2023 Look Ahead: La Jolla leaders celebrate accomplishments and identify goals for the next year

Enhance La Jolla placed river rock in empty tree wells this year to reduce trip hazards and litter.
(Provided by Mary Montgomery)

As we close the door on another year of grassroots activism and locals making a difference in the community and look ahead to the future of The Village and beyond, the La Jolla Light asked various local leaders about their achievements in 2022 and what they hope 2023 has in store.

What were your or your organization’s two biggest accomplishments of 2022?

Enhance La Jolla Chairman Ed Witt:

1. Exercising fiscal prudence in how Enhance La Jolla administers and expends public funds and donations entrusted to the organization for community betterment.

The 2023 Enhance La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District budget was prepared with no tax increase for residential and commercial parcels located within the district. To date, the budget is right on track.

This fiscal year, the Enhance La Jolla board extended the MAD’s existing vendor contracts with Urban Corps of San Diego County for pressure washing services and Nissho of California, Inc. for janitorial and landscaping services for one year with no increases in cost. These contracts are valid through June 30, 2023.

After the start of the new year, Enhance La Jolla will issue Requests for Quotations for janitorial, landscape and sidewalk pressure washing services. A timeline for the RFQ process will be discussed during the January meeting of the Enhance La Jolla board of directors.

2. Collaboration between La Jolla MAD, Enhance La Jolla and city of San Diego personnel regarding the improvement of sidewalk conditions.

The La Jolla MAD and Enhance La Jolla spent more than 100 hours identifying and photographing 1,270 sidewalk conditions in the district, compiling a document that contained photographs and addresses of these sidewalk conditions. This information was provided to the city of San Diego in November 2022.

Recent communications with city personnel indicate these efforts by La Jolla MAD and Enhance La Jolla will help affect policy change in how the city establishes its contracts with maintenance assessment and business improvement districts going forward, specifically in how these contracts address responsibility regarding sidewalk maintenance.

While no contractual language has been finalized yet, anticipated policy changes relating to liability where trips and falls occur would take effect in 2023, just as many MAD and BID contracts with San Diego are up for renewal. This policy change on how sidewalk maintenance is handled would not only apply to La Jolla, but to the entire city.

La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District manager Mary Montgomery:

1. Improved responsiveness in addressing pertinent public-right-of-way issues in The Village.

Frequent communication between La Jolla MAD personnel and the vendors that Enhance La Jolla contracts with ensures residents and business owners receive the responsiveness needed to correct undesirable issues affecting public spaces. As more business owners and residents become familiar with La Jolla MAD operations and its work to provide services above and beyond those baseline services provided by the city, all areas of The Village are attended to and regularly maintained.

2. Enhancing the appearance and safety of high-traffic areas within the La Jolla MAD’s geographic boundaries.

In 2022, the addition of plants and river rock augmented the appearance and safety of areas throughout The Village. These upgrades helped create a uniform aesthetic, reducing the appearance of neglect that invited these areas to be collection points for trash and pet waste:

  • The south side of Silverado Street from Bishops Lane to Girard Avenue;
  • Flower beds at the intersection of Torrey Pines Road and Girard Avenue;
  • Tree wells along Pearl Street from Girard to Fay avenues;
  • Tree wells in front of the La Jolla/Riford Library in the 7500 block of Draper Avenue;
  • Areas of exposed dirt on Kline Street between Girard and Fay avenues;
  • A stretch of Herschel Avenue between Prospect and Wall streets containing exposed dirt, hawthorn shrubs and fox tail agave plants;
  • Tree wells located on the east side of Ivanhoe Street at Wall Street.

Another project removed antiquated hardware suspending flower baskets from light poles along Girard Avenue and Prospect and Wall streets. These hanging flower baskets were a legacy project located in the public right of way whose ongoing maintenance remained largely neglected until recently.

The initial attempt at improving these flower baskets, replacing their antiquated hardware and the declining geraniums they housed while reusing the faux terra cotta pots containing these floral arrangements, missed the mark from an aesthetic standpoint.

Now, a plan for entire flower basket replacement and floral arrangement planting is in the works. In January, new floral arrangements will be planted in 28 new hanging flower baskets suspended from lamp posts along Girard Avenue from Prospect to Silverado streets.

