Celebrating the birth of the La Jolla MAD: Path now clear for Village improvements, Jewel enhancements



The La Jolla Community Foundation (LJCF) was formed a decade ago by a small group of La Jollans to focus on badly needed infrastructure projects in La Jolla. Our goal was to use pooled philanthropy and private investment to enhance the aesthetic character of the community by funding public art installations, and making landscape and architectural improvements.

While the LJCF’s Murals of La Jolla project was wildly successful and is still going strong, now under the leadership of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, our sidewalks are dirty and continue to decay, trash is overflowing from receptacles on weekends and scattered by seagulls, landscaping is a hodge-podge of design and style and often neglected, weeds and cigarette butts fill planters, and none of our benches match with some a magnet for use as “beds.” The Jewel is sorely in need of polishing.

In working with the City of San Diego, it became apparent that a Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) was required in order to make any improvements in the public right-of-way. To achieve our mission, the LJCF was instrumental in forming Enhance La Jolla, a 501(c)(3) organization charged with managing the MAD in The Village. A majority of the board of Enhance La Jolla include residential, non-profit and commercial property owners in the district as well as three members at-large and three from the LJCF.

In addition to undertaking the leadership role in this endeavor, the LJCF — through the generosity of its members — underwrote all the legal marketing and engineering expenses involved with the creation of Enhance La Jolla and the MAD. It was a BIG job with a price tag of more than $250,000.

After three years of organizing and meeting with community members, we won the election to form a MAD in 2016 with support from commercial, non-profit and residential property owners in The Village. However, three parsimonious commercial property owners sued the City of San Diego to stop the La Jolla MAD. This wasted three years of progress, and the suit was dismissed due to lack of standing.

Therefore, we are now finally clear to begin making a positive impact on our community. The public funding portion of the MAD, which is responsible for increased cleaning and maintenance services in The Village, will start this fall.

In order to create a unifying vision for capital improvements and private investments in La Jolla, the LJCF has underwritten a grant to the M.W. Steele Group (an award-winning architecture, interior, planning and urban design firm based in San Diego), for the creation of a “Streetscape Plan” for The Village. La Jollan Mark Steele, president and founder of the M.W. Steele Group, has served in a leadership capacity for a number of La Jolla organizations and is very familiar with our Village and its issues.

The first phase of the project, to inventory the state of the streets in The Village and identify existing amenities (landscaping, street furniture, trash receptacles, signage, etc.) has been completed. This included block-by-block mapping, drawings and photographs to be used as a roadmap for the plan improvements.

During the next phase, Steele has assembled a group of local architects and landscape designers to collaborate on the Streetscape Plan. The focus of their work will be to recommend street trees, lighting, sidewalk improvements, benches, crosswalks and other pedestrian amenities starting on Girard Avenue and the “Dip.” We will share their recommendations this fall at a number of La Jolla Community Foundation receptions and community meetings.

Now that we are ultimately in a position to accomplish our primary mission of restoring La Jolla as The Jewel of San Diego, the LJCF is embarking on a membership campaign to involve more La Jollans in our objective. We invite you to join the La Jolla Community Foundation. Together we can make a difference in our hometown that we love.

• Live here. Give here. You will find a membership envelope in this week’s Light and more information on the LJCF website at

• Information about the MAD can be found at

Phyllis Pfeiffer is president/general manager of La Jolla Light, founding chair of the La Jolla Community Foundation and a board member of Enhance La Jolla.