Groundwork laid for Village Metamorphosis
Despite challenges to board election processes and parade names, and the closing of Jonathan’s Market and Burns Drugs store, 2014 was largely a year of forward motion for La Jolla. Consider the unveiling of plans for a dine-in cinema complex, La Jolla Music Society’s announcement of a 500-seat performing arts center, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego selecting an architect for its expansion, and the nearly complete transformation of the commercial ghost town that was once Jack’s restaurant complex into the resplendent La Plaza shopping enclave.
Take a stroll with La Jolla Light through the ebb and flow of a year that bode great promise for The Jewel.
— January 2014 —
■ The Gate, La Jolla Cove: In response to pressure from residents and business owners, the city installed a gate in the fence above La Jolla Cove to make it easier for people to walk onto the bluffs. La Jollans urged city officials to re-establish human access to the cliffs as a deterrent to sea lions and cormorants gathering there and defecating on the rocks — the perceived cause of a once-unbearable (albeit gradually returning) odor permeating the Village.
■ Party house or tax boost? An ad hoc committee of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) began meeting to discuss the perceived problem of short- term vacation rentals, with the LJCPA ultimately voting later in the year to recommend city officials strengthen existing regulations on the industry.
■ Best-laid plans: During its yearly strategic planning meeting, La Jolla Village Merchants Association said it would scale- back and redesign its floundering Haute La Jolla Nights music and shopping events, planning to hold them on a quarterly basis (beginning with a “pet parade”). Its board also announced plans to hold the group’s first fundraising golf tourney and produce a fundraising “La Jolla-opoly” board game — none of which have yet come to pass.
■ USPS gets the boot: It was announced that the owner of the building the USPS has rented since the late ’70s to sort mail (on Silver Street at Draper Avenue) will be sold (its lease is up in mid-2015). Meanwhile La Jolla Historical Society’s Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force celebrated its second anniversary since forming to prevent the sale of La Jolla’s now historic Wall Street post office, and relocation of its services. The sale is still on hold.
■ Marching orders: La Jolla High School Musical Director Michael Fielder announced the establishment of a P.E. Marching Band and String Orchestra class, giving La Jolla High a marching band presence in the La Jolla Christmas Parade for the first time in five decades.
— February 2014 —
■ Council supports beach closure: Despite an impassioned plea by District 1 San Diego City Councilmember Sherri Lightner to preserve shared beach access at Children’s Pool during the seals’ winter pupping season, the City Council voted 6-3 to prohibit human access to the beach during pupping season (Dec. 15-May 15). The closure began in December, followed by a vigil for what the beach-access advocates dubbed “The Death of Children’s Pool.”
■ Burning Bridges: La Jolla condo owners began a fight to have the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) move a trolley bridge over I-5 that would have passed within 120 feet of their complex — an alignment not shown to residents in early public meetings. In June, residents of Cape La Jolla Gardens ultimately prevailed, with SANDAG committing to shift the bridge away from their complex.
■ Fresh leadership: La Jolla High’s new principal, Dr. Chuck Podhorsky, takes the reigns. “My dad always taught me that the day you stop learning is the day you stop living,” Podhorsky told the Light. “You want to continue to push yourself ... and I hope I model that through my leadership.”
— March 2014 —
■ Stage set for planners’ election challenge: Members of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) elected seven board trustees during the group’s annual election, including returning trustees Joe LaCava and Jim Fitzgerald, each elected by a two-thirds supermajority to serve another three-year term (in excess of term limits). LJCPA trustee Mike Costello claimed the LJCPA board did not do enough to solicit new candidates, which he said led to a shortage allowing two termed-out trustees to run for third terms. Fitzgerald later stepped down. In December, write-in candidate and architect Michael Morton, who received the fewest votes, would sue the City of San Diego over what he claimed to be the LJCPA’s improper handling of the election.
■ Of vines and vagrants: Responding to community concerns about a homeless population camping on the pedestrian bridge over Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla Shores, San Diego Police and city workers moved in and addressed the problem of cloaking vines. During a meeting of the Jolla Shores Association, residents said homeless people panhandled, slept and defecated in the area shadowed by brush and vines growing on the fenced-over bridge, which children use to walk to a nearby school.
