Merchants Association takes lead on Belvedere project

Egon Kafka, owner of La Jolla Village Lodge, tends to the hanging flower pots overseen by the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, at the corner of Girard Avenue and Silverado Street. The association allocated $2,000 to purchase flowers and equipment to spruce up its planters in the Village, with assistance from Bridget Oleata of Bridget’s Blooms. Pat Sherman photos

By Pat Sherman

The 1,250-member La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) will be taking a leadership role in a multi-million dollar revitalization project at Prospect Street and Girard Avenue.

During its May 9 meeting at the Cuvier Club, the LJVMA board voted to oversee the long-proposed Belvedere Promenade project on Prospect Street, which the La Jolla Town Council gave its blessing to in February.

Designed by architect James Alcorn more than two decades ago, the multimillion-dollar project would replace an existing one-way section of Prospect Street between Herschel Street and Girard Avenue with an ocean-view pedestrian promenade.

“It needs a substantial fundraising campaign at some point when it starts to get planning approval,” said LJVMA President Phil Coller.

Board member Jim Niebling said that Alcorn, whose firm is currently working to secure a coastal development permit, contacted merchants in the immediate vicinity to receive their buy-in.

“The response has been positive,” Niebling said. “There’s even some who have expressed interest in a partial sponsorship.”

Coller said the LJVMA could possibly provide some seed money for the project from its business improvement district funds.

A subgroup of the LJVMA’s economic development committee would be formed to oversee the Belvedere Promenade, Coller said.

Andrea Dahlberg of the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival displays a promotional program for this year’s festival (Oct. 12-13) that will be sent to 100,000 newspaper subscribers within zip codes selected by festival organizers.

“There’s a lot of potential to make this pay for itself because it will be a prime piece of real estate to use for many, many different things,” Coller said. “It has a potential to be a revenue-producer and a real focus for the Village.”

The board lent unanimous approval to a motion for the LJVMA to spearhead planning and communication for the project.

In other merchants board action
Associate memberships: Coller discussed offering associate memberships for merchants who do not reside within a 30-block area of the Village’s business improvement district (BID). Businesses in this area are assessed an annual fee by the City of San Diego, making them de facto members of the nonprofit LJVMA.

“A number of people are requesting memberships from our organization who are not BID members, so at the moment they can’t become members,” Coller said.

He added there would be membership criteria established for merchants in other areas of La Jolla who have something to offer the merchants association, such as hoteliers. The board would review and approve each application.

“It’s important that we process this as fast as possible, so that we can get this approved at the next board meeting,” Coller said.

Clean-up crew: Coller said the LJVMA has agreed to oversee a crew tasked with keeping the Village clean and trash-free, which would be funded in part by private donations to the La Jolla Community Foundation. The foundation is still seeking donors for the program, which would include a maintenance truck.

• 501(c)(3) status: The merchants association is moving forward with its effort to achieve tax-exempt, nonprofit — or 501(c)(3) — status, which could take up to three months.

“There are other donors in the Village or potential sources of money that would be more likely to give to the beautification of the Village if we had a 501(c)(3) status, because they could get tax breaks,” Coller said.

La Jolla Village Merchants Association board member Leon Chow of C&H Photo discusses the association’s ‘Grand Opening’ program, in which Chow reaches out to new merchants with a memento photo and information about the benefits of joining the LJVMA.

• Splashes of color: The LJVMA’s design committee voted to allocate $2,000 to purchase plants and materials to spruce up hanging flower pots within the Village.

“We decided that it would make sense to get flowers wholesale and plant them ourselves,” said board member Egon Kafka, who has added some 300 flowers to planters in recent weeks, including lobelia, petunias, mecardonia, purple lantana and red, pink and white geraniums.

Coller requested feedback from merchant members to ascertain whether its current $775-per-month contract for watering, fertilizing and maintaining the planters is fiscally prudent.

Though there were once 250 hanging planters in the Village, there are currently only about 100. Coller said it is not possible for the merchants association alone to maintain or fund the maintenance of 250 planters — thought they would like to have that many planters in the Village in the future.

“We’d like individual merchants to really take ownership of their own baskets,” Coller said.

• Benches: Niebling said bids to refinish up to 100 redwood benches in the Village were coming in “pretty high,” from $800 to $900. He said the design committee also is considering using a type of wood that requires less maintenance, or replacing the benches altogether.

About 18 benches are owned by the LJVMA, which pays for their upkeep. The rest were donated by private citizens, who are required to pay an upfront fee for their maintenance.

The La Jolla Town Council Foundation initially administered the program, and holds the money for upkeep of the benches in its nonprofit account.

“The La Jolla Town Council is going to transfer all that money to our 501(c)(3) and then the LJVMA is going to maintain all the benches in the Village,” Coller said.

• Planting trees: Niebling said the design committee is involved with replacing several old, diseased eucalyptus trees that were recently removed by the city, as well as others that fell on their own in recent years.

“We’ve identified this as an important priority in terms of the look and feel of the Village,” Niebling said, noting that the committee hopes to give the community several options for replacement trees that they can vote on, possibly on the LJVMA’s website or in local newspapers.

“We’ll cull it down to three recommendations and then potentially put it out there for some feedback from the community,” Niebling said. “Our priority has been to look at big tree options that create a lot of shade.”

Merchants association board member James Niebling, of Esteban Interiors, offers an update on efforts by the association’s design committee.

The merchants association also will plant dozens of jacaranda trees along Pearl Street in the near future.

• Banners: The LJVMA board also voted to spend $1,200 for the design of new merchants association banners. There are currently about 100 banner poles within the Village, which also are rented for use by organizations, such as the San Diego Symphony, to generate revenue for the LJVMA.

• Haute La Jolla Nights: Niebling reported that 65 merchants have signed on to participate in the LJVMA’s planned Haute La Jolla Nights events. The series of evening events during the summer and fall will include live music, entertainment and gallery exhibits. Participating merchants will remain open until 9 p.m. The first event is scheduled for June 9.

“At least 30 (merchants) are doing something special for the event, whether it’s serving wine and hors d’oeuvres, having a special presenter or some sort of promotional activity,” Niebling said.

• Festival permit: The merchants association lent its approval to a public right-of-way permit for this year’s La Jolla Art and Wine Festival, to be held Oct. 12-13.

Festival spokeswoman Andrea Dahlberg said admission to this year’s event is free, and includes 200 artists displaying their work along Girard Avenue, between Kline and Prospect streets, as well as a food court, family art center, roving cirque performers and live music.

Festival co-art director Sharon Jones said organizers have received twice the amount of applications this year, and expect more than 20,000 attendees.

On the Web
La Jolla Village Merchants Association:

• La Jolla Art and Wine Festival:

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  4. Large turnout energizes La Jolla merchants mixer
  5. Coller to head merchants group, calls for more to get involved

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Posted by Pat Sherman on May 15, 2012. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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