While businesses closed and reopened periodically due to the coronavirus, residents and merchants moved outdoors to curbside parklets and parking lots to ply their wares and conduct daily activities.
Live events were canceled. Meetings went remote. Masks were mandatory as was social distancing.
Having turned the corner into 2021, La Jolla Village News gazes back in the rear-view at the once-in-a-lifetime unforgettable year that was 2020.
About 400 people attended the La Jolla Cove Swim Club’s annual Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 1 in the chilly water off Kellogg Park at La Jolla Shores which was 57 degrees, according to swim club president Don Simonelli. “It’s a really great way to kick of the year,” he said of the event created more than 30 years ago. “Some people dip their toes in for fun, others go out and wade for a while and some regular members even do a half-mile swim.”
Asked his take on the new year, La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District board president Ed Witt said, “We have a lot of work to do as a board with adding new members and establishing committees, plus all the continued ‘enhancing La Jolla.’ We’ll continue to listen to the community and to refine our processes with our vendors to improve efficiencies and the final product.”
Community activist, journalist, and historical preservationist Patricia Harriet Ravage Dahlberg, 90, died Dec. 20, 2019. Heath Fox, executive director of La Jolla Historical Society, praised the contributions of Dahlberg to La Jolla Historical Society and the community during her long and fruitful life. “Her work was instrumental to the bequest of Wisteria Cottage by the Revelle family, the designation of UCSD’s Audrey Geisel University House (chancellor’s residence) on the National Register of Historic Places, and in recognizing Pottery Canyon and its importance to the history of La Jolla,” said Fox.
Joel D. Perlin owner of H.S. Perlin Co., Inc. of La Jolla, celebrated his 46th year on the corner at 1110 Silverado St., and 51st year in the community. Perlin remains a precious metals dealer and a financial advisor who uses tangible assets.
Donovan's Steak and Chop House at 1250 Prospect St. abruptly shuttered at the end of 2019 after four years in business.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and more than 150 other notable top golfers took over Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course in La Jolla for the PGA Tour’s 2020 Farmers Insurance Open Jan. 23-26. Golfers in the $7.5 million, 72-hole tournament vyed for $1,350,000 in prize money and 500 FedExCup points. Event winner Marc Leishman picked up his fifth career PGA Tour win with a one-shot win over Jon Rahm at Torrey Pines’ South Course.
A frequent jogger at Torrey Pines State Park warned that the Broken Hill overlook, accessed from the furthest south trail directly adjacent to the north of Torrey Pines Golf Course, was dangerous and needed remedying.
The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Board certified the final environmental impact report for the Airport Development Plan, which envisions replacement of the 53-year-old Terminal 1 at San Diego International Airport.
UC San Diego unveiled a plan to build five new multi-story buildings on a parking lot adjacent to La Jolla Playhouse. Named the Future College Living and Learning Neighborhood, the project was designed to provide residential life and administrative space for a new undergraduate college, with approximately 2,000 undergraduate beds, classrooms, an estimated 1,200 underground parking spaces, and a conference center and retail space.
The City Council voted 5-4 Jan. 28 to endorse a ban on motorized vehicles, including electric scooters, on Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla Shores boardwalks, and along Mission Bay Park bayside path, while reducing the scooter geofencing speed limit from 8 to 3 mph in congested areas.
La Jolla marine biologist Jessica Meir made time to video chat with 150 middle school students from the international space station. “It really means so much for me to be able to share my life up here with all of you,” said Meir at the beginning of her live stream call with Scripps Institution of Oceanography in February.
La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc. voted 8-7–1 against denying the issuance of new special-use permits for Scripps Park events that are for-profit and commercialize the park. It was the culmination of several months of vetting of the controversial issue of public versus private use of world-renowned Scripps Park.
Closed for reconstruction since January 2017, the Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla received a $750,000 federal matching fund grant which will go toward infrastructure improvements at the La Jolla museum site.