— April 2014 —
■ Trail enhancement: The group “Friends of Coast Walk” announced a push to help preserve, restore and enhance a portion of the Coast Walk Trail, from Coast Walk to Cave Street. The group’s goals are to protect the environmentally sensitive bluffs, improve trail safety and appearance, and create an ongoing maintenance plan for vegetation there. Their wish list also includes an improved safety barrier along the trail at its entrance, and a redesign of the stairs for emergency access only. They formed a 501(c)(3) and reached out to the City of San Diego for guidance. The group announced completion of Phase 1 in June, which includes stabilization of the most treacherous portion of the trail.
■ Athenaeum takes over ‘Murals of La Jolla’: The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library took over stewardship of the La Jolla Community Foundation’s Murals of La Jolla public art project throughout the Village. The LJCF board said it realized the program would best be served as part of a well-established art institution in La Jolla.
■ Bye-Bye Burns: One of La Jolla’s oldest independently-owned retail stores, Burns Drugs at 7824 Girard Ave., announced plans to close after 62 years in the Village. The space remains vacant, although the owner hopes to rent the ground floor as retail, while the top floor would be remodeled as two luxury apartments.
■ Wisteria unveiled: The La Jolla Historical Society’s completed renovation of its Wisteria Cottage, the 1904 Craftsman-style building that hosts its exhibits. The historic building was returned to the period of significance in which it was owned by Virginia Scripps (half-sister of La Jolla benefactress Ellen Browning Scripps), and remodeled by Irving Gill.
■ Bike-sharing busted: The city said it planned to add 14 bike-sharing corrals in La Jolla as part of a citywide program that has since faced numerous delays in implementation. La Jollans weren’t having it, however, adamantly claiming the stations were an eyesore and would take up too much valuable sidewalk, park and street space. The city and company operating the program, DecoBike, eventually pulled the plug on bike-sharing in La Jolla.
— May 2014 —
■ Jonathan’s Market closes: La Jolla’s longtime gourmet grocers, Jonathan’s Market at 7611 Fay Ave., closed its doors, making way for development of the seven- screen Boffo Cinema complex, which will include food and beverage service in theaters, and is currently under construction. The project is being developed by Mexico movie theater veteran Adolfo Fastlicht and business partner Carlos Wellman, both of La Jolla, who signed a 20-year lease on the space with Dallo Enterprises. “We’re going to give the Village back its movie theater,” said Fastlicht, referencing the 2002 closure of the Cove Theatre on Girard Avenue.
■ Meanwhile, across the street: La Jolla Music Society (LJMS) announced plans to build its own 500-seat concert hall and home office space at 7600 Fay Ave. (currently Shingle Lane). The $40 million, 31,000-square-foot performing arts center is expected to open in October 2017, and include a 200- seat cabaret and multipurpose room, offices, rehearsal space, courtyard and a restaurant.
■ Bioscience/tech hub: La Jolla High School parents announced they are seeking to build a roughly $10 million, 13,000-square- foot bioscience and technology center on campus. Given the increasing importance placed on science, technology, engineering and math education, parents and teachers at the school want to assure students have an adequate, modern facility in which to excel in these crucial, competitive fields, organizers said. In October, the La Jolla Community Foundation opened a donor advised fund to raise $6 million for the planned state-of-the-art center, which will be one of the first in the nation at a public high school.
■ Fireworks scare re-dux: La Jolla’s annually imperiled Fourth of July fireworks display at Scripps Park once again faced cancellation due to a lack of community support, said Deborah Marengo, co-founder and director of the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, which produces the annual event. By hook, crook and generous donations, the event did proceed, however. Under the guidance of Marengo’s husband, La Jolla Village Merchants Association board president (and architectural firm co-owner) Claude-Anthony Marengo, the LJVMA voted to take over production of La Jolla’s fireworks moving forward.
■ First La Plaza tenant revealed: Whisknladle Hospitality, the team behind La Jolla’s Whisknladle restaurant and three Prepkitchen locations, announced they would open a third La Jolla eatery, Catania, in the new La Plaza La Jolla boutique shopping complex at the corner of Wall Street and Girard Avenue — making them the first La Plaza tenant to announce. Managers for La Plaza said the center will open in early February, though as of yet, no new tenants have confirmed participation.
