WHAT DRAWS LA JOLLA TOURISTS: Not what many in town hope

At its meeting at the Riford Library on Wednesday, May 8, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) announced the results of a study it recently commissioned from five MBA students at San Diego State University on how to attract more tourists to La Jolla.

One result was a shocker. When 300-plus visitors to either the La Jolla Open Aire Farmer’s Market or Ellen Browning Scripps Park were asked if they thought of La Jolla as an arts and culture destination, zero percent said yes.

Zero percent.

“That would be a really expensive undertaking for this group to turn around,” said LJVMA secretary Julie Wright, “so we have to work with what we’ve got. The path of least resistance is to leverage what they’re already coming here for.”

According to the survey, that’s La Jolla’s scenic beauty/nature and its dining, the top two answers.

LJVMA executive director Jodi Rudick mentioned a “big, bold idea” the study suggested that plays into the first answer: connecting La Jolla Shores with The Village.

“If it were possible,” she said, “if there were a nice sea walk with connected pathways and trails down our coast, they thought this would make this destination more attractive, and a place where you can spend all day and do everything.”

When surveyed about whether they planned to shop or eat in The Village after visiting The Cove or farmer’s market, 55 percent of respondents said yes and 45 percent said no. However, 62 percent said they would if there were some incentive.

“How do we get people to walk up the hill from The Cove?” Rudick asked, suggesting possible solutions including signage and loyalty programs.

The two main obstacles to more frequent visitation were identified as distance and traffic, with 79 percent of respondents noting they would return more if La Jolla didn’t take as much time to get to.“And they didn’t mention the smell!” Rudick said, addressing her puckish comment toward the Light for its “Return of The Cove Stench” May 1 cover story, which she made no bones about disliking.

The study results can be viewed at slideshare.net/lajollavillagemerchants

Parking up the wrong tree

Wright noted something the tourists in particular didn’t complain about: La Jolla’s parking situation.

“Only the locals did,” she said, noting that “we are our own worst enemy here.”

This dovetailed into a presentation delivered by Brad Elssas, director of San Diego operations for Ace Parking, about a study conducted by his company. It showed that La Jolla currently has 6,745 total parking spots — including 2,456 free on-street spaces, 4,089 garage and lot spaces (figuring in ACE, LAZ and the other parking companies) and 200 valet spaces.“We are not out of parking,” Elssas said, explaining that, at any given time on any given day — even the busiest days — an average of 142 spaces are available at Ace lots alone. (Even during the La Jolla Concours d’ Elegance, Elssas said, Ace lots were only 50 percent full.)“There’s parking in the village,” Elssas said. “We just have to figure out how to market it.”

Rudick suggested forming a parking committee that would gather during an open public meeting and decide on how to tackle that problem. “What we want to look at first is some of the lower-hanging fruit, such as signage,” she said.

Media plan approved

The board voted unanimously to approve its media plan, which this month spent $4,000 on advertising its May 11 Enjoya La Jolla street fair in local newspapers, including the Light and the San Diego Union-Tribune (which owns the Light). Rudick said $20,000 more is available to spend by December 2019, adding that LJMVA is test-marketing a co-op plan involving “some presence in higher-end publications.”

“We’re going to measure whether any of this is working for us,” she said. “Sales people are wonderful people, but we really want to see what works. It’s your money.”

In other merchant news…

  • Raise for Rudick: The board voted unanimously to give Rudick a 6 percent salary increase, recognizing, as Wright said, “the great job she’s doing.”
  • Office space: LJVMA unanimously passed a motion to sublease part of its 1,000-square-foot office at 7590 Fay Ave. “It’s very large for just me,” Rudick said, explaining that she would take the conference room and the rental income would supplement expenses.
  • Summer off for breakfast: LJVMA’s Business4Breakfast informational events will no longer occur monthly. Four will fall during the beginning of the year and four at the end, with the four warmest months off.
  • Bourbon street: On July 11, LJVMA will hold a bourbon-tasting event in association with the San Diego Spirits Festival as the after-party for that day’s Enjoya La Jolla street fair. Admission will be $25 in advance, $30 at the door. It includes parking, Rudick said, “but we encourage everyone to Uber and Lyft instead.”
  • The gift of gavel: La Jolla resident Kevin Healy presented a gavel to LJVMA president Brett Murphy, responding to a November 21 Light story in which Murphy lamented not having one to bring meetings to order. Healy said he purchased it “two or three months ago” from Amazon for $10 or $15. When Healy entered the meeting, he noticed a gavel already on the board’s table. “So now they have two,” Healy said.
  • — The La Jolla Village Merchants Association next meets 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 12 at the Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave.
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