By Dave Schwab
Real progress is being made on the grassroots drive to make La Jolla its own city - but it's going to take time and support from the community.
That message was delivered by Cindy Greatrex, head of Independent La Jolla, at the nonprofit group's Sept. 15 meeting.
Noting the group's efforts are getting increasing media notoriety, and that significantly more e-mails of support and encouragement from residents are coming in, Greatrex said continued low turnout at the group's monthly meetings indicates a perceived lack of "urgency" by the public over the issue.
"There's no wolf at the door," she said. "Most other villages in the state that are trying to break away from cities and incorporate do have a wolf at the door: They're threatened with annexation (by adjacent cities), or taxes, so they're becoming active to keep themselves from shrinking."
"We are under the domain of the city of San Diego, it's up to them to treat us like everybody else: To me, that's our wolf," said Melinda Merryweather, a longtime La Jollan and cityhood supporter.
Merryweather pointed out another problem being encountered by Independent La Jolla: inability, as of yet, for movement supporters to make tax-deductible donations to the group. Greatrex said accomplishing that goal is in the works, but added it's going to cost $400 for a filing fee. She said achieving tax-exempt status for donations could take several months.
The consensus of the group was that a public meeting being planned in La Jolla to tout the benefits and desirability of incorporation be postponed until early next year after the group successfully acquires tax-exempt status.
Greatrex said she was encouraged by some good news she got from LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission), the regional agency overseeing formation of new governmental bodies, including cities, that would be intricately involved in La Jolla's incorporation.
"It's strongly encouraged - but not required - for any group seeking annexation of any kind to submit a new map, which is an amazing thing because, in theory, it could save us $30,000 to $50,000," Greatrex said. "This could be a windfall for us if we do it right. We may be able to use either the map from the (previous) feasibility study, or a map of the La Jolla Community Plan's boundaries."
Greatrex noted work previously done by La Jolla engineer Eugene Cook, who drew the "City of La Jolla" boundaries in 2006 based on the 92037 ZIP code, might be updated to fulfill LAFCO's map-filing requirement detailing the boundaries for a new city of La Jolla.
Cook, who was present at last week's meeting at the La Jolla Library, pointed out the cityhood map he drew does not include UCSD or any area north of La Jolla Farms.
Greatrex had this caveat to offer about revising the La Jolla cityhood map: "We need to be mindful that if we use a different map than the one used for the feasibility study, that we would have to update that feasibility study taking into account TOT (hotel transit occupancy taxes), property and sales taxes," she said.
An initial fiscal analysis for La Jolla's proposed incorporation done by Berkeley-based Economic & Planning Systems (EPS) published March 21, 2005, concluded creating a new city of La Jolla would be financially feasible. Done with the cooperation of the city of San Diego, based on cost and revenue projections for an entity within the 92037 ZIP Code boundaries, that analysis projected an approximately $5.9 million general fund surplus for a new city of La Jolla.
Rules presently governing incorporation require any entity detaching from an existing city and becoming independent to make a mitigation payment, so-called "alimony," to compensate the city it is leaving for lost revenues. The IFA analysis also determined if La Jolla separated from San Diego, San Diego could experience a $4.6 million loss annually.
The last two communities in San Diego County to successfully incorporate were Encinitas and Solana Beach, both in 1986.
To be successful in incorporating, Independent La Jolla would also have to launch a voter petition drive to get cityhood on an election ballot. Ultimately, a citywide election would likely have to be held on a La Jolla incorporation measure.