La Jolla year in review: Missing money, mainstay issues and much more to come
Published - 12/16/17 - 09:56 AM | 30354 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An aerial view of the Children’s Pool shot via drone. Note the amount of lounging pinnipeds. / PHOTO BY RYAN SHORT
An aerial view of the Children’s Pool shot via drone. Note the amount of lounging pinnipeds. / PHOTO BY RYAN SHORT
Over the past year, the La Jolla area has seen its fair share of trying instances. Despite what has happened, however, there always remains an air of positivity in the community.

Although things locally, nationally, and internationally may have appeared to have been tough, there were, as always, inevitably some wholly positive and endearing occurrences spotted throughout.

We’ve compiled some of the more pressing issues all over La Jolla—from Bird Rock to the Golden Triangle—here’s what went down this past year.

JAN. 13

On Dec. 15, La Jolla's Children's Pool, usually closed for the start of the five-month harbor seal pupping season, remained open. That opening remained in effect until the following day, Friday, Dec. 16, when the beach was closed, yet again, after the City of San Diego appealed — and was granted — a temporary stay to protect the marine mammals.

In 2014, City Council banned public access at Children's Pool annually from Dec. 15 to May 15 to protect the seals during their pupping season. That action was subsequently challenged in a lawsuit against the city and the California Coastal Commission by Friends of the Children's Pool.

A maintenance assessment district (MAD) passed by La Jolla businesses and residents in 2016, that won't go into effect until 2018, challenged by a lawsuit. A group known as La Jolla Benefits Association, LLC, filed a lawsuit on Dec. 28 in San Diego Superior Court. Former San Diego city attorney Michael J. Aguirre is representing the association.

The association's suit challenged the MAD, which passed by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin by mail ballot to residents and businesses within La Jolla's downtown Village in November 2016.

JAN. 27

The final "One Ocean Shamu" show was conducted at SeaWorld San Diego on Sunday, Jan. 8. Their interim educational orca presentation called a “Killer Whale Presentation” started on Monday, Jan. 9.

SeaWorld set up temporary seating (bleachers) around the orca underwater viewing area pool, and provided guests with an educational presentation while the new Orca Encounter backdrop is constructed at the main pool.

FEB. 10

A growing perception by some coastal residents, including La Jollans, that they're hearing more noise from commercial airplanes was disputed by a Federal Aviation Administration official at a Jan. 18 Airport Noise Advisory Committee subcommittee meeting. Some residents are insisting they're hearing loud airplane noises in areas previously unexposed.

There was quite an impressive turnout for the groundbreaking ceremony at the new Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, which will be located at 7600 Fay Ave. for years to come.

The $76 million project, of which about $62 million has already been raised, is slated for a grand opening around January of 2019. The 49,000-square-foot facility was designed by Boston-based Epstein Joslin Architects, and will boast a 500-seat concert hall, 140-seat flexible use space, rehearsal rooms, a large open courtyard and offices for the La Jolla Music Society.

FEB. 24

A La Jolla man who was the accounts payable supervisor for a Sorrento Valley company plead guilty to embezzling $1.9 million from the firm for vacations, sporting event trips, and renting private jets. Edward K. Abellana, 40, faces up to 23 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on April 7 before U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino. Abellana pleaded guilty to wire fraud and making a false tax return by not disclosing the embezzled funds as income. The tax returns in the charges are from 2012 to 2015.


Following a Feb. 20 bomb threat, which caused La Jolla's Jewish Community Center to be closed and evacuated, officials have struggled to explain why — and what could be done about it. It was the third similar threat this year at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center at 4126 Executive Drive.

A 31-year-old man, Juan Thompson, was subsequently arrested March 3 in St. Louis. Thompson was allegedly linked to at least eight bogus bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers across the nation, including La Jolla's, as part of a campaign to harass a former girlfriend.


