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Updated: 16 hours 58 min ago

Carmel Valley athlete earns a spot on the 2014 U.S. National Synchronized Swimming Squad

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 07:11

After an extensive country-wide selection trials in Pleasant Hills, Calif., Alexandra Suarez of the San Diego SeaStars Synchronized Swimming Team has earned a position on the 13-15 Age Group National Squad.  Only 20 girls were selected to join the squad.  These 20 chosen athletes will enter one more phase of tryouts in May where 12 girls from the squad will be selected to form the National Team.  The National Team will then represent the United States at the Comen Cup on Sept. 7-14 in Europe and at the UANA Championships, Aug. 12-17, in Riverside, Calif.

Alexandra, 14, and a resident of Carmel Valley, has been swimming since the age of 10.  Alexandra is currently in the 8th grade and has loved being a synchronized swimmer.  “I’m so happy to have made the U.S. National Squad! I’m looking forward to the team selection in May.”

Synchronized swimming requires a unique combination of strength, agility, endurance, flexibility and speed. The San Diego SeaStars have a history of success, having trained a number of athletes that have competed and placed nationally and have gone on to compete at the collegiate level.

Parents interested in enrolling their children can call (619) 606-4572 or email for more information.

Solana Beach to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 07:09

Solana Beach’s Cinco de Mayo Community Fiesta is set to return May 4 at La Colonia Park. An alcohol-free community event, the annual fiesta will feature activities for the whole family, including piñatas, game booths with prizes, Mexican craft booths, face painters, and fun jumps for the kids. Mariachi Orgullo de San Diego will take the stage from 1-3 p.m., followed by a professional Ballet Folklorico dance group from 3-4 p.m.  Authentic Mexican food and beverages will be provided. The Del Sol Lions Club will also provide free vision and health checks. The free event is open to the public and will take place from 1-4 p.m. at La Colonia Park, 715 Valley Avenue.

For more information, call the city’s Parks and Recreation Department at 858-720-2453 or visit

Council approves new contract for Del Mar firefighters

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 07:08

By Kristina Houck

Local firefighters will see salary increases while Del Mar will reduce its existing pension obligation thanks to a new agreement between the city and the Del Mar Firefighters Association.

In a unanimous vote, the Del Mar City Council on April 21 approved a new contract between the city and the association, which is effective July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2017. The previous three-year collective bargaining agreement between the city and the association expired on June 30, 2013.

“There are some good benefits here that I think will be good for our employees, but also good for the city in the long-term,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott. “I appreciate the work that’s been done here.”

After a series of meetings between representatives from the city and the association, both sides came to a four-year agreement, which includes a 1.5 percent base salary increase for the city’s firefighters, retroactive to January 2014. The city last approved a 2 percent cost of living increase for association employees in 2009.

In addition, the association agreed to transfer fire personnel to the city’s 12-step merit program instead of the existing five-step salary schedule. A 12-step salary schedule allows smaller increments, enabling the city to save money over time. Each step salary increase is now limited to 2.5 percent instead of 5 percent.

In response to no additional base salary adjustments and for switching to the 12-step merit program, the city will provide a one-time stipend equivalent to 2 percent of base salary for existing association employees on July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016.

To reduce the city’s existing pension obligation, the association also agreed to take on more pension cost responsibility. The association agreed to pick up an additional 3 percent of pension costs, resulting in association employees contributing 12 percent toward their pension by July 2016.

Employees will begin picking up 10 percent of their retirement costs starting July 1, 2014, 11 percent in July 2015, and 12 percent in July 2016.

Del Mar will offset these additional costs to existing employees by contributing a matching salary percentage into a 401a or 457 deferred compensation plan. The city will contribute 1 percent in July 2014, 2 percent in July 2015 and 3 percent in July 2016.

Lastly, the city will continue to pay 75 percent of the increases in premium costs for medical and dental plans while employees pay the remaining 25 percent.

Del Mar City Manager Scott Huth noted the four-year contract would cost the city roughly $102,000 but save the city much more over the next 10, 20 and 30 years.

“I appreciate the work that went into reaching this agreement,” said Councilman Don Mosier. “We certainly value our firefighters; they’re a very professional crew.

“This may turn out to be a model for other firefighters in the county when they renegotiate their contracts. I appreciate the fact that Del Mar has taken a leadership position in trying to reach a fair and equitable agreement with employees that benefits both employees and the city long-term.”

Local teens gain work experience through mentor program at Crush restaurant in Solana Beach

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:45

(L-R): La Colonia Branch Member Meliza Espinoza, Crush Employee Becky Dhooge, La Colonia Branch Member Selene Olivares, Crush Manager Sarah Morache, La Colonia Branch Member Tania Bartolo, La Colonia Branch Member Estefani Saldivar and La Colonia Branch Member Jeovanie Aragon. Courtesy photo

By Kristina Houck

Torrey Pines High School senior Meliza Espinoza will graduate in June. Thanks to a new mentor program offered through the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito’s La Colonia Branch and Crush, an Italian restaurant in Solana Beach, the 17-year-old will graduate from high school with work experience.

“I never had a job before,” said Meliza, who has been a member of the La Colonia Branch for five years. She plans to attend MiraCosta College after high school. “I was interested in this program because it gives me a step forward if I want to apply for a job at a restaurant. Thanks to this program, I’ll have experience.”

Launched April 2, the program combines shadowing and one-on-one mentoring to teach teens workplace skills. Five teens from the La Colonia Branch were selected for the program, which will meet every Wednesday for 10 weeks.

“I think it’s important for more of these programs to exist within Solana Beach,” said Gloria Castellanos, manager of the La Colonia Branch. “Programs like this keep kids off the streets, and help them think positive and look ahead to their future. It’s a stepping stone for them to grow.”

Crush in Chico first partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Chico to launch the mentor program in 2011. The program started with eight students. Since then, 35 students have completed the program.

