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Mt Soledad Memorial Address Essay

On Wednesday, April 28, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Salazar v. Buono, its latest effort to specify what the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires of the government with respect to religious objects on public lands.

The object of its concern on this occasion is an eight foot white cross standing on a rock outcropping on a federal preserve in the Mojave Desert, first placed there in 1934 by the Death Valley post of the VFW, and denominated a national WWI memorial by Congress in 2002. The legal issue before the Court was whether the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had properly affirmed a District Court ruling that the 2004 congressional act transferring the acre of land containing the cross to the VFW was illegal. The District Court had determined that the act was an effort to circumvent its original injunction forbidding display of the cross at that place on the grounds that it would be viewed by a reasonable observer as an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

The six opinions presented in Salazar v. Buono display various views on how the law of injunctions should be applied to the facts. All agree, however, that the District Court’s original decision—finding display of the cross on federal land to be an unconstitutional establishment of religion—is res judicata (that is, “the thing is decided,” and is no longer reviewable). Along the way, however—partly perhaps because, as some of them said, the law of injunctions is not very interesting to them—many of the justices, both at oral argument and in their written opinions, couldn’t resist offering opinions on the public meaning of the cross.

As in most establishment clause cases, the Court was very divided. There is no majority opinion, and a plurality agrees only on the judgment—that is, that the District Court failed to apply the proper standard in considering the legality of the Congressional act under the injunction, and that therefore the case should be sent back to the District Court for re-consideration in light of its opinions. Opinions by the justices concurring in the judgment were filed by Chief Justice Roberts and by Justices Kennedy, Alito, and Scalia. Dissenting opinions were filed by Justices Stevens and Breyer.

Reading the significance of this decision as a predictor of the Court’s future first amendment jurisprudence is probably a waste of time. But these opinions are nonetheless valuable as a display of the varieties of early twenty-first century anxiety over the representation of collective identities.


All of the judges and justices that have heard the case assert that symbols can be understood only in context. In other words, symbols don’t “mean” without context. It is a bit unclear from prior cases how a court is to locate the appropriate context in space and time, but the rule suggests a presumptive indeterminacy. Yet, once they got to talking about it, the cross was not really ambiguous for them. The cross could be read without any specification of context. Indeed, the opinions speak of “the cross” as if it has a power and agency that is obvious. The cross, they all said, is the symbol of Christianity. One doesn’t really need context for that. The issue is whether it is constitutional for the cross to stand on public land as a collective memorial.

At oral argument, in discussion with Peter Eliasberg (representing Mr. Buono, the plaintiff complaining of the display), Justice Scalia responded to Eliasberg’s suggestion that the cross only honors Christians:

JUSTICE SCALIA: The cross doesn’t honor non-Christians who fought in the war? Is that—is that—

MR. ELIASBERG: I believe that’s actually correct.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Where does it say that?

MR. ELIASBERG: It doesn’t say that, but a cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and it signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins, and I believe that’s why the Jewish war veterans –

JUSTICE SCALIA: It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. It’s the—the cross is the—is the most common symbol of—of—of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn’t seem to me—what would you have them erect? A cross—some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star?

MR. ELIASBERG: Well, Justice Scalia, if I may go to your first point. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.


MR. ELIASBERG: So it is the most common symbol to honor Christians.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.

In the chilly courtroom laughter and Scalia’s angry response can be heard the difficulty—one that echoes across centuries. Because crosses are not used in Jewish cemeteries, they cannot honor non-Christians, whatever the intention of those who erected the cross—or of those who see it. That is understood to be self-evident. To honor all American war dead, it is implied, other symbols must be used.

And yet, many Americans would agree with Justice Scalia. Justices Kennedy and Alito spoke of the cross as a symbol of national sacrifice; the American soldier amalgamated to the man who died on the cross—a worrying expression of religious nationalism that is common, complex, and difficult to speak of.

About the cross, Justice Kennedy said:

Although certainly a Christian symbol, the cross was not emplaced on Sunrise Rock to promote a Christian message . . . Time also has played its role. The cross had stood on Sunrise rock for nearly seven decades before the statute was enacted. By then, the cross and the cause it commemorated had become entwined in the public consciousness . . . Congress ultimately designated the cross as a national memorial, ranking it among those monuments honoring the noble sacrifices that constitute our national heritage . . . a symbol that . . . has complex meaning beyond the expression of religious views . . . one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion.

