cave St.

Pastor Tim Seery will conduct the ceremony as part of the traditional Sunday service outdoors on the church’s courtyard patio. Visit

Street vending ordinance to get hearing at S.D. City Council

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said last week that a long-awaited ordinance to allow enforcement of new city street vending regulations in the coastal zone will be heard at the City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 14.

The vending ordinance took effect in most of the city June 22 but had been awaiting California Coastal Commission review and approval before it could take effect in the coastal zone, including La Jolla. But Coastal Commission review was determined unnecessary Aug. 26.

LaCava told the La Jolla Shores Association on Oct. 12 that the Coastal Commission not hearing the matter “required us to go back in and do a little bit of tweaks to the ordinance.”

The edits remove language that the ordinance is not effective in the coastal zone until the Coastal Commission certifies it, LaCava said.

He added that “the Coastal Commission [also] wanted a few sentences to say the priority has to be coastal access, which I think we all agree is a great addition.”

The Nov. 14 council review will be a first reading due to the new language. A second reading will be done Tuesday, Dec. 6. If approved, the ordinance would be effective in the coastal zone 30 days later.

However, LaCava said that due to city understaffing, “I don’t know how quickly they will jump on it and start trying to enforce it.”

La Jolla’s ‘Witt Wolfpack’ raises money for research during Walk to Defeat ALS

La Jollans Ed, Todd and Betsy Witt address participants in the San Diego Walk to Defeat ALS on Oct. 16.
La Jollans Ed, Todd and Betsy Witt address participants in the San Diego Walk to Defeat ALS on Oct. 16 at De Anza Cove on Mission Bay.
(Taylor Dunfee)

Members of the “Witt Wolfpack,” a group of La Jollans and others raising money for ALS research in San Diego after La Jollan Todd Witt was diagnosed with ALS last summer, have raised more than $109,000.

The team, which includes Todd’s wife, Betsy Witt, and his father, Ed Witt, along with other family members, friends and more, participated in the San Diego Walk to Defeat ALS on Oct. 16 at De Anza Cove on Mission Bay.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and over time takes away the brain’s ability to initiate and control muscle movement. Patients may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe. The mean survival time is two to five years, though some people may live five to 10 years or even longer, according to the ALS Association. There is no cure.

Todd, Betsy and Ed Witt spoke to the assembled walkers during the Oct. 16 event about their reasons for walking and their fight against ALS.

“We truly are so overwhelmed and humbled and grateful for everyone’s support, generosity and love,” Betsy said.

For more information, visit

Two La Jolla schools among 18 in SDUSD named ‘America’s Healthiest’

La Jolla Elementary and La Jolla High schools are among 18 schools in the San Diego Unified School District to be named among “America’s Healthiest Schools.” SDUSD operates five public schools in La Jolla.

The annual honor, presented by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, recognizes schools for their efforts to prioritize the health needs of their communities.

This year, schools were recognized in nine categories, including Strengthening Social-Emotional Health & Learning, Cultivating Staff Well-Being and Increasing Family & Community Engagement.

The San Diego Unified schools that received an award meet or exceed best practices standards in one or more topic areas related to the physical, mental and social-emotional health of students, teachers and school staff, according to officials.

UC San Diego researchers find that more information means less fear

New research from UC San Diego sheds light on how people perceive risks, indicating that detailed knowledge of probabilities can make risks seem less dangerous, researchers said.

The results, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, are based on findings that were replicated in more than a dozen different experiments with more than 1,500 participants across the United States.

In one experiment, 390 subjects who participated in the study were assigned into three groups. All groups were provided with the information that “every single person has a 58 percent chance of getting a flea bite that causes a newly discovered bacterial infection.”

Then, two groups were given more specific information. One group saw that the bites could come from various types of fleas, causing them to think a flea bite was more likely.

A different group saw the various types of fleas and the probability of a bite from each type. Receiving the explicit probability information led them to perceive the initial warning as less likely to happen.

La Jolla Community Center welcomes new board member, seeks more

La Jolla Community Center Executive Director Nancy Walters (left) greets new center board member Symphony Moussighi.
La Jolla Community Center Executive Director Nancy Walters (left) greets new Community Center board member Symphony Moussighi.
(La Jolla Community Center)

The La Jolla Community Center has added La Jolla business owner Symphony Moussighi to its board. The center also is seeking additional members for the 12-person board.

Moussighi is founder and chief executive of Symphony’s Hospitality, an international commercial textile product design and import company.

She also has held other community leadership roles, including on the PTA at San Diego French American School in La Jolla.

For more information, visit

Kiwanis Club of La Jolla holds annual installation of officers

Kiwanis Foundation President Bart Calame (left) and Kiwanis Club President Craig Gagliardi show the club’s charter.
(Kiwanis Club of La Jolla)

The Kiwanis Club of La Jolla held its annual installation of club officers on Oct. 7 at the La Jolla Community Center.

Twelve new club members were inducted, and Don Hodges, former club and foundation president, was recognized as Kiwanian of the Year.

The Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, founded in 1925, is a group of volunteers that produces local events including the Half Marathon and 5K, Junior Olympics, Concerts by the Sea, pancake breakfast and La Jolla Cove Swim.

The club meets weekly at the Community Center. Interested community members are welcome to attend. Visit

UCSD’s Alexander Khalessi named head of Congress of Neurological Surgeons

Dr. Alexander Khalessi of UC San Diego has been named 2023 president-elect of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the leading academic society for neurosurgical professionals.

Khalessi specializes in complex cranial and endovascular neurosurgery for the treatment of cerebrovascular and oncologic conditions. He became chairman of neurosurgery at UCSD in 2018.

Khalessi has served the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, which has more than 10,000 members worldwide, for nearly a decade in multiple executive committee and officer roles. He further represents neurosurgery on the Board of Governors for the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Sharona Ben-Haim, a neurosurgeon at UCSD Health, will join Khalessi in a leadership role for the congress. She has been elected member-at-large to the group’s executive committee and recently was named chair-elect of Women in Neurosurgery, a group dedicated to advancing female neurosurgeons. — City News Service

— Compiled by La Jolla Light staff