La Jolla Town Council retreats so it can move forward

Instead of its regularly scheduled Jan. 17 meeting, La Jolla Town Council (LJTC) held an experiment. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, its board members met in a closed-door meeting at the La Jolla Professional Building at 1150 Silverado St.

For four hours across the conference table of a cramped office, LJTC trustees hashed out which La Jolla issues they should address in 2019, and how to shape the meeting agendas. LJTC president Ann Kerr Bache described what resulted as a “road map for 2019 and beyond that was best developed in an informal way.”

Special sessions set

At the retreat, a special session was set on public safety and homelessness for LJTC’s next meeting, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14 at the Rec Center. (LJTC has canceled its February meeting because it falls on Valentine’s Day.)

“The whole City continues to have the problem of homelessness and how to help them,” Kerr Bache said. “There’s drug-related activity going on in some of our parks. There are people being accosted on the street by homeless people. And, generally, there’s a lot of discontent among the residents and businesses because we send a lot of money downtown in the form of taxes, but we don’t feel like we’re getting back our fair share.”

Another special session — probably in April or May — will address the proposition of La Jolla’s secession from the City of San Diego.

“Everybody wants to know about that, and many board members were enthusiastic,” Kerr Bache said. “We need to find out what it means to be independent. We need to find out how Coronado, Solana Beach and Del Mar did it.

“We’re not taking a position one way or another on an independent La Jolla,” Kerr Bache added, “but we certainly can provide information about the pros and cons.”

Other topics LJTC vowed to raise during 2019 included an emergency evacuation plan from La Jolla, a possible rail spur from the Mid-Coast Trolley into La Jolla, senior issues and the future of retail in La Jolla — especially for merchants operating outside the LJVMA’s Business Improvement District.

Brown Act violation?

Kerr Bache suggested the idea of a retreat — which, to her knowledge, no previous LJTC had ever attempted — so that meeting topics and agendas could be decided by the whole board instead of just her.

“It’s everybody’s Town Council, and I wanted it to be a more collaborative effort,” she said. “And I think it was highly successful. I think all trustees felt this should become an annual event.”

But doesn’t such a retreat violate the Brown Act?

For most La Jolla community groups, it would. (The Ralph M. Brown Act, passed in 1953, guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies and advisory boards.) However, the LJTC is a private organization and is thus not subject to the regulation.

“You can’t get anything done with more than 12 people in a room,” Kerr Bache said. “We have a tremendous set of capabilities with these trustees, who are all volunteers, but you can’t take full advantage while you’re sitting behind a table and being polite with the public.”

Also at the retreat…

Set in motion: The only motion passed by LJTC during its retreat was to take a more active role in representing community consensuses passed unanimously. In line with this motion, Kerr Bache said, LJTC vowed to interact more actively with the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA), with Enhance La Jolla and with the La Jolla Chamber of Commerce. Legal toothlessness: LJTC’s lack of any statutory authority was an irksome situation many retreat attendees seemed determined to change, Kerr Bache reported. “Are we a place for residents just to blow off steam, or do we take the community consensus that develops out of forums and represent the community in the media and at City Council and other higher levels of government?” she asked. “People come to our meetings to express themselves with the expectation that something will come of them.”• Board ops: Yolanda Valenica was sworn in as LJTC treasurer. (Former treasurer Elizabeth King is now chair of business development.)

— La Jolla Town Council next meets 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14 at the La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.