Bird Rock Community Council President John Newsam:

A core duty of any community group is to execute effectively against its ongoing mandate, even if such activities are sometimes unglamorous. One of our prime BRCC responsibilities is the Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District, which continues to receive praise from residents and visitors and kudos from the city [of San Diego]. BRCC is fortunate to have a high caliber board representing a constellation of professional skills, experiences and perspectives and able to contribute diverse perspectives and opinions. These were applied to some new challenges, including considering encroachment into a section of the MAD area to enable outdoor dining.

Social highlights in 2022 included the Fourth of July Beaumont Avenue parade organized by the Murfey Company and BirdStock, a [La Jolla] Boulevard-long event organized in December by parents of Bird Rock Elementary students. We were encouraged by the energies and engagements of Bird Rock working groups: the Coastal Overlooks Ad Hoc Committee, Vision Bird Rock and the Bird Rock Merchants Group, and by the level of contributions of Bird Rock residents to other La Jolla community groups.

La Jolla Village Merchants Association Executive Director Jodi Rudick and board President Amber Anderson:

Transitions and vision: Coming out of COVID was both exciting and challenging for merchants. Staffing shortages topped the list of struggles in 2022 and continue to be a concern into 2023. However, one of the most exciting and visual accomplishments in the past year is the many shops, restaurants and two new hotel properties which have opened their doors, adding vibrancy and energy to every part of The Village. LJVMA strives to support these businesses as they move through permitting and construction all the way to the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremonies.

Partnerships and sponsorships: The culture of First Friday Art Walk has expanded to include performances, education and interaction to complement the growing map of galleries. Art Walk is a community event that encourages all types of connections by offering space for emerging artists, community groups and professionals to take part in our monthly event. Launched at the end of 2021, First Friday has grown to include a wide range of partnerships and sponsors that attract not only art lovers but people supporting dozens of community organizations that have popped up throughout the year. For example, LGBTQ+ groups were on hand during June’s Pride-themed Art Walk. November’s theme of gratitude included service clubs, high school groups, veteran’s organizations and even the San Diego County’s Animal Services who brought kittens who were looking for (and even found) forever homes.

First Fridays were only the beginning of the many partnerships forged by LJVMA in 2022. This year, thanks to a new and blossoming partnership with La Jolla/Riford Library and Warwick’s bookstore, we produced two Storytime Scavenger Hunts, which attracted hundreds of local families to The Village for a Sunday … of reading and getting to better know our businesses. We also were thrilled to support La Jolla High School Foundation with Taste of La Jolla, The San Diego Spirits Festival, the Concours d’Elegance, La Jolla Loves Pets Foundation and many other events with a robust promotional partnership program. We welcome all ideas when it comes to partnerships that support our mission: We bring business to La Jolla Village Merchants.

La Jolla First Friday Art Walk visitors
La Jolla First Friday Art Walk visitors
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

La Jolla Parks & Beaches President Bob Evans:

Reflecting back on 2022, I was glad to see the new Scripps Park restrooms finally open up, classic events such as the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance car show, Kiwanis Club of La Jolla Concerts by the Sea and the La Jolla Cove Swim return. Our organization is grateful for many great community results including:

· Strong opposition to sidewalk vending at our coastline parks and beaches, and the teaming with other coastal community groups to engage with the city to maintain those areas for their scenic and natural beauty and everyone’s recreational use.

· The completion and grand re-opening of the Scripps Park Picnic Grove, which was the culmination of almost two years of planning, construction, incredible and generous community support, and partnering with the city of San Diego. The site was run-down and rutted, old and broken benches, and needed new surface and access for everyone to enjoy.

· We initiated and funded an engineering study, as requested by the city, of The Children’s Pool for maintenance and upgrades that can help support it for the next 100 years.

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library Executive Director Christie Mitchell:

As we look to 2023, I think we can all say that a successful leadership transition was a big accomplishment for 2022. A change in institutional leadership poses both challenges and opportunities, and it was a big moment to step in to lead an organization that has been run by a beloved director who built an incredible cultural institution from the ground up! I am deeply proud of and grateful for our members, supporters, artists, and staff who have met changes with grace and a positive attitude and welcomed me so generously.

