Merchants group explores ways to get more visitors to The Village

The sea lion population draws tourists and locals to La Jolla Cove, as seen in this 2016 photo.
The sea lion population draws tourists and locals to La Jolla Cove, as seen in this 2016 photo.

With more and more people seeking outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, like visiting La Jolla landmarks such as The Cove and the Children’s Pool, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association is looking at how to attract those visitors to local shopping opportunities.

“This has been a crazy year … and as bad as it can get for all of us, the ocean is right there, the weather is beautiful. We should be happy to be in this community,” LJVMA President Brett Murphy said during the board’s annual strategic planning meeting Dec. 9 online.

LJVMA Executive Director Jodi Rudick said the meeting was focused on “four tenants of planning”: organizational excellence; merchant education and engagement; design and ambience; and events and marketing.

With all the restrictions associated with COVID-19, Rudick said additional focus would be on “what we can actually do now with the modifications in place.”

Given that the board is “80 percent” dependent on the city of San Diego’s business improvement district program to generate income, Rudick said she would like the board to pitch ideas to increase revenue.

LJVMA member Summer Shoemaker suggested an “official stuffed animal (seal) to sell to all the visitors” and designation of “official selfie stations in peak walking areas, encouraging people to tag and bring more business to the community.”

Member Katey Longo said a “La Jolla calendar” could generate donations.

For “design and ambience,” suggestions included investigating whether to have a community arch such as those in Solana Beach and Normal Heights and “leveraging the seals” at the Children’s Pool and the sea lions at The Cove.

“We have valid research that says that 50 percent of the people that go to The Cove don’t come to The Village,” Rudick said. “And of that 50 percent that don’t come to The Village, 100 percent of them are not spending money in The Village. So what can we do to get people from The Cove to The Village?”

She suggested an information booth with coupons at The Cove and Children’s Pool. Other ideas included pinniped statues that tourists could take photos with.

Rudick said she would repurpose the ideas into a “workable format” for integration in next year’s plan. The board may consider additional ideas when the pandemic is over.

Other LJVMA news

Business down: Rudick said LJVMA lost “about 100 merchants” in recent months but added that doesn’t necessarily mean they have closed.

“That could mean businesses that have moved to their homes, have not paid their business tax certificate yet,” she said. “But with that, I think our numbers are really healthy. There are no concerns on my end.”

La Jolla Sports Club moving: Murphy, who owns La Jolla Sports Club, said the gym will move to another location in The Village by the end of the month. He didn’t elaborate on why or where.

“It’s a typical 2020 move, when you have to move your business quickly and a block away,” he joked. “But we’ll be all right.”

New member: Due to a change in employment, recently elected board member Kelli Metcalf has had to resign. La Jolla architect Andy Fotsch nominated himself for the vacated seat.

He said his nomination stemmed from his participation in a working group called Vision La Jolla, organized by La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane.

“We are developing a comprehensive plan to revitalize The Village,” he said. “Our goal is to collaborate and combine everything. There are all these committees working on different things; we want to come together to look at everything from streetscapes to zoning and transportation.”

Fotsch’s appointment was ratified unanimously and he will be sworn in next month.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Village Merchants Association next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, online. Learn more at