On Saturday, May 7, I will be leading a Jane’s Walk in my seaside community in La Jolla. It’s a first for San Diego. And a first for me!
What’s a Jane’s Walk? It’s an annual, global celebration of the ideas of the late Jane Jacobs, a leader in the movement to make cities more liveable by encouraging vibrant street life.
Jacob’s classic work The Death and Life of Great American Cities was a prescription for rescuing communities from the drumbeat of car culture that called for ever wider, faster streets. She believed that vibrant–and safe– neighborhoods require people activating the street scape by walking to local shops, kids playing in local parks and neighbors encountering each other in casual settings.
As a city-born girl, I have always loved the vibrancy of neighborhoods where coffee shops beckon and you don’t need to get in your car to grab a bite to eat or buy a container of milk. I never wanted to live in neighborhoods where you might get a bigger home but would need a car to get anywhere beyond your borders. When we moved to La Jolla three years ago from the Bay Area, a specific criteria for our life was being able to walk to some shops and restaurants.
Our new neighborhood of Bird Rock fit the bill perfectly. Except for one thing. There were too many empty storefronts and more of them perished as Covid devastated small businesses that couldn’t survive.
Today, their prospects are brighter as new shops and restaurants slowly inhabit once empty storefronts. We have a new Hermosa Surf Shop that also serves as a juice bar, a vegan cafe next to a charming healing-oriented, gift shop called Lavande, an adorable little cafe called Lark and Owl and soon a destination restaurant called Paradisea will inhabit a long-shuttered corner store.
Bird Rock is a microcosm of what’s happening in communities around the country as we all shuck off our Covid confined lives and retake our streets and local businesses.
And that leads me back to Jane’s Walk. I wanted to participate in this annual celebration of vibrant neighborhoods. I went to the Jane’s Walk website and searched for something in San Diego. But, alas, there was nothing. I could go to most any other major city in California or most other states and nations…but not in my new chosen home. Was I daring enough to host a Jane’s Walk here?
Well, yes. And no. I signed up to lead a Jane’s Walk in La Jolla, a community in San Diego. And I am doing it in my own little corner of it– Bird Rock. Now, I just need walkers!
I sent a note to our local community council, contacted our local paper and posted online. And the response so far is very positive. I was interviewed by the paper and the community council sent out an email to all residents. A local artist, Jane Wheeler, offered to talk about her iconic mosaic benches that dot our main drag. A neighbor told me she grew up in Bird Rock and can share some of the original business where she wandered as a child.
What I’ve learned from this experience is that things happen when you take action. I never expected to lead a Jane’s Walk but now I am. What I hope is that these walks spread to other areas in San Diego next year. We are part of a global movement to take back our streets, support our local businesses, and celebrate our diversity. And we will get fresh air and exercise at the same time!
If you’d like to know more about my Jane’s Walk, head over to my little urbanist blog called: Nurbana Life or visit Nurbana Life on Instagram. If you want to host your own walk, let me know in the comments area below.