— June 2014 —
■ Star-power: Former U.S. Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, stopped by Warwick’s Bookstore to sign copies of her new memoir, “Hard Choices.” A line of 1,100 people snaked down Girard Avenue waiting to meet the former first lady.
■ They’re No. 1: The La Jolla YMCA gymnastics team participated in the USA Gymnastics All National Championships June 21-22. The team earned two first-place awards and one third-place award – making them National Champions.
■ Shhh!: Shaun Briley took the helm at La Jolla Library, taking over for longtime librarian Catherine Greene, who retired June 30.
■ Off-leash mornings: La Jollan Nancy Linck introduced a petition for limited, leash-free hours for dogs on a section of a La Jolla beach (that had yet to be determined). Insisting she was not interested in establishing a dog beach or all-hours dog park, she said she wanted community input as to amenable hours and locations.
— July 2014 —
■ Merchants for change: At its July 9 meeting, La Jolla Village Merchants Association voted to request of La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival organizers that the name of the annual December extravaganza be changed to something faith-neutral.
■ Planning board election woes: La Jolla Community Planning Association hosted a special election July 3, during which Cindy Greatrex and Mike Costello were elected to fill two vacant seats on the board. However, whether Costello would be seated depended on the results of a challenge to the organization’s March election, filed with the mayor’s office by Bob Whitney of the La Jolla Association and architect Michael Morton, who received the fewest votes in March, and when running again July 3. Bill Fulton, then the city’s Director of Planning, Neighborhoods and Economic Development, opined that new candidates have priority over candidates exceeding term limits. Nonetheless, LaCava was seated (and subsequently elected president) via a two-thirds majority required of candidates exceeding term limits. LJCPA denied the city’s recommendation that Morton be seated.
■ Torrey Pines Road improvements: Details of the approved first phase and proposed second phase of the Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project were presented to the community at the July 24 Traffic & Transportation meeting. Phase One includes installation of ADA-accessible curb ramps, repairing sidewalks, moving streetlamps that interfere with the pedestrian walkways and the construction of new sidewalks. The work is scheduled to begin in early 2015.
■ For the birds: Construction of the new Children’s Pool lifeguard tower had to be put on hold when a nesting seagull chick was discovered there at the end of harbor seal pupping season, May 15. The chick did not take flight until July 28, posing a more than two-month delay on construction, which eventually resumed Aug. 4.
■ Cluster force: The La Jolla Cluster Partnership — an agreement with San Diego Unified School District that gives La Jolla public schools the ability to make changes to curriculum and hiring, among other things — is approved by unanimity July 29.
— August 2014 —
■ Jewel Ball cancelled: For the first time in its 68-year history, La Jolla-based philanthropic group Las Patronas had to cancel its major fundraiser, the Jewel Ball, due to inclement weather. Nevertheless, donations for the event and an online auction raised $881,045 for local beneficiaries.
■ Embezzlement charges: Tara Moore, Former bookkeeper of Jack’s La Jolla restaurant-bar, was convicted Aug. 4 of grand theft and forgery charges. Moore was charged with embezzling several million dollars from the establishment and from her ex-mother-in-law, and for fraudulently collecting military spousal benefits.
■ Facility sold: The United States Postal Service facility on Silver Street sold for $6.8 million. The 10,143 square-foot property, which USPS has leased since it was built in 1975 to sort mail for 43 letter carriers, will be redeveloped into town homes.
■ Planning board woes continue: In rejecting the city’s recommendation to seat architect Michael Morton, the La Jolla Community Planning Association is told it risks decertification as an advisory board to the city.
■ Seals win: Following the San Diego City Council’s vote earlier in the year, California Coastal Commission (CCC) voted Aug. 14 to close Children’s Pool entirely for five months during harbor seals pupping season, Dec. 15-May 15.
The CCC called for the city to closely monitor effects and efficacy of the winter closure for five years, at the end of which time the permit for the closure must be renewed. CCC added a condition to its approval that the City of San Diego study the feasibility of cleaning the water and sand at Children’s Pool, possibly dredging the beach and/or opening up long-closed sluiceways in the adjacent barrier wall (from atop which people will still be able to view seals during pupping season).