Being a Leap Year, 2020 offered an additional 24 hours on Saturday, Feb. 29. LJVN asked locals how they spent their time, as well as profiling nearly endless suggestions for things to do, in and around San Diego. The list included kite surfing, yoga by the ocean, whale watching, kayak tours, visiting both sides of the border wall, Temecula wine tours, riding in a hot air balloon, and skydiving.
UC San Diego Health launched a pilot project to test the use of aerial drones to transport medical samples, supplies, and documents. The university’s medical drone pilot program was being tested between Jacobs Medical Center, Moores Cancer Center, and the Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine, all in La Jolla. The goal was to speed the delivery of services and patient care currently managed through ground transport.
Rec Center Modernization
An update for the modern era to La Jolla’s century-old recreation center complex was underway by the Visioning Committee of La Jolla Recreation Center. The committee was planning long-term for bringing the facility, commissioned and completed in 1915 by La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, into the 2020s and beyond. That update began, in a small way, with the repaving of the basketball courts in the rear of the rec center.
In March, La Jolla Shores Association voted to retain legal counsel to represent them in negotiations on a new controversial multi-story, multi-building, mixed-use project proposed on UC San Diego campus dubbed The Future College Living and Learning Neighborhood.
Tagging was a new problem Enhance La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District contended with in fulfilling its mission of cleansing and beautifying La Jolla’s downtown Village.
Continuing to take aggressive steps to protect the health and welfare of San Diegans, the City on March 25 enacted an eviction moratorium that provided relief to residential and commercial tenants facing financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the pandemic lockdown continued, coastal business improvement districts including La Jolla Village Merchants Association worked together along with their umbrella organization, the BID Alliance, to help small businesses in neighborhoods citywide.
Education went online in what was described by some as the “great wait” while the lockdown continued in an attempt to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. San Diego Unified, the state's second-largest school district, transitioned to online learning on April 6 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The announcement came a few weeks after the district shut down all of its schools to prevent the spread of the virus.
Continuing to take aggressive steps to deliver relief to San Diegans affected by COVID-19, Mayor Faulconer and Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry announced on April 13 over $300,000 in private donations to kick start a new partnership to expand the City’s Small Business Relief Fund and encourage more community support for small businesses as the demand for economic relief rose.
Disabled-rights attorney Ann Menasche called for the City to end its moratorium prohibiting vehicle habitation throughout most of the City, warning policies punishing people without housing and forcing them into crowded shelters or safe lots would worsen the COVID-19 pandemic. “This strategy runs counter to recommendations of public health experts asking people to shelter in place,” Menashe argued.
LJVN surveyed a representative cross-section of small businesses and individuals in the community to get their take on how the “new normal” had impacted residents and businesses. “It’s a mess, just a rat’s race to figure out what’s going on,” responded Brett Murphy of La Jolla Sports Club at 7825 Fay Ave.
Coast Walk Fundraising
Despite the pandemic, nonprofit Friends of Coast Walk Trail soldiered on with fundraising to complete ongoing projects to improve the popular half-mile panoramic trail on the bluffs between the Cave Store at La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores beach.
Master Plan Update
La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc. established a working group to review the City's Draft Parks Master Plan and submit comments relating to La Jolla's shorelines and parks to the City by May 25.
Allowed to reopen with strict guidelines and limited seating under the County’s plan to allow dine-in customers, local restaurateurs were happy to reopen, but also feared the pandemic had shaken customer’s confidence, which could translate into a long slow climb back to normalcy and profitability.
Jonah Mechanic, owner of SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals in La Jolla and president of Share San Diego, Airbnb's San Diego arm, said the typical San Diego tourist has changed. “The client now is not your typical tourist who comes here to go to the beach and see all of San Diego’s attractions like the zoo, Balboa Park and SeaWorld, which are all closed,” he said. “People are now staying here for more extended periods of time, are coming and renting for a month or multiple weeks, so they can stay in the same house and quarantine together. It’s something we haven’t seen before.”
La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc. June 1 approved plans for the replacement of a historic belvedere at Windansea beach to be done by landscape architect Jim Neri who had worked on a number of coastal park improvement projects in La Jolla, including restoration of the Children’s Pool Plaza.
