Wrigley Association members voice varied opinions over annual Christmas Tree Lane parade separation

By Joseph Serna, Staff Writer

Wrigley Association President Alan Tolkoff warned that what many of the people would hear Monday night, they probably wouldn’t like. But, he said, “Reasonable people can disagree reasonably.”
With that said, Tolkoff invited people, Long Beach Wrigley members or not, to voice their constructive concerns over what may be the most divisive issue facing the Association’s history: the separation of Christmas Tree Lane–a nonprofit organization–from the Wrigley Association.
Since 1988, Christmas Tree Lane has been leading the organization of the annual Christmas parade. According to the city’s Web site, the parade emerged from a resident’s request to help decorate Daisy Avenue for the holidays.
In 1953, Gertrude Whittle asked Long Beach City Council to aid in adorning the grassy median on the 7th District’s Daisy Avenue between Pacific Coast Highway and Willow Street with a Christmas village and nativity scene for Christmas.
In the years that followed, more and more neighbors began garnishing their homes with Christmas decorations, and the Daisy Avenue Christmas Tree Lane parade was born.
In recent months tensions over the future of the Daisy Avenue Christmas Tree Lane Parade’s committee have turned what is supposed to be community unifier into a community divider.
Some argue the popular Christmas parade on Daisy Avenue has grown too big to remain under the Wrigley Association umbrella, with others linking Wrigley’s very identity with the parade and its ties to the Association.
“Christmas Tree Lane is an integral part of our association heritage and has become our living legacy,” said Jill Hill, an Association board member.
The Wrigley Association is made up of dues-paying members, and led by a nine-member board that makes decisions on the membership’s behalf. Sometimes, as is the case with Christmas Tree Lane, a majority of the board votes against most of the members’ wishes.
Hill, along with Christmas Tree Lane Committee Founder Maria Norvell and assisting attorneys, have spearheaded a review of the Association’s bylaws. Among other reasons, they are exploring if there is any legal recourse for the Wrigley board members dissolution of Christmas Tree Lane from the Association.
Because almost everyone, including those who supported separating Christmas Tree Lane approved reviewing and possibly amending the bylaws, Monday’s meeting contained no actionable items, just plenty of heartfelt concerns.
“[Christmas Tree Lane] is more than an event. It is more than a celebration,” said Tim Lee, a Wrigley resident. “It is a part of the heritage, part of the legacy that is Long Beach.”
Lee’s comment was a prevalent feeling, and misunderstanding, among those who want to see Christmas Tree Lane remain under the wing of the Wrigley Association–that the separation of the committee from the Association equals the death of the Daisy Avenue Christmas Tree Lane Parade.
Tolkoff and board members like Gavin McKiernan have continually argued that the separation of the committee and the death of the parade are not one in the same–the parade is a city event.
“Christmas Tree Lane Parade serves a function, but I think we’re spending too much time and effort over petty and trivial issues,” said Rick Linder, a Wrigley member. “The function of our Association and our mission is to improve the quality of life of our neighborhoods.”
With that said, the silent, and usually absent majority of Wrigley members began to speak.
Several residents spoke to the crowd of 50-plus, saying there are bigger issues the Association should be dealing with–crime, graffiti, business improvement and sidewalk repair.
“Why [does] the city ignore us…I think one of the reasons is the membership of this Association is dwindling. It’s dwindling every year,” McKiernan said. “And that is because of an overarching concern with things that are not at the core of our mission.”
With members on either side of the issue, David Lewis, a resident of Wrigley for five years, put it simply, “We have to come to reach some kind of compromise.”
He moved to Wrigley in part because of the parade. Though he’s never helped put up a Christmas light, set up a decoration, or assisted in tearing down after the parade, he likes to brag about where he lives.
Lewis is witnessing the fissure in the community growing, he said. He wants to see some agreement in the middle.
“I just live in Wrigley,” he said. “I just want to keep bragging.”