The tide in the battle by beach residents seeking to restrict – or exclude – short-term vacation rentals in single-family neighborhoods may have turned with an about-face at the city attorney's office. Immediate past City Attorney Jan Goldsmith had maintained rules and regulations governing short-term vacation rentals were vague and needed clarification. New City Attorney Mara Elliott took a completely different tack with her March 15 memorandum of law advising the City Council that they were illegal.

Two Mission Beach businessmen were placed on 18 months federal probation. and they paid the U.S. Coast Guard $18,000 for rescuing them after they intentionally sank their boat to try and collect insurance proceeds. Christopher Alan Switzer, 39, of La Jolla, and Mark D. Gillette, 37, of San Diego, were spared any jail time by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Anello.


An allegation surfaced of mismanagement of a playground fund with nonprofit La Jolla Recreation Council, which recently asked its president Cindy Greatrex to step down. An inside source requesting anonymity told La Jolla Village News that an amount of money originally estimated at $40,000 – which has since grown – was reported missing by a recreation council board member.

Contacted by La Jolla Village News the morning of April 20, Greatrex, when informed that some playground funds had been reported missing, commented, “There are no missing funds.”


Following the April 30 shooting at the La Jolla Crossroads apartment complex, which left Monique Clark, a 35-year-old mother of three, dead, several victims and witnesses were hesitant to dismiss the notion, provided by San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, that race did not play a factor in the shooting. The shooter, 49-year-old Peter Raymond Selis, was white. Seven others were injured in the shooting. According to reports, four women and three men were shot.

On Thursday, April 29, the City of San Diego Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the Beverly and Joseph Glickman Hillel Center, to be located at the intersection of La Jolla Village Drive and Torrey Pines Road. “This is a very important day for us,” said Robert Lapidus, longtime chair of the Hillel Facilities Committee. “We have been working for nearly two decades on this project, and the Planning Commission’s vote brings us one step closer to making the Glickman Hillel Center a reality.”

MAY 19

A senior couple was found dead with gunshot wounds in a suspected murder-suicide in a posh home in La Jolla's Mount Soledad about 7:30 p.m. on May 16. The deceased were identified by police early the following day as John Mattiace, 80, and Jilavi Parvaneh, 60, a married woman. Their bodies were discovered by police responding to the couple's son's request for a welfare check on his parents at their $3 million home at 5579 Avenida Fiesta in a cul-de-sac near Pacifica Drive.


A University City man accused of illegally selling firearms and heroin will next appear in federal court on June 8. Paul Joseph Holdy, 39, pleaded not guilty to three charges, but could face more counts after acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson said 19 firearms, including short barrel machine guns, were sold to undercover agents.

With this past winter’s torrential rains, however, one of the most popular trails, the Broken Hill Trail, faced some safety issues resulting from erosion.

This deterioration is why the California Conservation Corps have been hard at work since January working eight days on and six days off.


“Embracing the Beauty of Diversity in Our World” was the title of the public address given by Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on Friday, June 16 at UC San Diego’s RIMAC Field. His Holiness, now 81 years old, had flown in from Rochester, N.Y. the day before, but was cheerful and energetic as he delivered his 35-minute message about the importance of compassion.


A woman who was charged with setting four coffee carts on fire at the University of California San Diego was committed on Friday, July 7 to a state psychiatric hospital because a judge found her mentally incompetent. Criminal proceedings remain suspended against Kay Lyn Williamson, 30, who was arrested after the bizarre April 17 incident in which four separate coffee kiosks were set on fire at different parts of the campus around midnight. San Diego Superior Court Judge Margo Woods read the psychiatric evaluation of Williamson before ordering her to go to Patton State Hospital for up to three years.


La Jolla's Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world's most renowned independent, non-profit, scientific research institutes. But does it discriminate against its tenured female scientists? That's the subject of a lawsuit filed by Victoria J. Lundblad, PhD, and Kathy Jones, PhD, which claims Salk has “allowed an old boys club to dominate creating a hostile work environment for Salk tenured women professors.”

