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Guest commentary: Good to see business picking up in La Jolla, but quality-of-life problems are, too

Overflowing trash cans are among the local problems La Jolla Town Council President James Rudolph would like to see solved.
(Donna Murphy)

Entering the fall season triggers in me two separate thoughts.

First, was the summer season successful? As the president of the La Jolla Town Council, my definition of success is related principally to the health and growth of our business district. That is tethered — especially during the summer — to tourism. And in this respect, it’s safe to say that tourism in La Jolla was up (along with its corollary spending).

How do I know this? Granted, I do not yet have any hard data, but anecdotally it seems safe to say that La Jolla businesses, by and large, had an increase in customers. I know just by driving or walking around town that restaurants in particular were packed. Owners of several businesses have told me on numerous occasions that they are “in the black.” This is excellent news.

But the second thought I have as we enter the fall season (other than how the summer could have passed so quickly) is related to the manifold problems we all encountered.

Traffic was at times frustratingly backed up and slow. This makes sense, as an increase in tourists necessarily means an increase in the cars that bring them into town. But the roads themselves seem, in a word, neglected. As tourists drove into town (especially on La Jolla Parkway), they were greeted by perilous potholes and overgrown weeds. This is a real shame, and it seems obvious that, on this score, much more needs to be done.

The city of San Diego is, in short, failing to keep up with the increase in demand for access to La Jolla. Anyone doubting this can go to La Jolla Shores on a Monday after a busy weekend. Trash cans, many of which are surplus from World War II, are without tops and filled to capacity. Seagulls consequently get an all-you-can-eat beach buffet, which leads ineluctably to rubbish-strewn streets and parks. This then leads to an increase in the seagull and rodent population. If only we could have a more efficient use of city resources to address this perennial problem.

Alas, on several occasions Mayor Todd Gloria has said the budget deficit precludes a more proactive approach to things like trash collection and general maintenance. The results, in my opinion, are clear: We are seeing a proliferation of weddings on the beaches (which leads to more trash); we are seeing more and more tourists accessing the beaches for swimming, surfing, kayaking and tide-pooling (which leads to the erosion of coastal bluffs); we are seeing companies, in violation of several regulations, selling tickets for beach bonfire parties at which alcohol is served; we are seeing more pop-up vendors selling trinkets and tchotchkes; and we are experiencing a feeling that low-level crimes are going unpunished.

These quality-of-life issues are reported to me on a near-daily basis, and whether data can corroborate these claims is, for our purposes, somewhat irrelevant. Perception, as we all know, can lead to reality in politics, so I’m committed first and foremost to listening to La Jollans and then, if warranted, passing on formal complaints and recommendations to our elected officials. Indeed, many high-level officials attend our meetings, so it’s a chance for them as well to hear directly from their constituents.

I’m committed to this democratic town hall process because it’s part and parcel of a thriving civil society. As a nonpartisan group open to all, our forums — unlike other groups focused on discrete, stand-alone issues — offer an opportunity to explore all relevant topics.

I’m heartened to look back on what can fairly be described as a blockbuster summer. But I’m also concerned about some negative events many of us experienced. I’m convinced that if we come together as a community, we can address and resolve many of these outstanding issues.

In this spirit, the La Jolla Town Council will hold a public safety forum at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at which many of our police, fire and lifeguard officials will be available for questioning. Register for the Zoom link at bit.ly/2Y07BWX. (At this writing, the forum also might be at the La Jolla Recreation Center.)

We look forward to your participation, and we wish you the best as we enter another season.

James Rudolph is president of the La Jolla Town Council.