La Jolla civic leaders were initially frustrated in attempts to close off streets in the Village and Shores to accommodate outdoor dining to aid restaurants following the pandemic lockdown. “It’s the perfect location,” said La Jolla Shores Association president Janie Emerson of Avenida De La Playa, the neighborhood’s commercial business strip.
Dozens of residents and supporters came out to the ‘Paddle for Peace’ event at Windansea beach to back Black Lives Matter and protest police brutality on June 8. On June 3, several local African-American spokespeople participated in an hour-long Zoom webinar on social justice and accountability in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic murder.
La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Committee got an update from the La Jolla Village Merchants Association on establishing a new street signage program to help people find their way more easily in the Village. “We are exploring ways to mitigate some of the traffic issues that are caused by parking, working with Ace Mobility, our parking consultant,” said Jodi Rudick, LJVMA executive director. “We’re excited about maybe introducing some electronic signage to help people understand where they might be parking.”
Self-professed “hippie” and recent high school grad Danika Zikas, 17, organized a flower march for June 12 in La Jolla to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
San Diego Tourism Marketing District awarded $32.3 million in funding for destination marketing programs for the 2021 fiscal year starting July 1. With these funds, SDTA planned to support tourism recovery by focusing on marketing campaigns targeting a leisure audience in the drive market. The campaigns, labeled as “Happiness is Calling You Back,” were meant to attract drive-in visitors using images of wide-open spaces and outdoor recreation. San Diego Tourism’s strategy also was to include a “Stay Diego” campaign encouraging residents to have staycations.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration selected the University of California San Diego to host the new Cooperative Institute for Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Systems. The cooperative institute, led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, will conduct collaborative, multidisciplinary research on climate, oceans, and ecosystems to better understand the coupled systems and assess the physical and biological state of the oceans.
In July, La Jolla Village Merchants Association discussed numerous alternatives for freeing up outdoor space since indoor dining had been temporarily banned again, including painting curbs to shorten parking limits and setting up outdoor cafes and parklets. “COVID has changed our business model quite a bit,” said LJVMA executive director Jodi Rudick. The business improvement district was asked if it would be willing to approve or support green curbs changing 90-minute parking to 15- or 30-minutes.
Mayor Faulconer signed an executive order extending the growing list of allowed outdoor options to hundreds of additional businesses including gyms, worship centers, barbershops, and nail salons, which were being allowed to expand their operations into private parking lots.
District 1 staffer Steve Hadley, responding to complaints from La Jollans about permissive street vending and lack of mask-wearing enforcement said, “It is legal what they’re (vendors) doing. So it’s difficult for police to enforce unless they’re obstructing ADA access or violating noise decibel ordinances. Regarding masks, Hadley said police told him it is problematic to enforce because the mask ordinance, as presently construed, requires masks to be worn within six feet of anyone who is not a member of the same household, difficult to determine on a public beach.
As part of a continued effort to help San Diegans move activities outdoors where experts say the spread of COVID-19 was reduced, Mayor Faulconer Aug. 18 signed an executive order allowing gyms and religious institutions to operate in city parks where physical distancing was made easier.
L a Jolla Country Day School student Elinor Amir-Lobel won an essay competition with a $2,000 cash prize and founded a nonprofit with it, selling her original sticker art and donating 100% of the profits to the Black Lives Matter organization.
Judging the content of public murals was a slippery slope, and those murals promoting commercial interests should not be allowed. That was the general consensus of La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee in August. The 11-member advisory group makes recommendations to the City on signage, setbacks, and other development conditions detailed in La Jolla’s PDO.
In September UC San Diego Library observed the 50th anniversary of the university’s intellectual heart of campus, Geisel Library, which first opened its doors to the UC San Diego community and the public in September 1970. The library planned a yearlong celebration aimed at recognizing the remarkable legacy of Geisel Library, UC San Diego’s most iconic architectural masterpiece.