An angry La Jolla driver who rammed a parking enforcement vehicle after he got a parking ticket was sentenced July 28 after he pleaded guilty to assault with a vehicle. Court records say Peter Alex Dreier, 42, of Hillcrest, would likely be placed on three years probation, but could be sentenced up to a year in county jail in San Diego Superior Court.

AUG. 11

On Friday, July 28, a group effort by a team of concerned beachgoers (both young and old), lifeguards, and SeaWorld Animal Health and Rescue personnel rescued a beached pygmy sperm whale that was stranded near Scripps tower. It is uncertain whether lifeguards or beachgoers first noticed the struggling sea mammal, but after sending off pictures and video of the animal to the necessary experts, everyone sprung into action. Unfortunately, it later died from its injuries.

AUG. 25

Two men were ordered to stand trial for robbing a La Jolla man during a home invasion burglary. One man was additionally ordered to stand trial for a murder in Santee. Witnesses testified for three days in the preliminary hearing in El Cajon Superior Court in the case against Jose Nunez Torres, 22, and Gustavo Ceron, 25. Both men are charged with robbing Robert Hill, who testified they climbed through his kitchen window on Oct. 12, 2016.

SEP. 8

An arrest warrant and Superior Court case alleges Cindy Greatrex stole $67,935.86 from the La Jolla Park and Recreation Committee while president of that group between May 2016 and February 2017. She and her attorney answered that claim is false — and they have the documentation to prove it.

SEP. 22

n The San Diego City Council voted 5-3 Tuesday along party lines to oppose President Donald Trump's proposal to construct a billon-dollar wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. The City Council's five Democrats voted in favor of Councilmember Georgette Gomez's resolution to oppose Trump's executive order to build a wall and to oppose a House bill seeking to fund it from a fee on remittance transactions sent from the U.S. to several other countries.

OCT. 6

n The San Diego City Council unanimously declared a shelter crisis Oct.2 as it related to the hepatitis A outbreak that has killed 17 people who were mostly homeless. Mayor Kevin Faulconer endorsed the action, saying it would help in setting up three temporary shelters for the homeless soon including one in the Midway District, which will be located at a Navy-owned lot in the 2700 block of Sports Arena Drive.

n One of three lifeguard towers built in La Jolla during the past decade, construction on the Children's Pool Tower began in early 2013. It was opened June 27. Almost immediately, the tower's public restrooms began backing up and leaking into lifeguard showers and locker rooms, temporarily closing public toilets and forcing lifeguards to retreat into a temporary trailer.

OCT. 20

On Oct. 18, a day before his centennial birthday, La Jolla Shores boardwalk was renamed Walter Munk Way honoring the esteemed scientist. Walter Heinrich Munk was born on Oct. 19, 1917. He is a physical oceanographer and professor of geophysics emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla. He is one of the world's foremost authorities on winds, waves, and other projects.

NOV. 3

The YMCA of San Diego County was fined $17,000 on Oct. 20 and ordered to abide by numerous probation conditions for a chlorine spill that sickened 79 elementary students and eight adults in 2015. The YMCA, as a nonprofit corporation, pleaded guilty to four felony counts and one misdemeanor that involved a hazardous waste spill.

NOV. 17

Citing the hepatitis A outbreak and ongoing renovations, Mary, Star of the Sea, a Catholic church in La Jolla, decided to abruptly halt a charitable program that has consistently fed the needy for more than nine years. Through the program, So Others May Eat, meals that were provided every second Tuesday of each month will no longer be served at the church. So Others May Eat alternates weekly, providing meals to the less fortunate at Sacred Heart Church in Ocean Beach and Mary, Star of the Sea.

In 2015, Sharon Wampler and about 80 of her Bird Rock neighbors started out on a quest to clarify — and tighten — some of the city's rules governing so-called “McMansions,” oversized homes on undersized lots.
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