The first class of the Solana Beach program will graduate June 4, when the teens will use the skills they’ve learned and manage the restaurant.

“It’s really important because you learn new skills,” said 15-year-old Estefani Saldivar, a Torrey Pines High School sophomore. “So far, I’ve learned how to communicate, not only with the customers, but my co-workers. I’ve learned how it is to work at a restaurant by shadowing a busser and hostess and waitress.

“I was thinking of getting a job in the summer. This has opened more doors for me because now I have experience. It’s a great opportunity.”

Crush invites the public for dinner from 6-8 p.m. every Wednesday through June 4. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the La Colonia Branch.

For more information about the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, visit

For more information about Crush, visit

High school district to vote on boundaries for new Carmel Valley middle school in May

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:42

A rendering of the entrance to San Dieguito Union High School District’s new middle school in Pacific Highlands Ranch that will open in fall 2015. Courtesy photo

By Karen Billing

San Dieguito Union High School District is close to setting the boundaries for its new middle school in Pacific Highlands Ranch, set to open in fall 2015.

In the initial proposal given at a community workshop held on April 15 at Carmel Valley Middle School, the new boundaries would include students of Ashley Falls, Sycamore Ridge and the new elementary school, Solana Ranch. The board is expected to vote on the boundaries at its May 15 board meeting.

“Our boundary mirrors the elementary school districts so kids coming out of sixth grade don’t get split between two middle schools, that’s not fun for families or for kids,” said Michael Grove, associate superintendent of educational services.

The district plans to open “Middle School 5” initially with a class of 200-220 seventh graders. The following year the district would add another group of seventh graders to bring its enrollment up to about 500. With full build-out by 2018, Grove said they expect the enrollment to be 1,000.

The boundary extends to the eastern-most part of the district — any new development in Pacific Highlands Ranch will also feed into the boundary and cause the school’s enrollment to grow over the next four or five years to 1,000 students.

Grove said he is getting a lot of calls about people buying homes in PHR’s new Watermark development — he assured people that students from that community will be able to attend the new middle school.

With the new middle school, Grove said they want to draw student enrollment from Carmel Valley Middle School, which is an extremely full campus, with over 1,500 students. He said by year one of the new school being open, Carmel Valley Middle School will shrink to about 1,250 students and by year two the campus will be down to 1,000 students.

One parent expressed concern that the new school’s boundaries don’t resolve Carmel Valley Middle School’s overcrowding problem soon enough.

“To have 200 there and 1,200 here seems so out of balance to me,” she said, requesting they consider expanding the boundary and adding Solana Pacific or Sage Canyon.

Grove said that would actually over-enroll the new middle school. He said it would work for a year or two, but they would have to redraw boundaries after the new development is built.

“We don’t want to keep redrawing boundaries, we want to make a decision that’s going to work for the long term,” Grove said.

In addition to the boundaries, the meeting also featured discussions on planning, scheduling and programming of the school.

“Middle School 5” as it’s being called currently, will be a full, comprehensive, traditional middle school, just like the district’s other middle schools.

In May, the district hopes to assemble a planning team made up of parents, staff and even students that will work on issues such as the school name, colors, mascot, program recommendations and the bell schedule. A principal is expected to be hired by fall and will work with the planning team to make recommendations to the board about “the nuts and bolts of the school,” Grove said.

Phase one of the school that will open in 2016 will include a two-story, 22-classroom building, the art and music rooms and performing arts center, basketball courts, the track and fields.

There will be interim portables for food service, administration and the media center — much like how CCA opened 10 years ago.

Eric Dill, associate superintendent of business services, said the district aims for the campus to be as green and energy efficient as possible.

“All buildings will be built to the CHP (Combined Heat and Power) standard, lowering utility usage,” Dill said. “We will make use of daylight to reduce the amount of lighting needed, which also helps cool down the facilities and reduces the demand on HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).”

The second phase (slated to begin in 2016) will include the permanent administration building, a multi-purpose room and locker room building, the media center and food service building.

Phase three will be based on need and could begin sooner or later depending on how development in PHR progresses. The third phase is estimated to begin in fall 2018 and includes another two-story classroom building.

As many parents have asked,  Grove said there is no enrollment affiliation with neighboring Canyon Crest Academy, which remains a school of choice in the district along with San Dieguito Academy. All other district schools have boundaries.

One parent asked why CCA couldn’t have boundaries because as the school currently conducts enrollment, a student who lives nearby might not get into their neighborhood school through the lottery system.

While Grove said he would save the high school selection issue for another day, he did say that the system the district uses has been successful for the most part.

“About 98 percent of the students get into the school they want and a lot of families love that they get to choose their school,” Grove said.

Del Mar resident analyzes human behavior in new book

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:39

Ron Newby

By Kristina Houck

What makes us behave a certain way?

Ron Newby, a retired researcher and Del Mar resident discusses the human evolutionary path, brain, traits and behaviors in his recently released book, “Homo sapiens: A Liberal’s Perspective.”

“I’ve always been curious about human behavior and why we do what we do,” said Newby, who has lived in Del Mar for 10 years. He previously lived in Solana Beach for almost 30 years.

Although Newby, 76, wrote the book last year, he came up with the concept when he was in his 20s.

A California native, Newby earned degrees in botany and analytical biology at UC Santa Barbara before moving to San Diego in 1965. For 27 years, he worked as a researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla.

“I’m a very analytical person,” he said. “I’ve always questioned why things are the way they are.

“Being a biologist, I realized that we are animals. We belong to the animal kingdom. We have a scientific name, ‘Homo sapiens.’ But surprisingly, many Americans don’t believe in evolution. They believe in other ideas, outside the realm of science.”

A self-proclaimed atheist, Newby’s book explores politics, religion and topics such as overpopulation, wealth inequality and climate change.