Justice Alito:

. . . the United States [is] a Nation of unparalleled pluralism and religious tolerance . . . The cross is of course the preeminent symbol of Christianity, and Easter services have long been held on Sunrise Rock . . . the original reason for the placement of the cross was to commemorate American war dead and, particularly for those with searing memories of The Great War, the symbol that was selected, a plain unadorned white cross, no doubt evoked the unforgettable image of the white crosses, row on row, that marked the final resting places of so many American soldiers who fell in that conflict . . . the demolition of this venerable if unsophisticated monument would also have been interpreted by some as an arresting symbol of a Government that is not neutral but hostile on matters of religion.

Are they simply blind? Or worse?

For Justice Stevens, in dissent, the cross was singular and sectarian in its voice, speaking only of something smaller than the nation, something that represents difference, not unity:

A Latin cross necessarily symbolizes one of the most important tenets upon which believers in a benevolent Creator, as well as nonbelievers, are known to differ . . . Even though Congress recognized this cross for its military associations, the solitary cross conveys an inescapably sectarian message . . . Making a plain, unadorned Latin cross a war memorial does not make the cross secular. It makes the war memorial sectarian . . . The cross is not a universal symbol of sacrifice. It is the symbol of one particular sacrifice, and that sacrifice carries deeply significant meaning for those who adhere to the Christian faith. The cross has sometimes been used, it is true, to represent the sacrifice of an individual, as when it marks the grave of a fallen soldier or recognizes a state trooper who perished in the line of duty. Even then, the cross carries a religious meaning. But the use of the cross in such circumstances is linked to, and shows respect for, the individual honoree’s faith and beliefs.

The cross, according to Stevens, is singular and sectarian. It cannot be secular or universal.

Justices Kennedy, Alito, and Scalia argued that the cross, in the context of a war memorial, was not best described as sectarian. In the words of Justice Kennedy, “one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion.” What does he mean? What is “more than religion”? Is the “more” America? Or is the “more” humanity? Is the “more” necessarily secular? Is it indeed more, or is it less?

Much commentary on cases like this suggests that we can and should tidy up the landscape of our symbolic universe. But with what symbols will we be left? And will they suffice to memorialize our loss?


Crosses of various kinds have served to symbolize aspects of human culture and society over a time and space that both precedes and exceeds Christianity. The simplicity and evocative power of the meeting of two lines and its capacity to structure our imagination in various ways find examples from all over the world and throughout human history. Crosses, like other simple shapes—circles, helixes, crescents, stars, spirals—derive their power, in part, from their capacity both to signify universal experiences and, at the same time, to carry highly specific references that root them in very particular religious and political histories. A cross can be at once a symbol of all meeting places, of the axis mundi, and also of highly particular religious meanings such as those attributed to the execution of one man in Roman Palestine in the first century of the common era. On the other hand, the deliberate erasure of the cross has been a potent symbol of secularism and of the rejection of Christianity.

Why do crosses continue to present themselves publicly and to present such a difficulty for the modern, secular nation-state? Cross cases exist across the world. Haven’t the myths and symbols of religions been supplanted by the myths and symbols of nationalism? Has secularization failed? Or, has the cross been secularized? One could argue, I think, that the crosses and other religious symbols that continue to populate our imagination and our environment connect the universal and the particular in ways that the nation fails to do—revealing, among other things, the limits of civil religion, as well as the limits of secularism. And yet it is far from clear whether any universal meaning remains available today in the U.S.—or elsewhere—for any symbol.

Another decision, from the Southern District of California, Trunk v. City of San Diego, concerns the twenty-nine foot Mt. Soledad cross in San Diego. The first cross was erected on Mt. Soledad, then city-owned land, in 1919, also as a war memorial. That cross has been replaced several times and the area around the cross further developed as a memorial since then. In 2004, after litigation seeking removal of the cross was brought against the city, the federal government acquired the property on which the cross stands by eminent domain in order to establish it as a national veterans’ memorial. Again, legal action was instituted—this time, challenging Congress’s acquisition of the memorial. In 2008, Judge Larry Burns, after lengthy consideration of the possible meanings and contexts of the cross, held that its display on Mt. Soledad did not communicate an unconstitutional message and granted summary judgment for the defendants. Burns wrote:

The court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death, and sacrifice . . . As such, despite its location on public land, the memorial is constitutional.

“The primary effect of the Mt. Soledad memorial is patriotic and nationalistic,” Judge Burns concluded, adding, “[t]his is but another way of saying the message the objective observer takes away from the memorial is a secular one.” So . . . the Mt. Soledad cross is apparently secular not religious, and therefore permissible.

