La Jolla MAD case back in court, Nov. 2: New plaintiffs added to claim

Following a question of “legal standing” in the case of La Jolla Benefits Association vs. the City of San Diego as it pertains to the La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District (MAD), those against the formation of the MAD filed a request to have the plaintiffs changed in the case.

The new requested plaintiffs are A-440 Enterprises; Allison-Zongker, a California limited partnership; and the Boyadjian Seta Living Trust.

Judge Randa Trapp will hear the request to amend the original filing with the new plaintiffs on Friday, Nov. 2 in San Diego Superior Court. Deputy City Attorney Carmen Brock will represent the MAD, and Maria Severson of Aguirre Severson, LLP will represent La Jolla Benefits Association LLC.

La Jolla Benefits Association LLC’s previous standing was based on the fact that its then-manager — A-440 Enterprises, Inc. — is a commercial property owner in the MAD.

However, on June 27, Judge Trapp found that at the time the complaint was filed, La Jolla Benefits Association was not managed by A-440 and therefore did not have legal standing to file a complaint. Further, by the time A-440 was managing La Jolla Benefits Association, the statute of limitations to file had expired.

The most recent filing argues that the requested plaintiffs all “owned and operated real property located within … the La Jolla MAD before Nov. 28, 2016, and since that time, without interruption” and are “authorized representative(s) of (property) owners in the La Jolla MAD.”

Allison-Zongker is a non-residential building operator based in La Jolla. Don Allison, a partner in Allison-Zongker, declined to comment on the lawsuit to the Light.

Additional plaintiff, Seta Boyadjian of the Boyadjian Seta Living Trust, La Jolla developer Claude-Anthony Marengo’s mother and owner of a beauty salon in La Jolla, could not be reached by the Light’s press deadline.

The plaintiff’s attorney Severson told the Light: “We’re looking forward to having this before the court so that it can be resolved on its merits.” The intent of the change is to resolve the standing issue and have the case against the formation of the MAD re-heard.

La Jolla MAD history

The MAD was approved by a majority (weighted by property size) of the commercial and residential property owners within its boundaries in November 2016.

Soon after the MAD was passed, the La Jolla Benefits Association LLC was formed and it filed a lawsuit challenging the MAD’s legality on the grounds that services the MAD would provide are services the City should be carrying out, such as additional trash collection, litter abatement, graffiti control, landscape maintenance and power-washing sidewalks.

A-440 Enterprises president Lincoln Foster previously told the Light: “We think proponents of the MAD … are honorable and well-intentioned members of the community and have the community’s best interest at heart. We agree with what they want to do — maintain the streets, improve landscaping and pick up trash — no one can disagree with that. Our disagreement is the mechanism by which they want to raise funds to carry out those objectives.”

In November 2017, Judge Trapp ruled the formation of the MAD was unconstitutional based on La Jolla Benefits’ position. But on June 27, she determined La Jolla Benefits Association LLC did not have legal standing to file the case.

Soon after, La Jolla Benefits Association asked the court for permission to amend its original filing with the new plaintiffs.

The City’s opposition to this request calls it a “delay tactic” and reads: “the (La Jolla Benefits) LLC has failed to demonstrate any reason why this court should reconsider its June 27 order, which clearly analyzed why the LLC lacked the right to be before the court. The LLC’s Motion for Reconsideration is simply a delay tactic intended to forestall the City’s ability to commence the function of the (MAD) and implement a municipal finance mechanism the citizens of La Jolla affirmatively voted to pursue. The LLC’s motion for reconsideration lacks legal merit and must be denied.”

The City’s opposition further states: “Displeased by the outcome of the (previous) proceeding, the LLC and its attorneys now ask for a ‘do-over.’ The LLC would like to add new parties who the LLC claims would have had standing, had they timely filed within the 30-day statute of limitations. The request comes nearly two years too late.”

Should the MAD prevail, it would be managed by the La Jolla-based non-profit, Enhance La Jolla. The majority of Enhance La Jolla board members are property owners within the district, as required by law.

Through the MAD, Enhance La Jolla could have the authority to “enhance” City-provided services, as well as privately fund and complete capital improvement projects in public spaces, such as upgrade trash cans, install benches, augment signage, create roundabouts, make park improvements, increase public art and plant tree canopies on main thoroughfares.

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