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library Executive Director Christie Mitchell
(Carol Sonstein)

We also celebrated the 30th year of the Athenaeum’s Juried Exhibition, which was a highlight for me to open as the first exhibition after I started as executive director. The response to the show, and the quality of the works in it, were a highlight for us institutionally. For me personally, it was a wonderful welcome back to the San Diego artistic scene and a reminder of how our artist community is vibrant, active, and supportive.

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava:

In 2022, I secured funding for resurfacing La Jolla Parkway; repaving Via Capri and Neptune Avenue; improving ocean access at Spindrift, Coast Walk and [the] Camino Del La Costa stairs; additional trash cans at Marine Street Beach; and seven new full-time lifeguards. Legislatively, I amended the sidewalk vending ordinance to include a year-round prohibition on [the] Kellogg Park boardwalk ... Scripps Park, and the coast walk between Jenner and Cuvier streets; aligned our community planning groups with the law [through reforms]; and clarified our municipal code regarding beach fires. We accomplished much. And there is more to do.

La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane:

In 2022, the La Jolla Community Planning Association:

  • Reviewed 70 construction and transportation projects on behalf of the community: 63 approved and seven denied.
  • Joined other community groups to oppose beach vending and beach bonfires that resulted in revised city ordinances.
  • Continued with online Zoom meetings that increased public participation; maintained outstanding informational website; and updated organizational logo.
The La Jolla Community Planning Associaton joined other community groups to oppose beach vending this year.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego David C. Copley director and chief executive Kathryn Kanjo:

As this eventful year draws to a close, we find ourselves reflecting on all that has transpired over the past 12 months. Amazingly, this time last year, MCASD was still under construction! The project represents the efforts of our team and the generous investment of our donors. We did it together. … Surely, opening this exquisite facility for our community was our most notable accomplishment of 2022. Our second biggest accomplishment must be the display of our art and exhibitions [notably, our Alexis Smith and Niki de Saint Phalle exhibitions] … and our earlier exhibition of Niki de Saint Phalle … received tremendous accolades.

Through these accomplishments, we have become the place for community and gathering that our visionary supporters imagined, and for that we end the year extremely grateful.

La Jolla Town Council President Jerri Hunt:

The La Jolla Town Council hit the ground running post-pandemic with a new leadership group and a refreshed roster of trustees committed to grow in its ability to better serve our beautiful community and strive for continuous improvement in every aspect of our volunteer service. As an organization, we have raised our organizational skills and become more integrated with the community to listen to their concerns. In just a few months the community has responded with positive supportive comments and participation. We had many challenges last year as we worked on building infrastructure and formalizing our processes in the pursuit of becoming the premier council that La Jolla deserves. We have a fantastic group of professional trustees that volunteer their time and talent to support the council, give the president guidance and offer up fresh ideas for the future. This is essential to the health and vitality not only to our organization but also our community. Our accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without them.

La Jolla Town Council President Jerri Hunt
(Provided by Jerri Hunt)

La Jolla Recreation Center Community Recreation Group Chairwoman Mary Coakley Munk:

2022 was a tough year for the La Jolla Recreation Center. Limited staffing was a huge issue. All programs had to be outdoors for much of the year and restarted from scratch. Requirements to teach classes for [the San Diego] Parks & Recreation Department are quite stringent so it takes a lot of time to start a new program. We were extremely fortunate to have Nicholas Volpe, Recreation Center Director II, diligently reestablishing programs following a two-year COVID-19 hiatus. The big annual events run by staff were back and were extremely successful. It was great to see pickleball and bocce ball grow and thrive, along with numerous programs for youngsters. Admittedly, there is much work left to be done, however, at long last, we are able to welcome everyone back for indoor programs and classes!

What are your or your organization’s top priorities for 2023?

Enhance La Jolla Chairman Ed Witt:

Continue making The Village of La Jolla a world class place to live, work and play.

La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District manager Mary Montgomery:

To ensure La Jolla MAD maintenance, janitorial and landscaping activities continue improving neighborhood aesthetics and safety.

Continued collaboration with residents, business owners and city of San Diego personnel in coordinating strategies for regular litter abatement in The Village and an increased focus on janitorial pursuits.

Bird Rock Community Council President John Newsam:

Over 2023, we hope to see progressively greater participation in the BRCC and in community activities generally. Most community responsibilities and activities are shouldered by a relatively small number of dedicated community volunteers. BRCC community meetings are an accessible forum at which developments that impact the community are presented and can be discussed, usually while plans are still somewhat malleable. Necessary repairs or code enforcement are more likely to be pursued when encouraged by a broader community voice. Emerging from the COVID pandemic, we hope to return to in-person community meetings and to a still broader slate of community events.