“I’m very concerned we don’t realize we are animals. We just think we’re something special. We’ve even added an ‘e’ to ‘human’ to make it ‘humane,’” Newby said. “Some of us are very humane. Some of us are brutal and without compassion. We’ve had wars and we’ve had slavery and we’ve had torture.

“There’s a lot of potential disasters ahead of us, but we get polarized because we’re tribal animals.”

Released late March, Newby wrote the book in seven months. He said he only had three days off during that stretch of time.

“It’s important to have this conversation,” he said. “It’s important for people to realize we are tribal animals. It may give us a different perspective. Rather than shouting at each other, maybe we can start to think about solving some of the urgent problems of the world.”

For more information about the book or to purchase a copy, visit or

Groundbreaking ceremony held for Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch in Carmel Valley

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 12:04

The groundbreaking for the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch was held on April 16 with ceremonial digs by Carmel Valley Community Planning Board Chair Frisco White; Tom Blake, founder and president of Coast Income Properties; Carmel Valley Community Planning Board Vice Chair Manjeet Ranu; and San Diego Councilmember Sherri Lightner. Photo by Karen Billing

By Karen Billing

San Diego Councilmember Sherri Lightner can’t wait to shop at Pacific Highlands Ranch’s incoming Trader Joe’s. At the April 16 groundbreaking ceremony for the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch, Lightner said the specialty market was a big “yes” for the community and she hoped to meet everyone there as soon as it opens in 2015.

“This groundbreaking is wonderful news for Pacific Highlands Ranch and Carmel Valley,” Lightner said. “Residents have been waiting for a village center for many years.”

Lightner’s enthusiasm was shared by many of the attendees at the groundbreaking, including Tom Blake, founder and president of Coast Income Properties, who expressed his excitement at finally getting to put a gold shovel to dirt on the project.

The ground had already technically been broken by machinery already at work for the last few weeks, but Blake said the ceremony was more of a recognition and thank you for all who helped make it happen.

“This truly is the heart of Pacific Highlands Ranch, it’s where people are going to go and where they’re going to gather,” Blake said. “We’re excited to help be a part of that community.”

Blake said they are hopeful the first phase of the project will be complete in 2015 with the first tenants (Trader Joe’s included) open by the first or second quarter of next year.

Planning on the project has been in play since 2007, at one time the village included a contested movie theater. Coast Income has been on board since late 2012 when it bought the property from Pardee Homes and felt the plan, which was approved by San Diego City Council in 2010, could use some tweaking to be more successful.

“We wouldn’t be here as quickly as we have been if not for the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, especially Frisco White and Manjeet Ranu,” Blake said. “We came to them with changes to the plan and they gave us a lot of great direction.”

Tom Blake, founder and president of Coast Income Properties, addresses the crowd as San Diego Councilmember Sherri Lightner and Carmel Valley Community Planning Board Vice Chair Manjeet Ranu look on. Photo by Karen Billing

In changing the 2010-approved plans, Coast Income Properties removed the theater, planned for a Trader Joe’s and a drug store rather than a full-service grocery store, added more residential units to bring it to 331 multi-family units and lowered some building heights in response to neighbors’ concerns.

The plan now features a variety of restaurants and soft goods retailers, a possible health club and day spa, and a town square gathering spot with a long weeping water wall, an interactive water feature, three fireplaces and outdoor living room furniture.

There will be also be an open, grassy village green with trails and passive seating areas, and the potential for community gardens or a bocce ball court.

Ranu said he is excited that the community is closer to “realizing the dream that’s going to complete their neighborhood.”

“It was a long road to get here but we were all determined to realize the vision of the community sooner rather than later. I commend Coast Income for working so closely with the community to create something we will enjoy very much and their willingness to listen to our feedback,” Ranu said. “This project is a reflection of the residents who live here and it will be a community space we can be proud of for years to come.”

‘Dancing With the Stars’ contestant latest in string of La Jolla Playhouse performers to hit big

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:57

James Maslow (right) when he was at the La Jolla Playhouse Summer Conservatory. Photo courtesy of J.T. MacMillan

By Rob LeDonne

The current season of “Dancing with the Stars,” one of television’s most popular shows, features a who’s who of recognizable faces. There’s “Price is Right” host Drew Carey, NHL superstar Sean Avery, and legendary actor Billy Dee Williams — just to name a few. In addition, there’s also one of San Diego’s very own: James Maslow, the actor/singer who rose to fame as part of Nickelodean’s Big Time Rush boy band.

Maslow, who was raised in La Jolla and attended Torrey Pines Elementary School, Muirlands Middle School, and San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, first stretched his acting muscle in the San Diego area and was active in local arts, including at the La Jolla Playhouse.

“I remember when he first auditioned for our conservatory program when he was about 17,” said Steve McCormick, the Education & Outreach Director for the Playhouse. “The conservatory program is for the more advanced students, and I remember him being incredibly generous and comfortable. Some people come in and have an attitude, but not James. He gave a very relaxed audition.”

The team at the Playhouse, including McCormick, saw something special in Maslow and he was admitted into its summer program.

“You have to have that certain spark to achieve greatness or fame, you can’t teach it,” notes McCormick. “In most cases, as an educator you can only perceive it and tease it out. James always felt like he knew his path, and he was always eager to learn. He asked a lot of questions and was forward thinking. We just enjoyed being around him.”

A year later, Maslow sent his audition tape to Nickelodeon and was later cast as the character of James Diamond, who’s referred in press materials as “the handsome one” of the group.

“He always knew what he wanted to do, and went down every avenue to pursue it,” said McCormick of Malsow, who landed his first agent at age 14. “He’s always had that drive to be a leader, and had confidence in himself as well — in the best way. When I heard he made it to Nickelodeon, it just made sense.”