Judge Burns also compared the Mt. Soledad cross and the Mojave cross:

Plaintiffs rely on Buono to support their initial argument that displays with crosses ought to be analyzed differently from displays with other religious symbols or texts. They suggest the Court need not engage in a detailed analysis of the evidence, but should simply conclude the Latin cross necessarily conveys an exclusively religious message . . . But unlike Buono, where no one apparently disputed that the cross is exclusively a Christian symbol, here it is disputed . . . precedents dealing with public displays of crosses in the Establishment Clause context suggest Latin crosses should not be assumed to be primarily or exclusively religious symbols . . . The Latin cross is, to be sure, the preeminent symbol of Christianity, but it does not follow [that] the cross has no other meaning or significance. Depending on the context in which it is displayed, the cross may evoke no particular religious impression at all.

Symbols are to be evaluated in context, and key in the Mt. Soledad case was the presence of other objects in addition to the cross. Burns described its appearance and surroundings:

The cross was conspicuously marked with a bronze plaque noting its status as a veterans’ memorial, and other features were added to the site. These include six large concentric walls displaying over two thousand engraved, formal black granite memorial plaques recognizing individual veterans, with room for over a thousand more. The plaques contain personal information, pictures, and symbolic elements (both religious and secular) and are installed at a substantial cost to the purchasers. The religious imagery on the plaques includes crosses, the Star of David, and emblems of other religions. Adjacent sidewalks invite visitors to view the plaques up close. Other additions to the memorial include brick paving stones commemorating veterans and supporters, and twenty-three bollards honoring community and veterans’ organizations, encircling the walls. Finally, an American flag now flies from a large flagpole at the memorial.

One might say that the Mt. Soledad cross had been converted from a religious symbol to a symbol of civil religion by being mixed with other objects, including the flag, just as the nativity scene and the Christmas tree have been understood in earlier establishment clause cases to be converted into secular/civil ones by being placed in the presence of other symbols.

The actual crosses themselves are virtually indistinguishable. Tall and white and prominently displayed on high natural places, both of these crosses are also pedantically referred to by the parties and by the courts as “Latin” crosses. Dictionaries will tell you that a “Latin” cross is distinguished from a “Greek” cross by its longer vertical arm. The difference means little in the U.S. context. Indeed, the distinction is truly a matter of ancient history. What is more noticeable when American crosses are contrasted to crosses displayed in Catholic Europe, though, is that American crosses, at least public ones, have no bodies. They are Protestant crosses. Does that make them more capable of universal meaning? Judge Burns thought so: “While a crucifix is an unmistakable symbol of Christianity, an unadorned Latin cross need not be.” One hears whiffs of an earlier U.S. anti-Catholicism—but also one hears an expression of the nondenominational Protestant Christianity that was understood to serve a universal purpose in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century public contexts in the U.S., including in public schools.


U.S. courts are divided about the presence of crosses on public lands. For some, the cross is a universal—and therefore secular—symbol, one that stands in for all religions, for a sacrifice that is inclusive rather than exclusive. This universality derives both from age-old theological claims made by Christian speakers and from the apparently enabling function of the presence of even one religious symbol, an enabling function that gestures beyond nationalism. For some Americans, the accommodation of Christianity arguably makes a place for religion that can then be extended to other religions. This place is culturally structured by Christian assumptions and regulated by secular law, but one can make the argument that it is a kind of religious freedom.

Do soldiers fight and die for their country out of civic piety, as the ACLU suggests in its various amicus briefs in the cross cases? Should war memorials have only flags on them? In his article about the ambiguities of the role of military contractors in the Iraq War, Professor Mateo Taussig-Rubbo notes the expressed motives of the men who fight and die as employees of Blackwater, Inc. (now known as Xe Services LLC). While they are private citizens—mercenaries, in effect—formally denied the status of U.S. soldiers within the national economy of sacrifice, who do not receive medals or military burials, their own motives are less tidy. Like those who died in what is known as the Great War, they understand themselves as fighting for both the United States and for universal values—for freedom and the rights of all men. At their headquarters in North Carolina, Blackwater has created its own civil religion, which celebrates the sacrifice of its men with medals and a memorial “dedicated to the courage and honor of our fallen teammates. Their dedication and sacrifice will never be forgotten.” Faisal Devji, writing of the motives of Al Qaeda fighters, argues that they too see themselves as, in some sense, fighting for all of humanity. What these examples suggest is that the modern nation-state has limited control over its own symbolization and sovereignty, particularly when it comes to the human sacrifice it attempts to legitimate and the deep ethical ambiguities inherent in any symbolization of those deaths, through the use of either religious or secular symbols.

Over the last thirty years or so, for a complex set of reasons—including, I think, fear of scientific naturalism, the hardening of political divisions, and the stakes involved in owning pieces of the cultural landscape—universalism has fallen on hard times. Judges cannot cope any better with this than the rest of us.

