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Push for ‘inclusive’ alternative to Christmas Parade ongoing

During its June 25 meeting, La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation advisory board (T&T) was updated on efforts to hold the first “La Jolla Community Parade,” a proposed alternative to the La Jolla Christmas Parade for those who feel its title is not inclusive of non-Christians.

T&T mostly discussed the extent of parade organizers’ outreach to affected businesses along the parade route, as required by the city. The San Diego County Diversity and Inclusiveness Group (SDCDIG) plans to organize the parade. Although its founder, former La Jolla Town Council trustee and longtime Christmas Parade opponent, Howard Singer, hoped for approval of street closures to hold his group’s event, T&T declined to vote on the issue until its July meeting.

The proposed parade aims to be a faith- neutral counterpart to the La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival (its title of several years), and would invite people of all religions or devoid of religion to celebrate. It is not yet known which groups would march in the parade, but the permit application includes staging for floats, bands, marching units and equestrians.

It would require street closures predominantly on Girard Avenue between Kline Street and Prospect Street, and along Wall Street for set up, the parade itself and cleanup, on Sunday, Dec. 13. The permit to host the parade has been filed with the city, but has not yet been approved.

To notify the affected businesses, SDCDIG member Linda Wenger said she distributed a flier to local businesses. But T&T board members said they saw the notice as a premature announcement rather than a request for feedback. Historically, organizers of first- time events that require a street closure circulate a petition to affected businesses to give them the opportunity to express their support in writing, or their opposition and/ or issues they would like to see addressed.

However, the La Jolla Community Parade notification flier read: “The La Jolla Community Parade will take place Sunday, December 13 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Girard Avenue from Kline Street to Prospect Street, and from Wall Street to Ivanhoe Avenue will be closed to vehicles from noon to 4 p.m. If you have any comments or questions, please contact info@sdcdig.org or the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board.” The flier did not list a T&T point of contact.

The T&T request for signatures and feedback follows the City of San Diego’s Special Event Guidelines: Community Outreach document. The guidelines state, in part, “In addition to presenting your event concept to advisory group(s) within the event venue area, you should meet with the residents, businesses, places of worship, schools and other entities that may be directly affected by noise and street closures related to your event in order to address their specific needs.” Attorney Andrea Carter, representing SDCDIG

at the meeting, argued the guidelines do not state a petition is required, and that the flier could be considered a sufficient notice. She said because a point of contact was listed on the flier, those concerned could relay any issues they would like to see addressed directly to the organizing committee.

However, T&T member Michelle Fulks said without a petition or signatures, “We have no way of actually knowing whether these businesses were noticed and if the owners that received this information are in favor.”

Warwick’s Bookstore owner and T&T board member Nancy Warwick added, “In order for us to have enough information to make a good decision about supporting or not supporting an event, we would like to know how the businesses and affected residents view this. ... You need to ask the question, ‘Would you like a parade on this street on this day?’ That wasn’t asked. What was distributed is an announcement, not a question or conversation.”

Acting T&T board chair Dave Abrams advised Singer and his group to make a “genuine effort” to contact business owners or authorized managers to get them to sign a petition stating their position, and, should neither be available, to document the times and dates at which they attempted to make contact.

The proposed parade is scheduled exactly one week after the La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival — a completely separate event managed by a separate group — planned for Sunday, Dec. 6.

Early input: Speaking as a business owner, Warwick said, “We have a lot of street closures in La Jolla and the Christmas Parade is challenging for the businesses because parking is a huge issue. It’s a parade for the community so many businesses, including myself, support it for one business day.” She said it would be “shocking” to her to have her business lose accessibility two Sundays in a row during the peak holiday shopping season.

“When I saw this come up on the T&T agenda, I was surprised because I didn’t know it was planned for the weekend after the Christmas parade. There was (reportedly) no outreach to my store, so I e-mailed neighboring stores ... and only two of them knew anything about this,” she said.

Additional shock and surprise came when Warwick reviewed the application and found that no portable toilets would be provided, but four local businesses — Girard Gourmet, Living Room, The Spot and La Valencia Hotel — had been listed as a location with an available restroom. “You’ve identified businesses as offering restrooms that the owners know nothing about,” she said.

Next meeting: SDCDIG representatives agreed to return to the July meeting with results of their signature-gathering. Depending on the effort and result, T&T would likely vote on the requested street closures at that time. T&T next meets 4 p.m. Thursday, July 23 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org