La Jolla Village Merchants to focus on events, online presence in 2017

In 2018, La Jollans will see an increase in Village beautification services such as trash pickup and street cleaning, under the auspices of the new Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) — projects that at one point in time belonged to the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA). So during their annual strategic planning meeting Dec. 7 at the Congregational Church of La Jolla, the merchants discussed the relationship they would have with the MAD and its managing organization, Enhance La Jolla, as well as determine how they would direct their energies in the future. 

“Now that we have the MAD, we have to look at how that changes what we should focus on and our budget,” said LJVMA president James Niebling. “But the MAD won’t go into effect until 2018, so we have this period of transition that’s a little funky. This is our opportunity to shape how we approach business in the Village. There’s a lot of opportunity in front of us and I welcome all the ideas we have. My personal wish is that 2017 is the year of driving business.”

Niebling asked each member what he or she would like to see accomplished and how they could contribute. Common thoughts included a stronger online presence, continuing the projects for which the groundwork has already been set, and offering more events in 2017. 

Executive director Sheila Fortune cautioned the group, “we don’t want to focus too much on, for example, new trash cans when Enhance La Jolla could come along and replace them, so we’re going to focus on holiday decorations, flower baskets, etc.” The LJVMA design committee budget is $35,000 annually, $10,000 of which goes to holiday decorations. 

LJVMA member Michael Dorvillier opined, “Wouldn’t we rather promote La Jolla businesses than sweep the streets?” To come up with ways to do this, members broke into groups to brainstorm ideas. 

“The important thing to keep in mind is there are some things we’ve started on and I’d like to see that momentum continue, for example, the work the Economic Development Committee group did to understand our demographics within the Village,” Niebling said. 

When it came time for the Economic Development Committee members to report their ideas, speaker Brett Murphy agreed that finishing the marketing package to woo desired businesses to town should be a priority. He also suggested creating a dedicated e-mail address so interested tenants could reach LJVMA.

Member Jaime Dickerson also suggested a “social media block captain” to expand on the LJVMA block captain program, in which members visit businesses to create an inventory of who’s in The Village, as they open and close. “While we’re there, we could take a few pictures to post on social media and use a dedicated hashtag that is associated with us,” she said. 

Applauding the idea, Niebling said “it kills many birds with one stone.” 

In addition to the marketing package, the wayfinding signs idea explored last year by former LJVMA member Richard Walker and the “districts” idea introduced by Claude-Anthony Marengo were resurrected. Last year, Marengo proposed creating districts, such as an arts district where there are groups of art institutions, a lifestyle district with gyms and salons, and a restaurant row. The wayfinding signs would point visitors toward these different districts.

When it came to promoting the Village, Dorvillier noted two questions: How do we get more people to The Village? and What do we do to keep them here?

By way of an answer, several members posed piggy-backing on existing events in a way that generates revenue, such as a movie night during the Concours d’Elegance car show; a monthly community scavenger hunt to encourage people to walk the Village; merchant trade shows during larger pre-planned events; block-by-block showcase events; and a community “passport” to be given out by the hotels to encourage people to visit La Jolla businesses to get a “stamp” on their passports. 

While these ideas will be fleshed out through the year, one plan LJVMA will immediately work on is updating and improving its website — lajollabythesea.com “Our website is designed for tourists, but we have merchants and residents that need to be reached as well,” Fortune said.

La Jolla Village Merchants Association next meets 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11 at La Jolla Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. lajollabythesea.com

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