Maslow’s partner on “Dancing with the Stars” is Peta Murgatroyd, and in the first few episodes he’s won high praise from the judges and viewers alike. He’s also not shy to remember his roots on the show: his official biography on the ABC website mentions the Playhouse (as well as his time studying at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts), and in a recent episode he talked about his time growing up in San Diego.

Aside from Maslow’s current notoriety on “Dancing With The Stars,” the La Jolla Playhouse is no strangers to seeing locally trained talent explode on a national level. Sutton Foster, who appeared in the Playhouse’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” after its original lead actress dropped out, later went on to win a Tony Award for the role and is now the darling of Broadway.  Nikki M. James, who played “Dorothy” in La Jolla’s revival of “The Wiz,” later starred in Broadway’s “Book of Morman” and won her own Tony for the role in 2009.  Christopher Douglas Reed, a native of Clairemont and a Playhouse conservatory alum who appeared in its production of “Tobacco Road,” currently stars on the hit FX series “Sons of Anarchy” and has also appeared on Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” and HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” — just to name a few.

Overall, McCormick (who’s been working at the Playhouse for about a decade) is no stranger to seeing La Jolla Playhouse alum on television and in the movies. “It happens all the time,” he explains. “Even if it’s a small role. However, I’m not surprised James is as big as he is now.”

“Dancing with the Stars” airs Monday nights on ABC (

‘Prescription Drug Take Back Day’ to be held April 26 in Carmel Valley

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:05

At the Del Mar Mesa planning board’s April 10 meeting, San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer Tracey Williams urged the community to participate in “Prescription Drug Take Back Day,” on Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the SDPD Northwestern Division, 12592 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley (92130). No needles will be accepted.

Pannikin Coffee & Tea to close location near Del Mar

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:20

Pannikin Coffee & Tea will close in Flower Hill Promenade on May 31.

By Karen Billing

Pannikin Coffee & Tea, one of Flower Hill Promenade’s longest-running tenants, will serve its last cup of coffee at its Flower Hill location on May 31. The coffee house has opted not to renew its lease.

“We’ve been here a long time and we just couldn’t come to an agreement with the mall management on a fair rent so we didn’t renew our lease,” said owner Shawn Holder.

Holder said from a business standpoint, it was an easy decision to make but from an emotional side, it was anything but.

“We have many loyal customers and friends,” said Holder, whose son Dempsey is a business partner and in charge of the Flower Hill location. “We will do a great job for them right to the end, we hope everyone will come until the last day. We’re disappointed; we absolutely would have stayed.

“This is a family business and these kinds of businesses take everything you have. And we have put everything we have into it,” Holder said.

Jeffrey Essakow, president of Flower Hill Promenade, said he is saddened to see their long-standing tenant go and that they were informed of the coffee shop’s intention to close at the end of the shop’s current term lease.

“We have enjoyed a long relationship with the Holder family and will miss them at Flower Hill,” Essakow said. “We wish Pannikin every success in the future as we look forward to announcing an exciting new tenant soon.”

As stated on its iconic cups, Pannikin has been “wakin’ up San Diego” since 1968. Holder and his family bought the coffeehouse chain from the original owner and founder Bob Sinclair in 1997.

Although he’s not sure of the exact year, Holder said Pannikin has been at Flower Hill since the mid-1980s. TRE Boutique (formerly The Rare Earth) is the only other store that has been around that long.

Pannikin used to be conjoined with BookWorks book store, which closed in 2011 after 35 years — currently the shop shares open borders with Pangaea Outpost and Dallmann Chocolate Boutique.

Pannikin will continue to have its coffee shops in La Jolla and Leucadia (inside the yellow, historic Santa Fe Railroad Station building that Holder owns), as well as a shop at San Diego International Airport — they roast the coffee and supply all the baked goods, but the airport shop is run by a company called High Flying Foods.

At Flower Hill, the front counter cases were always filled with baked goods such as pies, cakes and giant cookies, espresso drinks named for rock stars like Jimi Hendrix (four shots of espresso with steamed Mexican chocolate milk and hazelnut syrup), and there was a unique selection of teas.

The shop featured quirky décor, such as vintage road signs and airplane propeller proclaiming its coffee had altitude, old wooden stadium seating and a popular wall of window-front seating looking out onto an often-packed outdoor patio. There was a variety of seating spots and tables usually filled with families enjoying meals, students studying or people working on laptops.

Holder said the closing of the Flower Hill movie theater (which became Whole Foods Market in the renovation) hurt their business. They used to stay full in the late afternoon until 9 or 10 p.m. at night on the weekends with traffic from movie-goers — Holder said that’s just not the case anymore.

“We really miss that part of the business,” Holder said. “The rent is just more than we can support.”

Holden said he has “no hard feelings” toward the center or the management. He said they are good people that just need to get a business in that can pay the higher rent.

Holder said that Pannikin has many exciting things coming — they have started producing their own Pannikin brand K-cups for single-cup coffee makers and their website sells over 20 varieties of coffee and 40 types of tea across the country; Holder said soon they will partner with Amazon on a website.

Pannikin will continue to roast its own coffee in Leucadia and bake its cookies and cakes from scratch.

“We think we do it better than anybody,” Holder said. “We have an amazing little company and great shops, we were one of the first in San Diego and we’re going to be here forever.”

For more information, visit

FRONTLINE CANCER: Exploring the link between obesity and cancer

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:19

Dr. Scott Lippman

By Scott M. Lippman

More than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, which comes with a long and heavy list of associated health risks, among them: coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes — and cancer.

An ever-growing number of studies show that packing on excess pounds increases the risk for cancer, most notably colon, pancreas, kidney, thyroid, breast, endometrial (uterine), esophageal and gallbladder.

The numbers are alarming and likely to worsen. In 2007, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimated that 34,000 new cases of cancer in men (4 percent of the annual total) were due to obesity. For women, it was 50,500 news cases or 7 percent of the total. If obesity trends continue, the NCI projects roughly 500,000 additional cases of obesity-caused cancer by 2030.