[Parts of this post are derived from the author’s essay, “Why Are We Talking About Civil Religion Now?: Comments on ‘Civil Religion in Italy: a ‘Mission Impossible” by Alessandro Ferrari,” forthcoming in The George Washington International Law Review.—ed.]

For other uses, see La Jolla (disambiguation).

La Jolla (; Spanish: [la ˈxoʎa]) is a hilly seaside and affluent community within the city of San Diego, California, United States occupying 7 miles (11 km) of curving coastline along the Pacific Ocean within the northern city limits.

The population reported in the 2010 Census was 46,781.[2] The 2004 estimated population was 42,808.[1] La Jolla is surrounded on three sides by ocean bluffs and beaches[3] and is located 12 miles (19 km) north of Downtown San Diego, and 40 miles (64 km) south of Orange County,[4][5] The climate is mild, with an average daily temperature of 70.5 °F (21.4 °C)[6][7]

La Jolla is home to a variety of businesses in the areas of lodging, dining, shopping, software, finance, real estate, bioengineering, medical practice and scientific research.[3][8][9] The University of California San Diego (UCSD) is located in La Jolla, as are the Salk Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (part of UCSD), Scripps Research Institute, and the headquarters of National University (though its academic campuses are elsewhere).


Origin of the name[edit]

Local Native Americans, the Kumeyaay, called this location mat kulaaxuuy (IPA: [mat kəlaːxuːj]), lit. "land of holes" (mat = "land").[10] The topographic feature that gave rise to the name "holes" is uncertain; it probably refers to sea-level caves located on the north-facing bluffs, which are visible from La Jolla Shores. It is suggested[citation needed] that the Kumeyaay name for the area was transcribed by the Spanish settlers as La Jolla. An alternative, pseudo-etymological suggestion for the origin of the name is that it is an alternate spelling of the Spanish word la joya, which means "the jewel". Despite being disputed by scholars, this derivation of the name has been widely cited in popular culture.[11] That supposed origin gave rise to the nickname "Jewel City".[12]

Early history[edit]

See also: List of San Diego Historical Landmarks in La Jolla

During the Mexican period of San Diego's history, La Jolla was mapped as pueblo land and contained about 60 lots. When California became a state in 1850, the La Jolla area was incorporated as part of the chartered City of San Diego. In 1870 Charles Dean acquired several of the pueblo lots and subdivided them into an area that became known as La Jolla Park. Dean was unable to develop the land and left San Diego in 1881. A real estate boom in the 1880s led speculators Frank T. Botsford and George W. Heald to further develop the sparsely settled area.

In the 1890s the San Diego, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla Railway was built, connecting La Jolla to the rest of San Diego. La Jolla became known as a resort area. To attract visitors to the beach, the railway built facilities such as a bath house and a dance pavilion. Visitors were housed in small cottages and bungalows above La Jolla Cove, as well as a temporary tent city, erected every summer. Two of the cottages that were built in 1894 still exist: the "Red Roost" and the "Red Rest", also known as the "Neptune and Cove Tea Room"; the two cottages have been vacant since the 1980s, and are covered in tarpaulins. The La Jolla Park Hotel opened in 1893. The Hotel Cabrillo was built in 1908 by "Squire" James A. Wilson and was later incorporated into the La Valencia Hotel.[13]

By 1900, La Jolla comprised 100 buildings and 350 residents. The first reading room (library) was built in 1898.[13] A volunteer fire brigade was organized in 1907; the city of San Diego established a regular fire house in 1914. Livery stable owner Nathan Rannells served successively as La Jolla's volunteer fire captain, first police officer (the only San Diego police officer north of Mission Valley), and first postmaster.[14]

La Jolla Elementary School began educating local children in 1896.[15]The Bishop's School opened in 1909. La Jolla High School was established in 1922. Between 1951 and 1963, other elementary schools (Bird Rock, Decatur, Scripps, and Torrey Pines) were established in the area to ease overcrowding.[15] The La Jolla Beach and Yacht Club (later the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club) was built in 1927.[13]

Ellen Browning Scripps[edit]

