By Pat Sherman
Though La Jolla has its own mailing address, it is not, as some people who live here still believe, its own city.
It is, as one group of La Jollans is well aware, part of the city of San Diego — and that group has long been irked by what they view as San Diego officials’ shoddy stewardship of their “Jewel by the Sea.”
“Our sidewalks are appalling, our streets are appalling and our alleys are appalling — and it doesn’t have to be,” said Melinda Merryweather, a founding board member of Independent La Jolla, a group working to see La Jolla secede from San Diego and incorporate as its own city.
“Cities are just becoming too big,” Merryweather said. “I think if you have 22 children, somebody’s going to go to bed without dinner.”
Merryweather and other Independent La Jolla members look toward neighboring independently governed cities, like Solana Beach and Del Mar, as examples of what La Jolla could be. They say the city of San Diego is not properly maintaining La Jolla’s beach facilities and has a disregard for its historic properties.
“When I drive through Del Mar, which has only 4,000 residents, it’s immaculate — not a pothole, the trees are trimmed,” Merryweather said. “Here, we have mega-mansions next to cottages.
“If they can destroy an old house and put up a new one, they get a new tax base,” she said. “It’s just better for them.”
Independent La Jolla members hope to take their quest to voters in the next few years.
The group’s president, Cindy Greatrex, moved to La Jolla four years ago, not long after helping the beachside village of Sagaponack, New York incorporate as a city.
Though many have criticized La Jolla’s potential separation from San Diego as a tall order that San Diego officials will never allow, Greatrex said it is not as difficult a prospect as people might believe.
“I’m telling you, if you talk to people around town, more people than not want this,” she said. “In this country as a whole, there has never been one village that became a city and then went back, and said, ‘Man, we are over our heads; we want out.’ It’s very doable.”
Greatrex envisions the city forming its own government, with a mayor and city council, while contracting out the majority of its services — including police, fire protection, code compliance, lifeguard service, animal control, land use planning and road maintenance — to the city of San Diego. It’s a template that most communities that convert to cities have used.
Longtime La Jolla resident and former U.S. congressional representative Lynn Schenk, who also served as a chief of staff to Gov. Gray Davis, got onboard the secession movement after attending an Independent La Jolla meeting several years ago.
Like a couple going through a divorce, Schenk said that La Jolla would have to make multi-million dollar “alimony” payments to the city of San Diego over a seven-year period.