La Jolla Parks & Beaches denies Scripps Park event moratorium

During the Feb. 24 La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting at the Recreation Center, La Jolla Village Merchants Association executive director Jodi Rudick (left) attempts to convince the board not to pass a moratorium on recommending new, for-profit events in Scripps Park.

In the latest salvo of a long-running war inside the ranks of La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B), the community advisory group on Feb. 24 voted 8-7 to defeat a motion that would have banned its recommendation of any new event that charges admission, that constructs fences and/or that vends for profit in Scripps Park until the City issues its Master Parks Plan with other guidance.

The moratorium was floated at the Rec Center meeting by trustees Mary Ellen Morgan and Debbie Beacham, who estimated the controversial issue has been debated at about 20 LJP&B meetings since 2005.

“There is a growing trend for commercial activities to hide under the guise of a 401(c)(3),” Morgan said. “This is a public park. The public pays for it. They should be able to use it (and not have it reserved for private events).”

“If you open the door (to commercializing a public park), it becomes the new norm,” added Beacham.

Trustee Melinda Merryweather, who supported the moratorium, said other cities such as Laguna Beach and Monterey “don’t pimp out their parks.”

She added: “I have this terrible fear that one day (La Jolla’s) going to turn into Disneyland.”

Spirited objections then followed from the board, led by Tom Brady.

“Why would you discriminate against a nonprofit that wants to fundraise for cystic fibrosis?” he asked.

“You don’t understand why?” Morgan shot back. “But that’s neither here nor there. It’s a public park.”

Trustee Patrick Ahern also objected, saying: “I think we should look at (events) one at a time.”

Prior to the motion’s defeat, La Jolla Village Merchants Association executive director Jodi Rudick delivered an impassioned plea from the audience.

“By far, the No. 1 thing our merchants tell us is that events bring in business,” she said. “We are fighting every single day with online shopping, we are fighting with the mall, which did a multi-million dollar upgrade. What we know is that people shop in places where they have experiences, and events create experiences.”

Rudick said she initiated a permit request from the City and found that, out of 52 weekends, only 9 had events booked for Scripps Park — and that included events that were still hypothetical.

“Since I’ve been coming here in the last many months, there have been many conversations about this,” Rudick said, “but I don’t remember anyone bringing you any other new event proposals. So I’m not exactly sure what problem you’re trying to solve.“

LJP&B president Ann Dynes offered Morgan and Beacham one last out before floating their motion. She suggested they draft a letter to the City instead, asking it to include specific qualifications for events in its Parks Master Plan.

“That would be more constructive in my mind than us having a blanket ban that really is a fart in a windstorm,” she said.

Morgan and Beacham said they still intend to draft the letter, which LJP&B will vote whether to send at a future meeting.

— La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets 4 p.m. Monday, March 9 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.