In 1896 journalist and publisher Ellen Browning Scripps settled in La Jolla, where she lived for the last 35 years of her life. She was wealthy in her own right from her investments and writing, and she inherited a large sum from her brother George H. Scripps in 1900. Unmarried and childless, she devoted herself to philanthropic endeavors, particularly those benefiting her adopted home of La Jolla. She commissioned many of La Jolla's most notable buildings, usually designed by Irving Gill or his nephew and partner Louis John Gill. Many of these buildings are now on the National Register of Historic Places or are listed as historic by the city of San Diego; these include the La Jolla Woman's Club (1914), the La Jolla Recreational Center (1915), the earliest buildings of The Bishop's School, and the Old Scripps Building at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as well as her own residence, built in 1915 and now housing the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Her donations also launched the Scripps Memorial Hospital in 1924 (originally located on Prospect Street in La Jolla until it moved to its present site in 1964), the Scripps Metabolic Clinic (now the Scripps Research Institute), and the Children's Pool. Ellen Browning Scripps also founded Scripps College, a women's college, in 1926.[16] Scripps College is located in Claremont in Los Angeles County (not to be confused with Clairemont, a community of San Diego).

Scripps Institution of Oceanography[edit]

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the nation's oldest oceanographic institutes, was founded in 1903 by William Emerson Ritter, chair of the zoology department at the University of California, Berkeley, with financial support from Scripps and her brother E. W. Scripps. At first the institution operated out of a boathouse in Coronado. In 1905 they purchased a 170-acre (69 ha) site in La Jolla where the Institution still stands today. The first laboratory buildings there opened in 1907. The institution became part of the University of California in 1912. Ultimately it became the nucleus for the establishment of the University of California San Diego.

Camp Matthews[edit]

From 1917 through 1964 the United States Marine Corps maintained a military base in La Jolla. The base was used for marksmanship training and was known as Camp Calvin B. Matthews. During and after World War II the population of La Jolla grew, causing residential development to draw close to the base, so that it became less and less suitable as a firing range because of risk to the adjacent civilian population.[17] Meanwhile, the site was being eyed as a location for a proposed new campus of the University of California. In 1962 Camp Matthews was declared surplus by the Marine Corps. The base formally closed in 1964, and that same year the first class of undergraduates enrolled in the University of California San Diego.

University of California[edit]

Local civic leaders had long toyed with the idea of a San Diego campus of the University of California, and the quest became more definite following World War II. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, under its director Roger Revelle, had become an important defense contractor, and local aerospace companies like Convair were pressing for local training for their scientists and engineers. The state legislature proposed the idea in 1955, and the Regents of the University formally approved it in 1960.[18] The campus was originally named "University of California, La Jolla", but the name was changed to "University of California, San Diego" in 1960.[19] The founding chancellor was Herbert York, named in 1961, and the second chancellor was John Semple Galbraith, named in 1964. The university was designed to have a "college" system; there are now six colleges. The first college was established in 1965 and was named Revelle College after Roger Revelle, who is regarded as the "father" of the university.[19] A medical school was established in 1968. The landmark Geisel Library with its Brutalist architecture opened in 1970.


The Camp Matthews site for the University was selected with some hesitation; one of the concerns was "whether La Jollans in particular would lay aside old prejudices in order to welcome a culturally, ethnically, and religiously diverse professoriate into their midst".[18] La Jolla had a history of restrictive housing policies, often specified in deeds and ownership documents. In La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Hermosa, only people with pure European ancestry could own property; this excluded Jews, who were not considered white. Such "restrictive covenants" were once fairly common throughout the United States; the 1948 Supreme Court case Shelley v. Kraemer ruled them to be unenforceable, and Congress outlawed them twenty years later via the Fair Housing Act (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968).[20] However, realtors and property owners in La Jolla continued to use more subtle ways of preventing or discouraging Jews from owning property there.[21] Revelle stated the issue bluntly: "You can't have a university without having Jewish professors. The Real Estate Broker's Association and their supporters in La Jolla had to make up their minds whether they wanted a university or an anti-Semitic covenant. You couldn't have both."[22] The issue was overcome; La Jolla now boasts a thriving Jewish population,[23] and there are four synagogues in La Jolla.[24]

Mount Soledad cross[edit]

Main article: Mount Soledad cross controversy

Mount Soledad is a 822-foot (251 m) tall hill on the eastern edge of La Jolla, one of the highest points in San Diego. A large Christian cross was placed at the top in 1913 as a prominent landmark. It has been replaced twice, most recently in 1954 with a 29-foot-tall (8.8 m) cross (43 feet tall, including the base). Originally known as the "Mount Soledad Easter Cross", its presence on publicly owned land was challenged in the 1980s as a violation of the separation of church and state. Since then the cross has had a war memorial built around it and was renamed "Mount Soledad Veterans War Memorial".[25] The issue has been in almost continual litigation ever since, with the city attempting to sell or give away the land under the cross. By an act of Congress, the federal government took possession of it under eminent domain in 2006. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared the cross unconstitutional in 2011, and the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear an appeal.[26] In December 2013, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered that the cross be removed within 90 days, but stayed the order pending a forthcoming appeal by the government.[27][28]