■ Parking meters revisited: La Jolla Village Merchants Association revived the idea of using on-street paid parking as a way to increase revenue. The topic was last addressed in 2008, when a survey reported 642 merchants opposed paid on-street parking and 73 favored it. Prompted by changes in technology and a possible change in attitude, the board voted 6-4 to explore this and other revenue-increasing options for the group.
■ New mural: The first mural installed in the “Murals of La Jolla” public art program under the auspice of the Athenaeum, Kelsey Brookes’ “One Pointed Attention,” was installed at 7835 Ivanhoe Ave.
■ Major Shores utility project: Bracing for planned work on Avenida de la Playa in the Shores, to replace the sewer and water mains that run down the middle of the street, Shores merchants scheduled meetings with city reps to see what middle ground could be found to minimize impacts on businesses, but still complete the work. The merchants requested nighttime construction.
— September 2014 —
■ New restrooms at park: Kellogg Park’s long-awaited North Comfort Station (restroom facility), with construction and fundraising efforts organized by La Jolla Shores resident Mary Coakley Munk, opened. The Friends of La Jolla Shores later hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to honor the family of the late John G. Watson, whose foundation provided much of the necessary capital.
■ Campus improvement: The Bishop’s School cut the ribbon on its new Ellen Browning Scripps Hall, which houses many student activities.
■ Pearl Street Trophy: In a handful of La Jolla High School Vikings football firsts, La Jolla Country Day hosted its inaugural Alumni Night Aug. 29, playing the Vikings for the first time. Similarly, the Vikings also played Bishops’ football team for the first time, in a cross-street rivalry Sept. 5.
■ Superintendent steps in it: At the Sept. 4 meeting of La Jolla Community Planning Association, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten urged the LJCPA not to approve the required street closures for the La Jolla Christmas Parade unless the name was changed to something faith-neutral. She also said she would consider pulling all school participation unless the name was changed. Marten later backpedaled somewhat, following public outcry that she overstepped her authority.
■ Village cleanup: In an effort to raise funds to steam-clean La Jolla sidewalks, Warwick’s Bookstore owner Nancy Warwick announced the Sparkle & Shine campaign, through which participants may donate $400 toward a personalized banner that is displayed on key streets in La Jolla.
■ Ebola aid: Foundation for Women opened an account to collect donations to help fight Ebola in Liberia at City National Bank in La Jolla. Funds collected pay for enough bleach for a family to sanitize their hands and prevent the spread of the disease.
■ Middle school leadership: Muirlands Middle School hired a new principal, Harlan Klein, who said he hopes to add new elective courses in science, technology, engineering and math for students in seventh and eighth grades.
— October 2014 —
■ Seniors on the go: La Jolla Community Center launched Senior Express to help transport seniors around the Village for errands.
■ Girard Avenue fatality: La Jolla resident and San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce executive Melissa Bonney Ratcliff was struck and killed while on Girard Avenue. The motorist involved was 91 years old; car failure was later ruled out as the cause of the collision.
■ Slow down: Spearheaded by residents on West Muirlands Drive, who voiced concerned with speeding motorists on their street, a traffic “choker” was installed there.
■ Consignment caper closure: Former jewelry shop owner Karl Winchell of Winchell’s Jewelry was arrested and charged with embezzlement after San Diego Police Department investigated his business practices, which included claims he scammed customers of thousands of dollars in jewelry and cash.
■ 100 years: La Jolla Woman’s Club celebrated the centennial of its Irving Gill historical building Oct. 17 with an evening gala at the club on Cuvier Street.
■ Planning Board election woes continue: With the intention of finally resolving the La Jolla Community Planning Association challenge to its March election, the Mayor’s office tells the planners to create a 19th seat on the board for Michael Morton.
■ More parking minutes: La Jolla Traffic & Transportation advisory board OK’d an extension of parking limits on Girard Avenue, requesting parking on the 7700-7900 blocks of Girard be increased to 90 minutes. A petition circulated among businesses by Nancy Warwick showed nearly unanimous support.
■ Fallen tree: Just shy of the La Jolla Recreation Center’s centennial, a 100-year-old Stone Pine tree fell onto its roof and had to be removed.
■ New Cove restroom coming: The committee behind the La Jolla Cove Pavilion project garnered enough donations to produce schematic designs for the new restroom facility, thanks to: La Jolla Cove Swim Club, La Jolla Sunrise Rotary, La Jolla Kiwanis Club, La Jolla Rotary Club and La Jolla Bridge Club.