Cancer is already the nation’s second most common cause of death after heart disease, killing more than 585,000 Americans each year. A bulging obesity rate gives it a better shot at becoming the number one killer.

It’s difficult to say how exactly obesity fits into the cancer-causing equation. It’s a complex disease. Each cancer patient is different, with his or her own unique biology and environmental exposures. Nonetheless, several biological mechanisms have been proposed to explain the association.

• Fat tissues produce excess amounts of estrogen and high levels of this hormone have been linked to greater risk of breast, endometrial and other cancers.

• Obese people often have increased levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 in their blood, which may promote development of certain tumors.

• Fat cells produce hormones called adipokines that may abnormally stimulate cell growth. Cancer is fundamentally a disease of cell growth run amok. Fat cells may also directly or indirectly affect other regulators of tumor growth.

•Obese people often suffer from chronic, low-level inflammation, which is associated with increased cancer risk. Indeed, Michael Karin, PhD, distinguished professor of pharmacology and pathology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and a faculty member at Moores Cancer Center, and others have shown that obesity-induced inflammation promotes development of liver cancer, the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.

• Other possible mechanisms include altered immune responses and oxidative stress.

Does losing weight lower cancer risk? The answer would seem to be yes, but again it’s hard to know with certainty. Research has demonstrated that weight loss reduces the risk of developing diabetes and improves risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Studies of patients who have undergone bariatric surgery to lose substantial amounts of weight show they have lower rates of obesity-related cancers than similar obese patients who have not had the surgery.

But unlike, say, tobacco consumption and lung cancer, there is no smoking gun that inextricably and indisputably links obesity to cancer. Not yet, at least. These efforts continue with scores of studies. For example, a team led by Ruth Patterson, Ph.D., director of the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer center at Moores, is conducting a randomized trial testing the impact of weight loss versus metformin (an antidiabetic agent) on breast cancer recurrence using a design to link changes in metabolic health to breast cancer risk. The study is part of a larger program sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

Eventually, I believe definitive answers will be found, or the steady accumulation of studies linking obesity and cancer will overwhelm any contradictory opinions.

In the meantime, researchers from the San Diego Prevention Research Center at San Diego State University (SDSU) and from Moores Cancer Center are pursuing proactive remedies, such as operating free physical activity classes in different communities. At 34 percent, San Diego County has a high prevalence of obesity. Rates are even higher next door in Imperial County, particularly among children (47 percent overweight or obese compared to 38 percent for all of California).

These children are the focus of a Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and headed by Guadalupe X. Ayala, Ph.D., MPH, a Moores Cancer Center member at SDSU. The study is testing whether a whole-child approach to preventing and controlling obesity can change the next generation’s life expectancy.

Scott M. Lippman, M.D., is Director of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. His column on medical advances from the front lines of cancer research and care appears in the La Jolla Light the fourth Thursday of each month. You can reach Dr. Lippman at

Rant with Randi: MAGCON

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:15

By Randi Crawford

Most of you reading this will have no idea what I’m talking about.  Let’s start here.  Do you have a teenage daughter?  Does she watch Vine videos? (Vine is a social media App that let’s you take 5-second videos).  I do and she does.  A few weeks ago, my daughter shoves her cell phone in my face and asks me to input my credit card information as fast as I can because we only have a few seconds to buy tickets, and I blindly did so.  Apparently, we were buying MAGCON tickets and this was a huge coup because they sell out fast.  What is MAGCON you ask?  I’ll try and enlighten you.

Last Saturday, we arrived at the hotel downtown, to a line a mile-long of 1,000 teenage girls (I would like to point out that the majority of them were not with their parents).  I don’t know about you, but I’m not that mom.  Let’s talk clothes.  The girls were wearing short shorts with their cheeks hanging out, strappy sandals and half shirts with their bellies showing.  Nice job moms?  The security guard was screaming at us for no reason and I felt like a cow in the herd waiting to be zapped with a cattle prod.  We waited for at least an hour. Why weren’t they letting us go in already?

I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.  Was this a concert?  Were these kids going to perform?  It took me a good 6 hours to figure it all out, but I finally dialed in.  I learned that MAGCON stands for Meet and Greet Conference.  We walked into a gigantic ballroom with a tiny stage.  On the stage was Mahogany the DJ who jammed tunes all night while thousands of girls danced their booties off having the time of their life.  The first thing I did was walk to the back of the room and sit on the floor (carpeted), by one of the few other moms in the joint, and we became fast friends.  The two of us kept waiting to see what was going to happen, and nothing ever did.

I finally saw a mom who looked like she knew something so I walked over to her and here is our conversation: Me, “Can you tell me what we are doing here”? Her, “Just go with it.  I’m Jack and Jack’s mom.”  Me,  “You have two sons named Jack”?  Her,  “No, Jack and Jack have been best friends since they were in kindergarten and they make funny Vine videos.”  Me, “Oh, so your son is one of the kids that my daughter is here to see?”  Her, “Yes.  We’re from Omaha, Nebraska, and the boys’ videos went viral and now they have 3 million followers and they’re famous.”  Me, “What exactly do they do?”

And then her entourage called her away.  Apparently the “parents” of these Vine kids are just as famous as their sons and the girls want to take pictures with them too.  How did this all happen you ask?  A brilliant promoter realized that these charismatic teenage boys had millions of young girls following them, and found an ingenious way to cash in on it.  If you paid $170 dollars for a VIP ticket your daughter could actually stand in a line for over an hour just to get a shirt signed or snap a picture with these boys.  Oh, and every hour and a half, the boys got to take a break…from doing nothing!

I was starving because there was no food, just a water cooler.  By the end of the night, I was sitting on the floor, eating a bag of peanuts that I bought from the gift shop, questioning my sanity.