Kristin Barret, John Newsam, Barbara Dunbar and Jesse Camen
Bird Rock Community Council board members Kristin Barret, President John Newsam, Barbara Dunbar and Jesse Camen during a recent holiday party.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Many of our Bird Rock merchants, as elsewhere, had a hard time over the first two years of COVID. Over 2023, we hope to enhance the vibrancy of the Bird Rock Merchant District. We already have a number of renowned artisan merchants that attract clientele from far afield. But we also have a number of vacant storefronts. We want to see these filled by businesses that both succeed and enhance the appeal of our special neighborhood.

Signage and lighting are two further priorities, broadly discussed over 2022. Tasteful signage on [La Jolla] Boulevard would bookend the Bird Rock Merchant District and promote our community as a core sector of La Jolla. Better lighting on the boulevard (including installation of warmer-spectrum bulbs in median lights and illumination of merchant storefronts) will address safety concerns and help showcase our Merchant District. Personally, I would also welcome “think local” efforts applied to environmental and sustainability challenges.

La Jolla Village Merchants Association Executive Director Jodi Rudick and board President Amber Anderson:

Each December we come together as a board along with community leaders and our members to develop a strategic plan. This year’s strategic plan initiatives will focus on direct support to merchants at a grassroots level as well as exploring new promotional and publicity tactics.

One-to-one merchant education and engagement: We completed a merchant survey this year along with the help of The Bishop’s School students and learned that many merchants are unaware of all that we do. Our monthly Marketing Happy Hours (held the fourth Tuesday of every month at different locations) have attracted new members and involvement. Almost 60 people attended our recent Merchant Holiday Happy Hour, hosted by the Orli hotel. These face-to-face gatherings are a wonderful way to inspire networking and participation.

One of our goals this year is to have one-on-one conversations with as many businesses as possible. There are over 1,200 businesses in the La Jolla Business Improvement District and we want all of them to know how to get involved in whatever way works for them. At the very least, we will be showing businesses how to take advantage of our online business directory, event calendar and job board.

Branding and marketing: Building on the success and enthusiasm of First Friday Art Walk and La Jolla’s growing gallery community, we will look at better branding [of] La Jolla as a premiere arts and culture site. Between The Conrad [Performing Arts Center], Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, The Athenaeum [Music & Arts Library], Historical Society and La Jolla’s over 30 galleries, our coastal village is a world class cultural arts destination. Our seals, sea lions and sunsets are iconic and will likely continue to be our number one draw. But one of our goals is to spread our messaging to art enthusiasts on a broader scale while getting more people who come for the views to stay for the food, shopping and discovery that awaits them in The Village. Finally, we will develop a strategic public relations plan to better tell our story to mainstream and social media.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches President Bob Evans:

Looking ahead to 2023, we have a lot on our plate and working for more!

  • New projects that are on our drawing board include additional picnic areas at Scripps Park and other local parks and a rejuvenating and repair of the iconic white fence and landscape beautification along Coast Boulevard and other stretches of the La Jolla coastline.
  • We have continued support for the Windansea bluff erosion control [plan] and belvedere reconstruction, and the clean-up and maintenance along the Fay Avenue [bike] path.
  • On a grander scale, LJP&B volunteers are working to vastly improve all our local coastline parks that suffer from the much-deferred maintenance and current lack of necessary resources. For example, Scripps Park needs a much more balanced solution that supports clean and safe beaches and water quality, and an all-round grounds maintenance and sidewalk plan to bring back its lure of a world-class destination of environmental and ecological beauty.
Members of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group and others help cut the ribbon on the Scripps Park Picnic Grove.
Members of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group, city representatives and Malk family members help cut the ribbon on the Scripps Park Picnic Grove.
(Alexandra Corsi)

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library Executive Director Christie Mitchell:

The Athenaeum’s first priority is to keep the quality and caliber of our programming as we grow our offerings. We’re working to keep the art classes, exhibitions, concerts, and lectures our members love while also introducing them to new scholars, musicians, and artists.