■ Good girl golfers: La Jolla High Vikings girls golf team finished their season in the No. 1 spot in the Western League.
■ Off-leash dogs curbed: The group proposing limited leash-free hours for dogs on a La Jolla beach withdraw its proposal. Proponent Nancy Linck said, “Our group is evaluating comments and suggestions made at previous Parks & Beaches meetings and at the La Jolla Town Council. When we are ready to proceed with our proposal, we will contact you to schedule it for consideration.”
— November 2014 —
■ Green light for improvements: The Children’s Pool Walk and Cove Pavilion projects received city support, and were promised funding from applicable city sources. The Department of Park & Rec preliminarily approved $360,000 in Development Impact Fees for Children’s Pool Walk. The San Diego Regional Park Improvement Fund Oversight committee voted to fund the construction of the Cove Pavilion project.
■ Planning group election woes: La Jolla Community Planning Association, during its November meeting, adopted the city’s solution to resolve its March election challenge, and created seat for Michael Morton. Morton declined the seat and later filed suit against the City of San Diego.
■ Meals that matter: La Jolla Meals on Wheels marked 40 years of service to La Jolla’s homebound, and thanked volunteers at a luncheon.
■ Growth at Gillispie: Gillispie School opened three new learning facilities on its campus — a science bungalow, art atelier and sustainable garden. Although they were completed in August, students didn’t get to see them until November.
■ No night work: Hoping for minimal impact to La Jolla Shores businesses, construction on Avenida de la Playa started as night work, but residents vetoed the work by calling the city and reporting the noise as a “public nuisance.”
■ Foundation Grants: La Jolla Community Foundation bestowed its first grants at a celebration, awarding $35,000 to: Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s La Jolla Family Nights program; Muirlands Foundation Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program; Outside the Lens program at Muirlands Middle School; La Jolla Playhouse’s Performance Outreach Program Tour; and UCSD’s Arthur C. Clark Center for Human Imagination’s beach physics and BEWISE program.
■ Record-setting play: La Jolla High School quarterback Collin Rugg set a CIF San Diego record with 45 touchdown passes, as made official during the Nov. 14 game.
— December 2014 —
■ 90 Minutes: City crews installed signage designating three contiguous blocks of Girard Avenue as 90-minute parking (just in time for holiday shopping). The La Jolla Community Planning Association had hoped to discuss the proposed change, though it happened before LJCPA’s regularly scheduled meeting. The board decided to let the change stand a few months and review how it’s working, before making any potential recommendation to the city.
■ 57th year: La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival brought the spirit of the season and thousands of spectators to the Village Dec. 7.
■ Village cleanup: After only months of promotion and planning, the Sparkle & Shine campaign, spearheaded by Nancy Warwick and Sherry Ahern, raised $54,000 to steam-clean La Jolla sidewalks.
■ Council president from La Jolla: District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner was elected the first female City Council President in San Diego history. Among her duties as president, she decides committee appointments.
■ Pavilion progress: The team behind the La Jolla Cove Pavilion — committee members Judy Adams Halter and Patrick Ahern, and architects Taal Safdie and Ricardo Rabines — presented the latest blueprints for the new restroom facility at the La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting. Divers fought for the gathering space and staging area that would be lost with the proposed structure. The architects argued for a better view of the ocean and flow of usage.
■ Memorial matter: The Mount Soledad Memorial Association has its fingers crossed that a deal will be sealed so the land on which the memorial is situated (as well as its 29-foot-tall cross) will be transferred to the association. In late December, the House and Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Bill, a $585 billion military spending bill that included the land-transfer provision by Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr. (R-Alpine). It authorizes the Defense Department to sell the land and transfer the cross to the memorial association.
■ Closed for the season: On Dec. 15, the start of this year’s harbor seal pupping season, Children’s Pool Beach was officially closed to the public until May 15. Fines up to $1,000 could be levied against trespassers.
■ 90 years old: Casa de Mañana celebrated its 90 years of Village history. Originally a resort hotel, Casa de Mañana has operated as a luxury assisted living facility since 1953.
— WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS A HIGHLIGHT OF 2014 IN LA JOLLA? Leave a comment below.