La Jolla hosts the northernmost coastline of the city of San Diego with stereotypes of golden sands, tanned skins and stuffed wallets. From its waters to its mansions, La Jolla lives up to its erroneously spelled Spanish translation meaning ìThe Jewel.î A stroll in the Village includes ogling Ferrari dealerships, snickering at couture price tags and dodging camera-toting tourists. It's a town so proud of its reputation a tourist could find "La Jolla" printed on any item of clothing he or she could think up. The town's esteem skyrocketed from the '20s until the '40s when celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Mel Ferrer escaped Hollywood for stays at the historic La Valencia Hotel. But wherever sunshine is abundant, shade follows. The community newspaper The La Jolla Light recounts anti-Semitism that was prevalent in the '60s among realtors who teamed up against the Jewish population under a "gentlemen's agreement." Jews and African-Americans were barred from purchasing homes in the area for fear they would negatively influence prices. Housing discrimination came to a sudden halt when community members surrendered their prejudices in exchange for the University of California, San Diego, which would surely attract Jewish professors. Elitist notoriety aside, La Jolla clings to an alter ego rooted in surf, kayak and stand-up paddleboard activity, especially in La Jolla Shores. On this side of town, small mom-and-pop shops are the foreground of a hilly, estate-lined backdrop. With a nude beach, gliderport and collectors' shops, La Jolla can still vary from its pristine and predictable rep.
The spot where Girard Avenue overlaps Prospect Street is much less a corner than it is a double-decker junction where local drivers zip past crosswalks, miffed by the abundance out-of-towners. In all directions, pricey restaurants, froufrou spas and flashes of the ocean entice visitors and natives alike.
It's safe to say most people don't vacation in La Jolla for the architecture. But, this community was the launching pad of Museum of Contemporary Arts designer Irving Gill's career as a groundbreaking modern architect in the late 1890s. A fan of styling pieces after their surroundings, here are two homes we bet Gill would salute today.
Jonathan Segal's résumétraces all over San Diego, from Little Italy to North Park to downtown, but his self-made dream home is in La Jolla. Crafted from leftover neighboring plots, the Segals had considerably less space than their neighbors but capitalized on every inch of the 5,300-square-foot pad. The home appears as a concrete box with large cutouts exposing an exterior space, blurring the barrier between its floor-to-ceiling windows and deck. Below ground, there's a wine cellar, TV room, bar and pool table. To top it off, a reflection/swimming pool outlines the patio, giving way to views of the Pacific. "You hear the ocean and the birds," Wendy Segal once told The New York Times. "It's like a weekend getaway every evening." Segal also designed Mitt Romney's house, about a mile away from his own.
The Mushroom House
Dubbed "The Mushroom House" by on-looking surfers, this architectural feat sprouts out of the sands of Black's Beach. But its obstacle-filled accessibility would make you think it's on private property. Don't expect to plug in the address (9036 La Jolla Shores Lane) and drive right up to this fungi fortress. There are three access points, all requiring distinguishable effort and possibly a tide chart. And that's just how owner Buzz Woolley likes it. Secluded. Technically, the structure is illegal by current standards of the California Coastal Commission, which told Woolley "something like this shouldn't be put on the beach." But 50 years ago, designer Dale Naegle was playing by the rules, 300-foot tramway down the cliff included. "People say it's like a elevator Disneyland ride," Woolley says. "But at 2 miles an hour, they might not think it's Disneyland."
A SEUSSIAN ODE DE TOILET
After World War II, beloved author Dr. Seuss moved to La Jolla, where he lived until his death in 1991. In honor of the man's enduring influence and imagination, we attempted our own Seussian tribute to La Jolla's more, er, fragrant qualities.
Don't you like kayaks and sand?
Yes, I like them, Sam-I-Am.
So why don't you want to come with me?
'Cuz the cove smells like poo and pee.
Can you smell seal shit in a bar?
I can smell seal shit from afar!
A show at the Playhouse—worth a lookie?
Only if you don't mind the smell of dookie.
What if I offer to drive my car?
Bro, your insistence is getting pretty gnar.
How about Black's Beach? We could go nude.
This is getting sorta weird, dude.
Just trying to get you out of North Park.
Yeah to a place that smells like fart.
You're gonna be totes jelly of my tan.
You're a weird man, Sam-I-Am.
Glenn Chase, Local artist
"Hey, did you paint the clouds today?" someone asks Glenn Chase while overlooking Windansea Beach. "Yup, I airbrushed them for you," Chase replies, and also points out that he designed the logo on the inquisitor's shirt. It's one of five designs he's sold to the iconic Mitch's Surf Shop. His art also appears as a mural on the side of the Travelodge in La Jolla, paintings in a Bird Rock gallery called Moonglow and formerly as cartoons and illustrations in Surfer Magazine, despite never taking an art class in his life. But around La Jolla, he's widely recognized for the small, vibrant marine landscapes he paints while sitting on the rocks at Windansea. "This is one of the nicest, most beautiful beaches in the world," he says. "In San Diego, I think this is the best." He's surfed the world and lived in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, so his claim holds some weight. It's the reason he returns to La Jolla after he'll "disappear for a while." Sans car and phone, he's a vagabond, relying on his professional and personal residency at Moonglow to be his point of contact. "If you don't have a phone, nobody ever calls you. If I want to call them, I can use the phone at the gallery, or they can catch me there. But, everybody knows that I hang out here, this very rock."