Mother of the Year award better have my name on it.  Wait, there’s more good news. I just found out they’re coming back in November.  If we’re lucky, (and keep hitting the refresh button on our cell phone), we can get our VIP tickets and see them do nothing, again.

How do you like that, famous for being cute?  It’s a new world and us old folks are just living in it.  What say you,

La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation and National Latino Research Center host focus group on Solana Beach community

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:08

By Kristina Houck

To learn how to improve the quality of life for residents of Solana Beach’s Eden Gardens community, a local foundation and university hosted a focus group April 16 at North Coast Fellowship.

In partnership with La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation, researchers at the National Latino Research Center at Cal State San Marcos interviewed residents to gather feedback on the community’s needs, as well as education, civic engagement and economic opportunities. The focus group was the first step of a multi-step community needs assessment, which was first announced during an informational meeting hosted by the foundation March 19.

“We’re trying to create more community,” said Manny Aguilar, president and board chairman of the foundation. “You’re here tonight to help us do that. … We can’t do it alone.”

More than 70 community members attended the focus group, including Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner, Councilman Mike Nichols and City Manager David Ott.

To start off the meeting, attendees wrote down their education goals for their children. Next, medical ethnography students from Cal State San Marcos led focus groups, asking a series of questions about the background of participants, the cultural and social identity of Eden Gardens, and ways to improve the community.

“We’re here to work with this committee to help document the community’s concerns and the community’s needs,” said Bonnie Bade, faculty director of the National Latino Research Center, which aims to promote scientific and applied research, training and the exchange of information that contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the growing U.S. Latino population.

“We are here to listen,” added Arcela Nunez-Alvarez, research director of the center. “We are here to listen to you.”

The meeting ended with a 94-question community survey. Only residents of Eden Gardens who were 18 or older could participate in the survey, which included questions about demographics, culture, education, youth activities and parent participation in schools.

Using the information collected from the focus groups and the survey, the National Latino Research Center staff and Cal State San Marcos students will prepare a study. Underwritten by Santa Fe Christian Schools, the study will identify and prioritize community needs and opportunities in education, civic engagement and social capital.

The center will present its findings to La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation and its partners in May. The foundation will then present the information to the community.

“Thank you very much,” Aguilar said at the end of the meeting. “This is historic. This has never been done in Eden Gardens.”

For more information about La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation, visit

For more information about the National Latino Research Center, visit

Seaweeders Garden Club unveils Solana Beach Post Office beautification project

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:07

Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society Board Member Trudy Synodis, Postmaster Betty Rabreau and Seaweeders Member Michele Stribling. Photo/Kristina Houck

By Kristina Houck

The Solana Beach Post Office has a new look — thanks to the Seaweeders Garden Club.

Operating under the umbrella of the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, members of the Solana Beach club collaborate on beautification projects throughout the city. Club members unveiled their latest project on April 15, talking with community members about the project and requesting donations for future work as visitors mailed their tax returns at the post office.

“We’ve been very busy little bees, or ‘Seaweeders,’ I guess,” said Solana Beach native Michele Stribling with a smile. A member of Seaweeders, she also serves as the Civic and Historical Society’s garden club liaison. “It feels wonderful. It feels so good to know that you’ve helped.”

The previous walkway was a trail people made by walking through the old landscaping, which was overgrown with weeds.

The Seaweeders installed new plants, mulch, sidewalk and stones at the Solana Beach Post Office. Photo/Kristina Houck

Volunteers from Solana Beach Presbyterian Church helped remove some of the old plants at the post office in late February. Club members then installed new plants, mulch, sidewalk and stones.

Launched with the club’s poinsettia sale in December, the approximately $10,000 project was made possible by the sale, a county grant, and donations from the city’s Public Arts Advisory Commission, the Del Mar Rotary Club and individuals.

“I thought they were just going to pull a few weeds. I had absolutely no idea of the magnitude of the job,” said Postmaster Betty Rabreau, who has been at the Solana Beach site for four months, but with the U.S. Postal Service for 25 years, including stints at locations in Valley Center, Del Mar and Oceanside. “It’s wonderful.”

Del Mar-based Island Construction owner Kevin Hennessy and landscape designer Brandon Schmiedeberg were also on site on Tax Day to install a sculpture donated by Solana Beach artist Christie Beniston. The 10-foot-tall, multi-colored garden topiary will be the first of many temporary art pieces displayed on a rotating basis at the post office, which is located at 153 South Sierra Ave.

Originally created for a sculpture exhibit in Palm Desert, the piece was most recently displayed at San Diego Botanic Garden.

“They’ve done such a beautiful job of creating a beautiful landscape space,” said Beniston, who has lived in the community for 18 years. “It’s just wonderful to be a part of the restoration project.”

Although much of the work is complete, the Seaweeders plan to install a bike rack and paint the flagpole. The group also plans to install two benches. They need about $1,800 to finish the project.

“I can’t say enough about them,” said Rabreau. “I can’t say enough about their hard work and how much the community rallies around them.”

To donate to the project, send donations to Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society at P.O. Box 504, Solana Beach, 92075. Designate donations to ‘Post Office Project.’

For more information about the club, visit

New Gateway property sign encourages campaign-end donations

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:02

The latest sign on the Gateway property was recently installed to remind residents and visitors in North County that the land is secure — but not yet saved. It’s not too late for donors to lend their name and support.

The Gateway property is a small yet critical piece of open space tucked between Solana Beach and San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, just east of Cardiff Seaside Beach and along Scenic Highway 101.

“We are nearing our goal of securing this land for open space in perpetuity,” said Doug Gibson, executive director and principal scientist for San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy. “We took a risk in 2011 reaching out to our supporters for a loan to purchase the property. With the conservancy’s expertise in successful land acquisitions, they knew it was the right decision.”