Restaurants, and at least one La Jolla bookstore owner, benefited from moving some of their operations outdoors. Brick-and-mortar D.G. Wills Bookstore at 7461 Girard Ave. Held its own during the pandemic, offering 1,000 books in its driveway to a dollar apiece. The Cat Lounge Rescue and Adoption Center at 1006 Torrey Pines Road achieved, with the support of volunteers and the community, its goal of rescuing, rehabilitating, and adopting out 1,000 cats before celebrating its first anniversary in November.
Mary Montgomery took over for John Unbewust as district manager for the Village’s Maintenance Assessment District noting she was hoping to be able to focus more on long-term capital improvement projects, like refurbishing weathered wooden benches.
La Jolla Shores Association endorsed extending successful outdoor dining during COVID on Avenida de la Playa commercial strip until year’s end.
La Jolla Town Council on Sept. 10 held a public forum with police and fire officials discussing fires, health, and safety. Local community planners also vetted ongoing problematic beach fires in La Jolla Shores and Beach-Barber Tract neighborhoods.
LJVN profiled Laurel McFarlane who usually promotes about 70 live San Diego events a year and was down to only five virtual events in 2020 due to COVID. She characterized her present circumstances, and those of the rest of San Diego’s small-business event industry, as “brutal” and “catastrophic.” The live events industry was lobbying the government for increased aid to help them survive the pandemic.
The Map of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla, a lasting memorial to the late La Jolla oceanographer Walter Munk, was unveiled at the educational plaza at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores on Oct. 16. It was a fitting tribute that the man who discovered the grand canyons off the coast of La Jolla Shores should have an educational plaza honoring him and his 80-year career at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The Map features a 2,400-square-foot tile mosaic displaying all the various types of sea life in the La Jolla Canyon illustrating 123 life-sized species.
The scenic hiking trails at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve reopened on Sept. 24 after being closed since April due to the pandemic.
Paddle for Peace, a community of surfers and nonsurfers united, held a paddle out at Tourmaline Surf Park on Oct. 10 to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The group raised $2,684 to fight cancer from the event.
The historic Red Rest and Red Roost turn-of-the-century cottages at La Jolla Cove caught fire in the early hours of Oct. 26 and were severely damaged.
Demoted from red to the more-restrictive purple COVID tier, La Jolla restaurants had to close indoor operations again and operate outdoors only. Restrictions were restarted on Nov. 14.
Black Lives Matter chalk drawings created on the popular Fay Avenue Bike Path between La Jolla Village and Bird Rock touched off a heated community controversy over the proper place of politically motivated art in public spaces.
On Nov. 18, the courts confirmed that former La Jolla restaurateur Daniel Dorado would not be eligible for parole until he turns 94 years old as a result of his 40-year prison term for rape. Dorado was convicted by a jury on Dec. 20, 2019, of 20 sex crimes against four women.
Everyday California, an eco-friendly, La Jolla Shores-based ocean adventures kayak touring and apparel shop marked its 10th year in La Jolla Shores serving locals and visitors alike.
On Nov. 6, La Jolla parks planner Phyllis Minick presented Bill Robbins with a plaque made from the remains of a fallen “Lorax” Monterrey cedar tree from Scripps Park, along with a watercolor painting, honoring his long volunteer service to the community.
In the Dec. 11 issue of LJVN, Mr. Jingles Christmas Trees, a one-stop-shop for anything and everything Christmas at 6710 La Jolla Blvd., was profiled. Every year the seasonal business offers six different tree types as well as fresh garland and wreaths anywhere from 8 to 60 inches.
City Planning Commissioners Dec. 3 voted 7-0 for a proposed short-term rental ordinance calling for licensing them, capping their numbers, and penalizing violators, while creating a City office to administer the new program while making it subject to annual review.
San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott filed a civil enforcement action to shut down a La Jolla Farms short-term vacation rental property at 9660 Black Gold Road. The complaint alleged that defendants were maintaining a public nuisance and engaging in unfair competition, including false advertising.