On July 20, 2015, a group called the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association reported that it had bought the land under the cross from the Dept. of Defense for $1.4 million.[29] On September 7, 2016 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a one-page ruling, ordering dismissal of the case and an end to all current appeals, stating that the case was now moot because the cross was no longer on government land. Both sides agreed that this decision puts a final end to the case.[30]


La Jolla became an art colony in 1894 when Anna Held (also known as Anna Held Heinrich) established the Green Dragon Colony. This was a cluster of twelve cottages designed by Irving Gill, who had moved to San Diego only a year earlier and later became San Diego's best-known architect.[31]

The La Jolla Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, and Mel Ferrer.[32] It became inactive in 1959, but was revived in 1983 on the University of California campus under the leadership of Des McAnuff. It now incorporates three theaters: the Mandell Weiss Theatre (1983), the Mandell Weiss Forum (1991) and the Potiker Theater (2005).

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego was founded in 1941 in La Jolla, in the former home of Ellen Browning Scripps (designed by Irving J. Gill). The museum has undergone several renovations and expansions, and is working on plans to triple its size.[33][34]



The community's border starts at Pacific Beach to the south and extends along the Pacific Ocean shoreline north to include Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve ending at Del Mar, California. La Jolla encompasses the neighborhoods[35] of Bird Rock, Windansea Beach, the commercial center known as the Village of La Jolla, La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Farms, Muirlands, Torrey Pines, and Mount Soledad to name a few.

The City of San Diego defines the community's eastern boundary as Gilman Drive and the Interstate 5 freeway[36] and the northern boundary as UCSD.[37]

The United States Postal Service defines a somewhat larger area, assigning the community the 92037 ZIP Code, recognizing it as a historically and geographically distinct area. This unique ZIP code allows addresses to read La Jolla, CA, and is the only community within the City of San Diego so recognized. Additionally, it is in the 919xx/920xx sequence used for suburban and rural ZIP Codes in San Diego County, rather than the 921xx sequence used for the remainder of the City of San Diego proper. These conditions sometimes lead to the erroneous impression that La Jolla is a separate city, rather than a part of San Diego. The 92037 ZIP code extends the northeasterly boundary to Genesee Avenue and the northerly boundary to Del Mar, California. The UCSD campus, although it is part of La Jolla, has ZIP Codes 92092 and 92093.

Despite the city and postal service definitions, La Jolla does not have universally accepted boundaries. In the 1980s, the trustees of a local hospital voted to move the campus from downtown La Jolla to University City, east of Interstate 5 and not within the traditional boundaries of La Jolla. The governing documents of the hospital required it to be located in La Jolla, however. A court ruled that "La Jolla" exists merely as a "state of mind" and thus allowed the relocation of the hospital.[38] Several businesses and housing developments east of Interstate 5 use "La Jolla" in their names despite being geographically located in the University City neighborhood of San Diego which incorporates everything east of Interstate 5.


La Jolla is an area of mixed geology, including sandy beaches and rocky shorelines. The area is occasionally susceptible to flooding and ocean storms, as occurred in January and December 2010.[39]

Mount Soledad is covered with the narrow roads that follow its contours and hundreds of homes overlooking the ocean on its slopes. It is the home of the large concrete Mount Soledad Easter Cross built in 1954, later designated a Korean War Memorial, that became the center of a controversy over the display of religious symbols on government property.

The most compelling geographical highlight of La Jolla is its ocean front, with alternating rugged and sandy coastline, and wild seal congregations. Popular beaches and coastal access points listed here from north to south, are:


According to United States Census Bureau figures, the ethnic/racial makeup of La Jolla is 82.5% White, 0.8% Black, 0.2% American Indian, 11.2% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.0% some other race, and 3.1% two or more races. Latinos, who may be of any race, form 7.2% of La Jolla's population.

La Jolla had the highest home prices in the nation in 2008[40] and 2009,[41] according to a survey by Coldwell Banker. The survey compares the cost of a standardized four-bedroom home in communities across the country. The average price for such a home in La Jolla was reported as US$1.842 million in 2008 and US$2.125 million in 2009.