Nancy Warwick, Fourth-generation owner, Warwicks
Taking over the oldest, contiguously family-owned bookstore in the country could have just come with the territory of growing up as a Warwick, but Nancy says ownership was never forced on her. She watched her parents operate the store together and was welcomed into their business conversations each night at dinner. "They always made it feel like it was our store too," she says. When Warwick's (7812 Girard Ave.) was closed on weekends, she and her sister would play in the store, riding the old fashioned dumb waiter up and down, consuming as much literature as they could, and sneaking out romance novels. Eventually, taking on Warwick's became an obvious choice, she says. "I can't really separate the store's identity from my own. It's almost as if it's a member of the family with its own separate identity." Under her ownership, the bookstore has become a nationally recognized book tour stop, hosting names such as Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton. Aside from an ability to successfully organize such events, she says the staff's diversity isn't coincidental. "I'm not looking for the Nordstrom experience. If you shop at Nordstrom, you'll probably get really good service, but almost anyone you go to at Nordstroms will give you pretty much the same help...I wouldn't want [the whole staff] to be in their 20s and wearing the same styles. It would be boring for me." From stationery, to jewelry, to book genres, Warwick's diversity lines the shelves.
Dave Schultz, Owner, Cheese Shop
Dave Schultz's dad, John, opened Cheese Shop (2165 Avenida de la Playa) 46 years ago as a specialty store for wine and, of course, cheese. But, if you walk in today, you won't find rows of either item. "There's a Monty Python skit where a guy comes into a cheese shop," Schulz says. "The guy goes, 'I'd like some cheddar," and the shopkeepers says, 'We don't have cheddar,' and they go back and forth with types of cheese. I kind of live that skit every day." As La Jolla Shores commercialized in the late '70s, mainstream markets generated competition, so Cheese Shop compensated by bringing in sandwiches, novelty food products and retro candies. "We've discovered over time that people have strong, nostalgic connections to candy. People come in and find candy they haven't seen since junior high." While sweets are a big seller, it's the store's handmade, family recipe oatmeal cookies that have achieved a cult following. "We should really call it the Oatmeal Cookie Store," Schultz says. Customer loyalty also stems from his father's foundation. "Almost every day people say, 'I remember your dad when I was a boy and didn't have enough money to buy a candy, and he said to just pay him next time." This timelessness factors in. "The store is almost the same as it ever was, especially the vibe of the shop during the summer: people in bikinis, the smell of suntan lotions and the buzz of the place going crazy with a line out the door."
STICK IT TO THE MAN
Just last year, UC San Diego was ranked the fourth-best public university in the United States based on research, faculty and success of alumni. Meanwhile, student life and culture have been disproportionately cut to make room for this research and advancement. "It's very saddening to see spaces shut down because we are over-admitting students just for higher profits," says Dylan Ponzio, a senior arts and culture activist at UCSD.
In the last two years, several significant cultural spaces have been shut down by the UCSD administration. First is The Che Cafe, a collective and community space that emphasizes music and social gatherings. In 2015, the Che Cafe was technically evicted because the building was not structurally sound, but through sit-ins and rallies, the Che Cafe was able to postpone it's demise. Now the Che continues to occupy the space with no guarantee its safe from the administration.
The University Art Gallery, a place for student artistic expression, experienced something similar when it was apportioned to become new classroom space last spring. Luckily, the student population retaliated and was also able to revive the Art Gallery through a series of petitions and protests. In fall the Art Gallery was reopened. Unfortunately, Porter's Pub, a popular student bar, fell victim to reorganization. "[These artistic spaces] take your mind off calamities of the world, it's sad to see it all just gone one day," Ponzio says.
STATE OF THE ART
For anyone with even a smidgen of artistic taste, walking down Prospect Street can be painful. Overpriced nature photography and cheesy dolphin paintings...Who buys this stuff? Still, La Jolla has some great art spaces that aren't the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Madison Gallery (1055 Wall St. #100): This spacious contemporary art gallery can feel a little bourgeois, but showcases notable national and international names. Last month's Robert Montgomery show was a great example, and the upcoming Jaehyo Lee installation looks promising.
Joseph Bellows Gallery (7661 Girard Ave.): Arguably the best fine art photography gallery in the city with an unpretentious vibe and a well-curated mix of contemporary and vintage exhibitions.
Thumbprint Gallery (920 Kline St., Suite 104): This quaint space inside a business complex can be hard to find, but a decidedly younger crowd flocks to its solo showcases of up-and-coming locals mostly of the pop-surrealist school.
R.B. Stevenson Gallery (7661 Girard Ave. #201): It doesn't look like much from the outside, but this contemporary art space is a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Most of the work is by painters and sculptors from California, including notable locals such as Richard Allen Morris, Peter Halasz and Vicki Walsh.
Shane Bowden The Gallery (7655 Girard Ave., Suite B): While I'm not a fan of his work, this gallery is likely the most wow-inducing of the bunch and Bowden's vibrant mix of Pop and street art is a nice respite from the ubiquitous sea-life paintings.