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Two December parades confusing for La Jolla retailers

Traffic & Transportation group to take up the issue 4 p.m. July 23 at Rec Center

La Jolla Village Merchants Association executive director Sheila Fortune, president Claude-Anthony Marengo, and trustees Terry Underwood and Nancy Warwick
La Jolla Village Merchants Association executive director Sheila Fortune, president Claude-Anthony Marengo, and trustees Terry Underwood and Nancy Warwick
(Pat Sherman)

During the La Jolla Village Merchants Association’s (LJVMA) July 8 meeting, trustee Nancy Warwick reported that the planned addition of a second holiday-time parade — proposed by the San Diego County Diversity & Inclusiveness Group (SDCDIG) — has been confusing for merchants, many of whom may not realize a petition circulated this month to garner support for the event will result in closing Girard Avenue two consecutive Sundays in December.

SDCDIG parade organizer Howard Singer is seeking city permits to hold the “La Jolla Community Parade” on Dec. 13 — his proposed alternative to the “La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival” on Dec. 6, for those who feel the word “Christmas” excludes atheists, Jews and people of other faiths.

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Singer and his group will come before the Traffic & Transportation city advisory board (T&T) 4 p.m. this Thursday, July 23, to seek approval for closure of Girard Avenue from Kline Street to Prospect Street, as well as a portion of Wall Street (for setup) — the same location where the more established Christmas Parade will take place a week earlier.

Warwick, who owns Warwick’s Books on Girard Avenue and who also serves on the T&T board, noted that Singer’s parade application estimates as many as 25,000 people will attend his event.

“Howard has started walking around, handing out a petition, but it doesn’t clarify that this is actually a separate parade,” Warwick said, adding that when Girard Avenue is closed for the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade, people are not shopping and businesses lose money.

“That’s common knowledge for retailers who are open on that Sunday,” she said. “To have a second parade, with a major street closure, two weekends before Christmas is very detrimental to business — and it’s very confusing to merchants if they don’t understand what Howard is asking when he asks if they approve the street closure.”

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A scene from the 2014 La Jolla Christmas Parade.
A scene from the 2014 La Jolla Christmas Parade.
(Pat Sherman)

Warwick said she is concerned some merchants believe the La Jolla Christmas Parade has merely changed its name. “They want to have the parade, but they don’t know it’s a different parade,” she said. Warwick said what Singer presents at this week’s T&T meeting “might not be a good petition for (T&T) to base its vote on, if people have misunderstood.”

Lizzie Davidson of Ark Antiques on Girard Avenue later told La Jolla Light Singer came into her store this month to drop off a second petition seeking merchant support for the event (his group’s first petition was more of a notice, and did not seek merchant approval required by the city).

Although Davidson said Singer made it clear he was holding a separate event, on a different date, she said he also claimed 85 percent of Village merchants approved of his event — with no proof to back up the assertion.

Traffic &Transportation advisory board member Tom Brady discusses the proposed addition of a second December parade.
Traffic &Transportation advisory board member Tom Brady discusses the proposed addition of a second December parade.
(Pat Sherman)

“I said, ‘Why don’t you switch the date? Why does it have to be back-to-back?’ ” Davidson recalled. “He said, ‘Well, we don’t really want to have a parade’ — and I took that to mean they’re just trying to make a point.”

Davidson she doesn’t plan to sign the petition. “I’m a born and bred La Jollan and I’m not offended by the Christmas Parade,” she said. “I’m offended when they try to change the names of things to make people happy.”

Warwick also said Singer’s group has no plan to provide portable restrooms, though it cited bathrooms as being available at several Village businesses that had not been apprised of his event.

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“Girard Gourmet was listed,” Warwick said, adding that co-owner Diana Goedhuys “was horrified at the idea of all these people coming in expecting to use her bathroom.

“So, there’s deception on the application,” Warwick added, requesting that LJVMA send an e-blast to businesses clarifying that Singer’s event requires a second street closure.

LJVMA president Claude-Anthony Marengo said he wasn’t inclined to send out an e-blast, as it might further confuse business owners.

“I, in no way, want it presented from us that we’re choosing a side,” said LJVMA executive director Sheila Fortune, adding Singer is telling Village proprietors that LJVMA supports his parade, when he has not made a formal presentation to the LVMA board about holding a separate parade, and it has not taken a position. (However, last year, after Singer came before the LJVMA, its board voted to support a new, faith-neutral name for the La Jolla Christmas Parade. Read more at 
bit.ly/merchantsgroupparadename)

T&T member Tom Brady said the city requires parade applicants to “provide evidence of community support for their event.

“It would be very helpful for the Traffic & Transportation committee when we discuss Howard’s request July 23 at the Rec Center to have some idea of from the LJVMA as to how its membership feels about this,” Brady said, noting that in the past, T&T has requested an applicant obtain the signed consent of at least 80 percent of the affected merchants before they are placed on the T&T agenda for consideration.

“That wasn’t done and the new chair, David Abrams, put it on the agenda,” Brady said. “So, we’re going forward with it and Howard is playing catch-up getting the petition around to people.”

Marengo said the LJVMA should clarify to T&T that its board has taken no position on Singer’s event.

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