To-date, the conservancy has raised $3.4 million in gifts and pledges from more than 1,100 donors toward the goal of $3.75 million to permanently acquire the property.

For decades, Gateway was the site of numerous hotel and condominium proposals. A succession of story poles on the property outlined various commercial plans. The community rallied to defeat each development scheme, knowing that construction on Gateway would eliminate one of the most spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean that could be enjoyed in coastal North County.

In 2011 the property went into foreclosure. San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy secured loans to place the winning bid to purchase Gateway for $3.75 million. Acquiring Gateway was the first step to ensure it would never be developed.

When the Gateway property is officially added to San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, it will provide a secure environment for native plants and animals, including Cassin’s Kingbird, Bewick’s Wren, and Cooper’s Hawk.

Once acquired, new trails will connect the Coastal Rail Trail with San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. Gateway will be restored with native plants that will enhance the scenery and provide enriched habitat for wildlife. Sitting areas will provide unobstructed views of the coast, surf, and setting sun from Seaside Beach to Swami’s. A stone and mosaic decorative welcome trail entrance is in design with local artist Betsy Schulz, who also created the Solana Beach rail trail entrance and Del Mar Library retaining wall, among other notable projects.

Community members can be part of this historic The Campaign for Gateway Park by contributing so that the property can be conserved forever. Each gift helps save a part of California’s coastal heritage. For more information about giving to Gateway, the phone number is (760) 436-3944 x 708 and web site is

— Submitted press release

Carmel Valley student cycles from Yuma to Encinitas during spring break

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 08:54

Beth and Andy Nelson in Yuma, Ariz., at the start of their Ride Across America River to Riptide Bike Tour.

By Karen Billing

Last year, the longest Torrey Hills Elementary School fifth grader Andy Nelson had ridden his bike was a couple of round trips to school and a 10-miler. Recently, over his spring break, 10-year-old Andy rode 267 miles, from Yuma, Ariz. to Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.

Andy’s journey was part of the Ride Across California River to Riptide Bike Tour, sponsored by the Rancho Family YMCA Bike Club, which aims to show kids that if they plan and train they can accomplish anything. Andy completed the ride along with a group of 75 children — mainly from the Poway Unified School District — as well as adult companions, including Andy’s mom, Beth.

Andy dipped his back tires into the Colorado River in Yuma on April 6 and dipped his front tires into the Pacific Ocean at Moonlight Beach six days later on April 12.

“I thought it would be a good challenge and a good accomplishment,” Andy said. “I hope that a lot more kids will do it because it was pretty fun.”

Since September, the  Ride Across America group held training rides on the San Dieguito River Trail, around Miramar Lake, and some 30-mile rides and hill climbs in Escondido. Andy also frequently road down the SR-56 bike path in preparation.

“It took a while to get in shape,” Andy said, noting the hill climbs hurt the most.

When the ride started in Yuma, Andy said it was pretty flat because it was mostly desert. After Yuma, the ride continued through Imperial/Brawley, Ocotillo Wells, Anza Borrego, Julian, Santa Ysabel, Mesa Grande and Ramona.

A big truck carried the group’s camping gear and at night they camped between rides. After a long day, Andy said setting up a tent felt like a lot of work.

Their longest day was 53 miles.

“The hardest day was when we went through Julian because we had to go up the Banner Grade, which is 5 miles uphill,” Andy said. “I had to believe in myself a lot because it was kind of annoying.”

As it turned out, the grade was easier for Andy than he thought it would be — all of his hard work training paid off because he didn’t feel as tired as he expected and the hill even “felt like it should’ve been longer,” he said.

His favorite place on the 267-mile tour was Julian because they were rewarded with pie.

When he finished his ride on April 12, his family and friends were waiting for him on the beach to congratulate him on a ride well done.

“They were proud of me,” he said.

“The training rides and Ride Across California were special ‘Andy and mom’ times I will always treasure,” said Beth Nelson. “I am proud of the dedication, effort and positive attitude Andy demonstrated. It was an honor to be along for the ride.”

Record-breaking Cathedral Catholic High School hurdler receives surprise call from Olympic champion Gail Devers

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 08:47

CCHS hurdler Hannah Labrie-Smith. Photo courtesy of Cathedral Catholic High School. Photo by Sean M. Haffey, special to the Del Mar Times/Carmel Valley News/Solana Beach Sun

By Rob LeDonne

It was an afternoon like any other recently when Cathedral Catholic High School junior Hannah Labrie-Smith was sitting in her second period class and the school’s counselor pulled her out of the room. “I thought she wanted to talk about college or something,” Labrie-Smith said. Instead, she was whisked to the Communications Director’s office where there, on the phone, was retired three-time Olympic track and field champion Gail Devers.

“My heart dropped and my face went totally red,” Labrie-Smith said. “I was speechless because I was not expecting to talk to her at all. She was giving me words of encouragement and it was really amazing. I still haven’t exactly wrapped my mind around it… that it actually happened.”

Devers’ call came after Labrie-Smith, a star member of Cathedral Catholic High School’s track and field team, broke Devers’ 31-year-old record in the 300 meter hurdles on Saturday, April 12, when she finished second with a time of 42.24 seconds at the Arcadia Invitational — .02 under Devers’ mark — a record that has stood since Devers attended Sweetwater High School in National City.  “She’s been such an inspiration for me in the past,” said Labrie-Smith. “When I broke it, it was so exciting. I was just super honored.”

Making the record-breaking time even more impressive is that Labrie-Smith didn’t dive into the world of track and field until her freshman year, and only then was it just by happenstance. “My older sister was on the team and did hurdles, so after school I’d have to wait for her to finish up,” explained Labrie-Smith of her humble beginnings. “After awhile it started to interest me.”

From there, Labrie-Smith fell in love with the sport and practiced both on and off the field before meets. In order to perfect her form, she studied videos of track stars on YouTube — including footage of Gail Devers, who won two gold medals at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and one gold medal in Barcelona in 1992.