  • La Jolla Farms — This northern La Jolla neighborhood is just west of UCSD. It includes the Torrey Pines Gliderport, the Salk Institute, and a group of expensive homes on the cliffs above Black's Beach (one of which is the Audrey Geisel University House).
  • La Jolla Shores — The residential area and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus along La Jolla Shores Beach and east up the hillside. Also includes a small business district of shops and restaurants along Avenida de la Playa.
  • La Jolla Heights — The homes on the hills overlooking La Jolla Shores. No businesses.
  • Hidden Valley — Lower portion of Mount Soledad on the northern slopes. No businesses.
  • Country Club — Lower Mt. Soledad on the northwest side, including the La Jolla Country Club golf course.
  • Village — Also called Village of La Jolla (not to be confused with La Jolla Village) the "downtown" business district area, including most of La Jolla's shops and restaurants, and the immediately surrounding higher density and single family residential areas.
  • Beach-Barber Tract — The coastal section from Windansea Beach to the Village. A few shops and restaurants along La Jolla Boulevard.
  • Lower Hermosa — Coastal strip south of Beach-Barber Tract. No businesses.
  • Bird Rock — Southern coastal La Jolla, and the very lowest slopes of Mt. Soledad in the area. Notable for shops and restaurants along La Jolla Boulevard, five traffic roundabouts on La Jolla Boulevard, coastal bluffs, and surfing areas just two blocks off the main drag.
  • Muirlands — Relatively large area on western middle slope of Mt. Soledad. No businesses.
  • La Jolla Mesa  — A strip on the lower southern side of Mt. Soledad, bordering Pacific Beach. No businesses.
  • La Jolla Alta — A master-planned development east of La Jolla Mesa. No businesses.
  • Soledad South — Southeastern slopes of Mt. Soledad, all the way up to the top, east of La Jolla Alta.
  • Muirlands West — The small neighborhood between Muirlands to the south, and Country Club to the north. No businesses.
  • Upper Hermosa — Southwestern La Jolla, north of Bird Rock and east of La Jolla Blvd.
  • La Jolla Village — Not to be confused with the Village (of La Jolla). In northeast La Jolla, east of La Jolla Heights, west of I-5 and south of UCSD. The neighborhood's namesake is the La Jolla Village Square shopping and residential mall, which includes two movie theaters.


The La Jolla Community Planning Association[42] advises the city council, Planning Commission, City Planning Department as well as other governmental agency as appropriate in the initial preparation, adoption of, implementation of, or amendment to the General or Community Plan as it pertains to the La Jolla area as well as review specific development proposals.[43] The nonprofit La Jolla Town Council[44] represents the interests of La Jolla businesses and residents that belong to the Council. The Bird Rock Community Council[45] serves the Bird Rock neighborhood, while the La Jolla Shores Association[46] serves the La Jolla Shores neighborhood. La Jolla Village Merchants Association, Inc. is a non-profit organization formed in February 2011 to manage the La Jolla Village Business Improvement District for the City of San Diego.[47]

Community organizations include Independent La Jolla,[48] a membership-based citizens group seeking to secede from the city of San Diego. Service clubs in La Jolla include Kiwanis, Rotary, La Jolla Woman's Club[49] and the Social Service League of La Jolla,[50] to name a few.

Attractions and activities[edit]

La Jolla is the location of Torrey Pines Golf Course, site each January or February of a PGA Tour event formerly known as the Buick Invitational and, since 2010, called the Farmers Insurance Open.[51] In 2008, Torrey Pines also hosted the 2008 U.S. Open. Nearby are the de factonude beach, Black's Beach, and the Torrey Pines Gliderport.[52]

Downtown La Jolla is noted for jewelry stores, boutiques, upmarket restaurants and hotels. Prospect Street and Girard Avenue are also shopping and dining districts.[53] The Museum of Contemporary Art, founded in 1941, is located just above the waterfront in what was originally the 1915 residence of philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. The museum has a permanent collection with more than 3,500 post-1950 American and European works, including paintings, works on paper, sculptures, photographic art, design objects and video works.[54] The museum was renamed Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in 1990 to recognize its regional significance.

Beaches and ocean access include Windansea Beach, La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove and Children's Pool Beach. For many years, La Jolla has been the host of a rough water swim at La Jolla Cove.[55]

In 2011, the La Jolla Community Foundation commissioned various artists to contribute to the scenery of the town, through various murals. Some of the artists that are featured in the series are John Baldessari, Julian Opie, and Kim MacConnel. There are 11 murals in the series, all of which will be on display for two years.[56]



Higher education[edit]

The University of California San Diego is the center of higher education in La Jolla. The campus' original name was UC La Jolla before it was changed to UC San Diego. UCSD includes the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

National University is also headquartered in La Jolla, with several academic campuses located throughout the county and the state. Among the several research institutes near UCSD and in the nearby Torrey Pines Science Park are Scripps Research Institute, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (formerly called the La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation), La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI), and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Other schools[edit]

