The La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) is moving forward at full steam: It hired a new, full- time executive director and is entering into a tentative lease agreement for a larger office space that also will house a Visitor Center.
Following a closed session discussion at the end of its Aug. 8 meeting, LJVMA board members announced that Sheila Fortune, the former owner of Aquamoree restaurant and a past LJVMA board secretary, will lead the organization as its executive director at an annual salary of $85,000. Fortune stepped in as the interim executive director in May, after the previous executive director, Rosemary Murrieta, stepped down from the position via mutual agreement.
Fortune was part of the volunteer team that helped form the new management organization for the La Jolla Business Improvement District in early 2011. She resigned from the LJVMA board when she closed her business at the end of 2011. “I know with my passion for The Village, coupled with my previous professional expertise, this is going to be a great challenge,” Fortune said. “I can’t wait to start making things happen again for our merchants and the community.”
The association also an- nounced that it is close to signing a lease on a building in The Village that will house both LJVMA’s admin- istrative offices and the La Jolla Visitor Information Center, the latter of which currently occupies a pint- size frontage space near the corner of Herschel Avenue and Prospect Street.
“We don’t have a contract or a lease, but we have an e-mailed agreement with the property owner for a 2,500-square foot, storefront property,” LJVMA board president Phil Coller said. “I don’t think we could find anywhere that would fit the bill better.”
The combined space will offer the LJVMA and the Visitor Center greater visibility and the opportunity to sell merchandise, as well as tickets to local attractions and events. The space will be home to four paid, part-time staff from the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau (ConVis), and as well as the merchants association’s executive director.
Coller said there are “sufficient monies and income stream from taking over the visitor center management” that would cover the rent. “We expect a substantial increase in revenues from this new (venture),” he said.
The new space would open sometime in December or January.
Other merchants news
In response to concerns from the LJVMA about safety issues surrounding untrimmed trees in The Village, Coller said the San Diego City Attorney’s office is drafting an opinion on the city’s liability relating to trees in the public right-of-way. Due to budget constraints, the city ceased trimming the trees about seven years ago.
During the past few years, trees have toppled in The Village, crushing cars and nearly hitting pedestrians. Palm fronds alone can weigh as much as 30 pounds, and frequently dent vehicles when they fall. “It’s not an act of God when you know these things are going to happen,” Coller said.
The city says a full restoration of tree trimming services, including palm trees every year and shade trees every seven years, would cost $2.4 million.