“I just love it,” said Carol Holbrooke, who grew up here. “It’s so calm. It’s so nice. You get a real sense of community, which you don’t get very much anymore.”
Though Holbrooke was the reason why he originally moved to Bird Rock from Chicago, Dale Duffala said she’s not the only reason he’s stayed.
“It’s a neighborhood,” he said. “Everybody here, we really pull together.”
Holbrooke and Duffala were among Bird Rock residents who took time out from their annual summer community picnic Aug. 29 in Calumet Park to talk about what makes their neighborhood special and why many of them would never leave.
Ret. Brig. Gen. Earl Van Inwegen and his wife, Pat, had an unequivocal answer to why they chose to settle down in Bird Rock.
“The price was good on a nice house with an ocean view,” said Earl, while a chuckling Pat agreed, “The price was right.”
“It was a fixer-upper, was kind of in bad shape when we got it,” recalled Earl, whose family first lived here in 1970 when he was going to grad school but left for many years. “My dad and I were handy, so we came back and worked on the house and fixed it up.”
Meanwhile, the sense of belonging to a community drew the Van Inwegens in.
“We made a lot of great friends. We became involved in the community, with Bird Rock Elementary,” said Pat. “We knew we were always going to come back.”
Michelle Fulks, previously from Bay Ho, had a quick answer for why she’s now a Bird Rockian.
“The surf, the community and the school, in that order,” she said.
Others tended toward location, location, location.
“I can walk to the surf,” said John Dobak, who lives on Chelsea Avenue. Dobak used to live on Mt. Soledad, which he said “was too far from the water.”
Dobak said Bird Rock has evolved over the years becoming “the” place for people with young families.
“We had a young family and there were 10, 15 kids on our street all running around — you couldn’t beat it,” he said.
Beaming with pride, Bird Rock Community Council president Joe Parker surveyed blufftop Calumet Park with its dazzling ocean views, packed with locals gathered to mingle and munch a barbecue catered by Beaumont’s restaurant.
“My family has lived here since 1968 and La Jolla has always been my first love,” he said. “I love everything about it. I wanted very much to be in the place where I grew up.”
Parker followed the example of his father, a longtime La Jolla piano teacher involved with the Athenaeum and with school music programs, in becoming involved in civic affairs.
“He was very much involved in things that were important to him, things he thought were important to the community,” said Parker. “When I moved to Bird Rock and learned about the BRCC, I got involved and just naturally progressed through the ranks. The No. 1 reason I do it is because I love Bird Rock. I love this community and it’s just a pleasure and an honor to serve the people.”
A 20-year resident, Jim Ragsdale described Bird Rock as “the kind of neighborhood that everybody wants to have.”
“It’s got lots of good activities, great kids and a lot of dogs,” he said.
Dave Dunbar, whose wife, Barbara, is a BRCC board member, said proximity to the ocean “keeps us here.” But the community, Dunbar added, also “has a certain amount of small-town feel to it.”
Jason Hendrickson, standing in the picnic chow line, agreed.
“People know everybody in the neighborhood,” he said. “You’re a couple of miles away from what, the seventh largest city in the country? So it’s got the best of both worlds — the big city and yet a small-town feel.”
Though she’s a La Jolla Shores resident, District 1 City Coucilwoman Sherri Lightner, who attended the picnic, is an honorary Bird Rockian, given that the community is part of the district she represents.
“They’re very engaged with the community,” said Lightner of Bird Rock residents. “They do a lot of community events. There’s a lot of community camaraderie.”
Lightner said the community’s unity was evidenced by its successful fight in banding together to oust residents of “Rancho Relaxo,” a neighborhood home formerly plagued by drug and code-compliance issues, and its success in securing enhanced police protection to counter problems that arose during the filming of MTV’s “The Real World” at a rented Bird Rock house last summer.
Mark Landguth had a somewhat different reason than most for liking Bird Rock.
“I like the architecture, it’s so diverse,” he said, adding the community is also a solid mix of old and new. “There’s a real sense of community, a lot of involvement.”
Speaking for many, Parker said the one thing that really stands out about Bird Rock is how close-knit the community really is.
“People really care about their community,” he said. “It’s one of the few places you can walk down the boulevard, and in five minutes you can say ‘Hi’ to 50 of your closest friends.”