“I’d watch these videos as guidance for my own hurdling,” she said. “At a certain point, I realized my running was close to her high school time.”

By the time Labrie-Smith was a sophomore she was chasing Devers’ record, and last year she came within a fraction of a second of beating it. Undeterred from there, Labrie-Smith continued to follow her training routine in the hopes that one day she would break the record. “Depending on how many meets we have, we’ll have one or two hard hard workout days, and one or two technical days,” says Labrie-Smith of her routine. “We also have coaches specific to each individual event. Our hurdle coach, Bob Vilvan, helps with every aspect of the race.”

Finally, Labrie-Smith’s record-breaking day came during the Arcadia Invitational, a renowned track and field meet that takes place annually every April at Arcadia High School, east of Los Angeles, where many records are set and broken. “It’s one of our biggest competitions,” notes Labrie-Smith, who got off to a rocky start by falling over at one point during the Invitational. “I knew I’d be competing against so many good runners, so that really pushed me.”

When it was time for the 300 meter hurdles event, Labrie-Smith was ready: “I was just focusing on staying consistent with my stride pattern, and the rest fell into place.” After completing the event, Labrie-Smith didn’t realize she actually beat the record until people started congratulating her. “I couldn’t fathom it… I still don’t,” she said. (Nevada’s Tiana Bonds won the event at 41.35.)

Throughout it all, Labrie-Smith credits her parents and Coach (Dan Geiger) for their support. “Everyone is super encouraging,” she says. “My parents keep me grounded and want to see me competing against myself, getting better in my own running style, and keep beating my own times. The biggest part is that I need to keep pushing myself to be the best version of me I can be.”

As for what’s next, Labrie-Smith says in addition to getting her time down even lower, she plans on attending college and joining a collegiate track team (though she’s not sure where yet.) Other than that, a life goal is to continue to follow in Devers’ footsteps and join the U.S. Olympic team one day. “If that ever came my way, I’d be honored,” she says. “I’m pretty excited with what I’ve done so far; I keep on surprising myself with my own success.”

For more details on Devers’ comments in her conversation with Labrie-Smith, visit; For Arcadia Invitational results, visit

Del Mar Foundation features ‘A Bard’s Eye View’

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 08:46
Candace Kohl, Barbara Fitzsimmons, Karolen Linderman, Phyllis Mirsky, Arlene Lighthall, Anne Ebeling, Carol Mason ◄ Back Next ► Picture 1 of 6

By Tanys Evangelisti

This month’s Del Mar Foundation Cultural Arts evening featured Jonathan McMurtry performing “A Bard’s Eye View,” a Shakespearean view of the world through characters in his plays and sonnets. McMurtry is a graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His professional acting career began in 1961 at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre. He has enjoyed a 50-plus-year affiliation with The Old Globe where he is an associate artist. McMurtry has a record of over 200 productions to his credit, and has performed in all of Shakespeare’s plays.

For more information, visit Photos by Zelda Waxenberg and Tanys Evangelisti

Adopt a Family fundraiser May 3 to support victims of terrorism in Israel

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 06:10

Yuval Ron Ensemble

The Adopt A Family Foundation will hold its annual fundraising event on Saturday, May 3, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Adopt a Family is a local nonprofit that provides financial and emotional support for Israeli citizens and their families who have been victims of terrorism.

The May 3 event, which will be held from 8-11 p.m., will feature a dinner and silent auction along with a musical performance by the Yuval Ron Ensemble, an internationally-renowned music and dance group who are actively involved in creating musical bridges between the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths.

Founders Carine Chitayat and Iris Pearlman started Adopt a Family in 2003 as a partner with Congregation Beth Am in Carmel Valley, but as they grew bigger they went off on their own, becoming a 501c3 nonprofit. The organization stays forever connected and forms lasting friendships with the people they support in Israel.

To learn more or register for the event, visit

Del Mar Rose Society’s 2014 Rose Show to be held at Del Mar Library

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 06:00

Hundreds of locally grown roses will be on exhibit for public viewing at the Del Mar County Library Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26. This exhibition consists of entries by members of the Del Mar Rose Society for its 2014 Rose Show.

Ellen Breen, president of the Del Mar Rose Society, and Kathy Reed, chairperson of the DMRS 2014 Rose Show, invite the public to view the annual rose show at the Del Mar Library.

The library and the Del Mar Rose Society further the goals of their public educational charters by sharing this rose exhibit with the community. The library has graciously offered to keep these beautiful, locally grown roses on display for two days (April 25 and 26), which will enable the public to view a wide assortment of beautiful specimens that are grown in the San Diego area. The DMRS membership has expanded over the years, and visitors to the show will be amazed at the different roses that are grown. For anyone who is interested in adding to their own gardens, this is the perfect opportunity to see what is available, whether it is an old favorite or new introduction.

Included in the exhibit will be a section with the winning entries from the many categories for both novice and experienced rose growers. Among the categories will be: hybrid teas, floribundas, shrubs, climbing roses, old garden roses, miniatures and mini-floras. Artistic classes will include “spring bouquet” and “picture frame.” Another popular category devoted to “fragrance” will be judged by DMRS members. The show will be judged by accredited ARS horticultural and arrangement judges. Judging will take place the evening of Thursday, April 24.

The Del Mar County Library is located at 1309 Camino del Mar, in Del Mar. The library will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 25 and 26 for public viewing of the roses.

The Del Mar Rose Society provides its members with continuous education on the cultivation of roses, fellowship and support in growing roses with programs and special events throughout the year. Founded in 2000, members include beginner and expert rose growers. The Society is affiliated with the American Rose Society (ARS) and welcomes members in the surrounding areas of Del Mar, including Solana Beach, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Carmel Valley, La Jolla and Point Loma. For more information, contact Thelma Gerome at 858-349-4799.