La Jolla is served by the San Diego Unified School District. Public schools include La Jolla High School, La Jolla Elementary[57] (which was the first public school, built in 1896 with the first classes in the Heald Store at the corner of Herschel Avenue and Wall Street, later moving to its present location on Girard Avenue), Muirlands Middle School,[58] Torrey Pines Elementary,[59] and Bird Rock Elementary,[60] as well as Preuss School, a public charter school. The community's prep schools are The Bishop's School, which was the first private school opened in 1909, The Children's School,[61]Delphi Academy, Stella Maris Academy,[62] The Gillispie School, and the Evans School. La Jolla Country Day School is located in the nearby community of University City.

Religious institutions[edit]



  • Congregation Beth El[54]
  • Congregation Adat Yeshurun[54]
  • Chabad Jewish Center of La Jolla

Business and media[edit]

La Jolla (under the fictionalized name "Esmerelda") is the setting for Raymond Chandler's final Philip Marlowe novel, Playback, published in 1958. Chandler lived in La Jolla for the previous decade. La Jolla's Hotel del Charro becomes "Rancho Descansado" in the novel. A number of landmarks described can still be found today. [64][65]

La Jolla was home to the comic book publisher WildStorm Productions, from its founding by Jim Lee in 1993, until its closing in 2012 when DC Comics, which had purchased the publisher as an imprint in 1998, absorbed the company and moved the office to Burbank, California.[66][67][68][69]

La Jolla is the setting for the 2011 season of The Real World: San Diego, the twenty-sixth season of the long-running MTV reality television series.[70][71]

La Jolla is the base for the Sundt Memorial Foundation, a national organization aimed at discouraging youth from getting involved in drugs.

Notable people[edit]

Main article: List of people from La Jolla

La Jolla has been the home to many notable people, including prominent scientists, business people, artists, writers, surfers and performers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ab"Population and Housing Estimates, Zip Code 92037"(PDF). 2004 Estimates. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2006-07-18. Retrieved 2006-10-15. 
  2. ^"Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010". 2010 Demographic Profile Data. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  3. ^ ab"". Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  4. ^US. "Mapquest". Mapquest. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  5. ^"San Diego City". Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  6. ^"". Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  7. ^"". 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  8. ^"DiscoverSD". DiscoverSD. Archived from the original on 2010-05-29. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  9. ^"La Jolla, CA Official Website". Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  10. ^Langdon 1970
  11. ^"History of La Jolla". La Jolla Playhouse, via Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on November 3, 2011. Retrieved September 30, 2014. 
  12. ^Ray, Nancy (August 31, 1985). "One of La Jolla's Best-Kept Secrets Is Fun Ride". Archived from the original on June 23, 2014. Retrieved June 22, 2014. 
  13. ^ abcHollins, Jeremy. "Village Memories: A Photo Essay on La Jolla's Past"(PDF). Journal of San Diego History: 295–305. 
  14. ^Rannells, Nathan L. (October 1958). "La Jolla No. 1". Journal of San Diego History. 4 (4). 
  15. ^ ab"About La Jolla Elementary". San Diego Unified School District. Retrieved 28 October 2017. 
  16. ^"About Scripps College - History". 
  17. ^Denger, Mark J. "A Brief History of the U.S. Marine Corps in San Diego". The California State Military Museum. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  18. ^ abShragge, Abraham J. (Fall 2001). "Growing Up Together: The University of California's One Hundred-Year Partnership with the San Diego Region". Journal of San Diego History. 47 (4). 
  19. ^ ab"Timeline". University of California San Diego. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  20. ^"Title VIII: Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity". U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Archived from the original on 8 July 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  21. ^For example, when the world-famous mathematician and philosopher Jacob Bronowski came to the Salk Institute in 1963, he wanted to build a home on La Jolla Farms Road for his family. For his required character references, his family produced letters from members of Parliament, in Garson, Sue (2003). "The End of Covenant". The San Diego Jewish Journal. Archived from the original on July 23, 2008. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  22. ^Carless, Will (2005-04-07). "A specter from our past: Longtime residents will always remember the stain left on the Jewel by an era of housing discrimination". Archived from the original on 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2010-06-30.
"Red Roost" and "Red Rest", two bungalow cottages built in 1894 on the road above La Jolla Cove. In recent years the cottages have been covered in tarpaulins.
The side view of "Red Roost", a bungalow cottage built in 1894, one of two that still exist on the road above La Jolla Cove.
La Jolla Recreational Center
Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier
View looking north from above the Children's Pool
Museum of Contemporary Art - La Jolla