We’re also looking forward to expanding social opportunities for our members and audiences to meet around our events. We added artists talks with receptions to our programming, working with Murals of La Jolla artists and exhibiting artists in our galleries, and will continue to add special member events as the year goes on.

Additionally, we have just extended our gallery hours at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights, to allow for more visitors to see our exhibitions and provide access to the space. We are looking forward to growing our audiences at both of our locations!

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava:

2023 is already a critical year in the city with a structural budget deficit and employee shortage. My priority for 2023 is getting “back to basics.” We must fill our budgeted vacancies so that all San Diego Police Department [officers] can respond in a timely manner; our streetlights are repaired; our comfort stations are maintained; and trash is picked up. Based on a strong 2022, I am confident these goals can be accomplished.

La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane:

In 2022, our Coastal View Corridor Committee visited view corridors [unobstructed views to the ocean from the nearest public road that “shall be preserved and enhanced, including visual access across private coastal properties at yards and setbacks,” according to the La Jolla Community Plan and Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan] in Bird Rock and Lower Hermosa to document their conditions and determine whether they are obstructed. The committee recently met with [San Diego] Development Services Department officials to discuss their findings and recommended next steps. In 2023, we will submit GIS mapping of locations that are not in compliance with the La Jolla Community Plan to the Development Services Department and continue with proposed remedies as outlined in the report.

The Village Visioning Committee will continue to solicit public input during a charette sometime in 2023 on streetscape enhancement, bike corridor improvements and right-of-way reallocation and recommend steps to making changes in these areas. The committee will also work with local government representatives to identify funding and propose where code changes need to be made.

La Jolla Community Planning Association will also continue to cooperate with other community organizations to elevate La Jolla’s voice in San Diego and revise our bylaws as required by updated Council Policy 600-24 [the city policy that governs community planning groups].

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego David C. Copley director and chief executive Kathryn Kanjo:

Even as we recognize the distinction of our building and collection, we are grounded by the belief that a museum exists to serve its community, to offer a space where people can see themselves and their world reflected in art. In the year ahead, MCASD will focus on becoming even more welcoming to all audiences and better equipped to serve as a forum for challenging and forward-thinking conversations. Access and inclusion for all audiences are high priorities for 2023.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla
(Maha Bazzari)

La Jolla Town Council President Jerri Hunt:

Looking towards the future, our priorities for the new year will stay flexible as the needs of the community change and need to be addressed. Our signature event each year is the Annual Hometown Heroes luncheon event that will be held in the first quarter of 2023. This premier event celebrates those in our community that are unsung heroes, giving their time and talent to making La Jolla a better place while working silently under the radar. Those in attendance at the first Heroes event declared it to be the most heartwarming and uplifting experience the La Jolla Town Council has ever produced and moving forward, [we will] continue to celebrate on an annual basis. Tickets sold out in three days in 2021! We will update our website ( as we confirm our selected venue and date.

It is a top priority for this newly restructured Town Council to be the conduit for informative, current hot topics that place La Jolla ambitions directly in front of community leaders for a better understanding and collaboration of our beautiful neighborhoods in an interactive open forum that embraces an open discussion and encourages all points of view. Our November 2022 meeting focused on [homelessness] had a tremendous community response with standing room only, providing essential information with energy and engagement.

We are evolving into a Town Council that is worthy of the community’s support as we continue to listen, address and ensure that our community’s voice is heard. We are honored to serve as volunteers and will continue to improve with the help and support of our amazing neighbors and friends. We invite all La Jollans to visit our well-trafficked website today to become a member, keep in touch, let us know what you would like to see the council address, join us as a member, subscribe to our newsletter and donate your support. We are honored to serve you.

La Jolla Recreation Center Community Recreation Group Chairwoman Mary Coakley Munk:

My hope for 2023 is for the La Jolla Recreation Center to once again be the hub for in-person community meetings and to be full of life with programs that meet the needs of all our community members, regardless of age or interest. Dreaming big, I would wish for city approval for the vacation of Cuvier Street and final plans and permitting for its renovation (which could well begin in 2023) to include much-needed pickleball, squash and bocce courts, ping pong, shade trees and seating areas — lots of activities and fun for everyone! Please check out plans for the much-needed renovation of the Recreation Center and Playground, we need your support to bring a first-class facility back to La Jolla.

— Compiled by Ashley Mackin-Solomon and Elisabeth Frausto ◆