New hearing set for La Jolla MAD program

A new trial has been tentatively set for March 29 in San Diego Superior Court for the City to re-argue for the La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District (MAD). Judge Randa Trapp — the same judge who ruled in November 2017 that the La Jolla MAD was unconstitutional — will preside. Deputy City Attorney Carmen Brock will represent the City.

The City requested the new trial to vacate the ruling against the MAD on the grounds that it did not receive a fair trial due to an abuse of discretion by the court and irregularities in the legal proceedings.

The La Jolla MAD was approved by the majority of voters within the District and ratified by the San Diego City Council in November 2016. Those voters also decided the MAD would be managed by a local non-profit board called Enhance La Jolla.

The MAD would provide enhanced services in The Village, including landscape maintenance, street and sidewalk cleaning, litter and graffiti abatement, and additional trash collection. Enhance La Jolla could also accept donations for capital improvement projects.

Second thoughts

However, soon after it was passed, a group of La Jolla property owners filed a lawsuit challenging the MAD because the services to be provided were services, they argued, the City should be carrying out.

As previously reported in the Light, Lincoln Foster, who is named as a leading opponent in the lawsuit filed by the property owners, explained: “We are all in favor of everything the MAD and Enhance La Jolla want to achieve, it’s just the funding mechanism we object to. ... We’re already being taxed for these services, but the City is not delivering them. Further, there are other ways to raise money that are more equitable, some City rules and regulations may have to change, but it may be easier.”

On Nov. 30, 2017, court records show Judge Trapp ruled that the City failed to show the MAD would provide special benefits, as opposed to those already provided as part of general municipal services.

In January, the City filed its request for a new trial.

Enhance La Jolla president Bill Tribolet told the Light: “We are encouraged by the strong outpouring of support we’ve received from the community, and we plan to stay engaged in this process, hopeful that the earlier decision will be reversed.

“It is our belief that the City has performed properly and that the MAD will be reinstated and allowed to restart our stated promises to provide both important supplemental clean-up assistance, and generate special property enhancing capital improvements in The Village. The property owners who voted to have their property tax liability increased for the good of the community deserve to see this happen, as do those who have invested countless hours and substantial financial support to this critical citizen-driven effort.”

The initial MAD assessments total a little over $500,000 and were collected by the City beginning in Fall 2017. They remain in a City account, pending outcome of the court action.

The boundaries of the MAD are Coast Boulevard, La Jolla Boulevard, Pearl Street, Girard Avenue and Torrey Pines Road, and consists of two zones.

According to Zone 1 is comprised primarily of commercial properties and Zone 2 includes primarily residential properties. Because Zone 1 has a higher need for frequent maintenance, a higher level of service would be provided in this zone. Assessments would be higher in Zone 1 than in Zone 2.