New La Jolla merchant group proposes name, budget

Merchants and residents listen to presentations about the La Jolla merchants group on Monday.  Photo: Kathy Day
Merchants and residents listen to presentations about the La Jolla merchants group on Monday. Photo: Kathy Day


By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

La Jolla merchants on Monday took some big steps towards forming a new nonprofit entity that stands to get a contract with the city to manage the downtown Village business improvement district.

At a forum attended by about 30 business owners and residents — about 2 percent of those who pay fees into the business district — committee members proposed a new name and budget, and gave a progress report on proposed by-laws. Participants also debated how best to get out word about nominating prospective board members after the consultant hired by the city to assist in forming the group said some business owners did not get the first mailing last week. As a result the mailing will be repeated.

(For a copy of the nomination form go to http://

  1. They are due by 5 p.m. on Jan. 25.)

“This is the most important meeting we’ve had in two years,” said Phil Coller, owner of Everett Stunz, a luxury bedding and linens store on Girard Avenue.

He spoke for the budget committee, one of three working groups laying the groundwork for the new group ,which was tasked with figuring out how to allocate approximately $170,000 in available funds for the next fiscal year, starting July 1.

Coller said the initial proposal is to allocate 35 percent of available funds for office and personnel, 25 percent to both design and beautification and outreach and promotion, leaving 15 percent to be used as “seed money” for special events.

Robert Lane, a member of the identity committee who is an advertising representative for the La Jolla Light, said they settled, after much discussion on the name La Jolla Village Merchants Association.

“We felt it was important the name be easily identifiable to new merchants moving into La Jolla who would see the name and feel immediately that the name would include them,” he said.

Realtor Claudette Berwin, another member of the identity committee, added that they "really struggled with business versus merchants. Merchants has a much better sound to it, while business is more inclusive of those who aren’t retailers. Business seemed stuffy and a little bit more vague than merchants.”

La Jolla landlord and community planner Bob Collins said he felt Village ought to be dropped from the new name because it could preclude expansion by limiting the group to a geographically defined area, but consultant Mike McLaughlin said that was an issue that could be dealt with later. Now, he said, the group is limited by the established boundaries of the 30-block district that encompasses about 1,200 businesses.

Speaking on behalf of the by-laws committee, Tom Brady described drafting a new set of by-laws as “a work in progress.”  Michelle Lerach, owner of Cups La Jolla, said the panel had reviewed by-laws from other business groups such as Mission Hills, to help it craft its own set of operating rules appropriate for La Jolla.

“We hope to have a final draft done by Feb. 11,” she said.

The committees are engaged in a formal process to replace Promote La Jolla, the previous Business Improvement District (BID) which has been without funds since early 2009 when the city failed to renew its contract following a city auditor’s 2009 report outlining “alleged accounting irregularities and possible misuse of city funds.” It initiated by First District City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner in October 2010.

Consultant Mike McLaughlin was hired by the city to guide formation of a new not-for-profit business betterment corporation representing the approximately 1,250 businesses in La Jolla Village which pay fees on business tax bills.

An election to create a board of directors for the new business entity is upcoming, with the deadline for nomination forms set for 5 p.m. Jan. 25.

Any businessowner who has paid the La Jolla BID assessment can be nominated.  Businessowners can select an employee to represent that business on the 15-director board.

For more information call the La Jolla Businesses Unite information line at (619) 295-5171 or e-mail



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