Walter Mencken 10:15 a.m., Dec. 13
- Community Blog
La Jolla Now and Then
I heard the usual banging and thumping in the alley, behind the apartment building, clanging like church bells only hallow and deep. It was dark. Someone was going through the dumpsters, bottles and cans clinking. I couldn't hear cars on La Jolla Blvd., yet. Not even the #30 bus. If I wake up early I hear the waves from Windansea Beach, later the birds begin.This is as close to silence as it gets. Once morning is in full force, the song of La Jolla becomes the insidious sound of weed whackers, leaf blowers, sirens, and the constant stream of automobiles whooshing by on the boulevard, punctuated by the occasional car alarm. When I was a child sagebrush filled canyons and hills had coyotes, rabbits, hawks, roadrunners, quail, and doves. Lizards were abundant. Once I caught a Horned-Toad, or as I called it then, a horny toad. They are now endangered. Stephen Decatur Elementary School was a half mile from my house on Sagebrush Road. There was a horse at the end of the block and an abandoned diary down in the canyon. I walked to school in the morning and home in the afternoon. When the houses stopped, the road was bordered by empty canyons and hills. La Jolla was a small village by the sea, blessed with coastal views of sea and surf, surrounded by empty spaces, Tudor style homes large and small, or Spanish ones with terracota tile rooves. Upscale cookie-cutter housing developments were nonexistant. Today La Jolla is populated by the retired and wealthy, some of whom have no concern about historical heritage or preservation. Old buildings are torn down, replaced with large McMansions that appear more like office buildings than homes. Even the post office, one of the oldest community landmarks, with a mural inside by Belle Baranceau, painted in the thirties as a public works project is up for grabs. Mit Rominey has moved into the Barber tract, a place of historical homes, each traditional and original, with plans for a glass-walled monstrosity, easily by-passing the coastal commission. Our neighbor, a boxing and karate instructor, has been given notice, so that his apartment may be remodeled and re-rented for $300 more a month. La Jolla has seemingly become a greed-based community with a mixture of luxury cars dealerships, a shopping cart brigade of homeless people, elegant stores, empty store fronts, and tacky souvenir shops selling t-shirts that say, "I love La Jolla". The once pristine, trash-free street is now more of a rarity than the rule, though there are pockets of the fifties' ambiance. One citizen suggested that the benches on Girard Avenue be purposely occupied by residents so that the homeless could not sit on them during business hours, as if this was a humane and viable solution to the problem of homelessness. Along the coast the waves still roll in. Surfers still sit out in the water waiting for the perfect ride. Fishermen are fishing in early evening, though the fish are less plentiful. I miss the La Jolla of the past, of open spaces and sublime, of simplicity and understated grace and art, not the flamboyant, flashy, status seeking community it has become, where homelessness has become an accepted fact of life.