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Shores Association looks at forming a maintenance assessment district and keeping outdoor dining permanently

A block of Avenida de la Playa is closed to vehicle traffic to allow restaurants to place tables on the street.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The La Jolla Shores Association board voted unanimously to form a committee to research creating a maintenance assessment district.

LJSA President Janie Emerson said at the group’s April 14 meeting that a MAD can “enhance your area with services that you are not receiving from the city. “

La Jolla currently has two MADs: one in Bird Rock, managed by the Bird Rock Community Council, and another in The Village, administered by Enhance La Jolla.

If a MAD were to form in La Jolla Shores, Emerson said, “the people who live and own property in The Shores are the primary beneficiary. It’s not just for the business district. It is also to handle traffic in the residential area. It’s to take a look at quality of life, everything from trash collection right on up.”

Four La Jolla Shores Association board members elected last month — Pam Boynton, Janie Emerson, Rick Kent and Terry Kraszewski — were sworn in April 14 by San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose district includes La Jolla.

Shores resident Jeffrey Scott said he’d been looking into forming a MAD for LJSA. “The objective, if all goes well,” he said, “would be to put in an application to the city by early August.”

“That’s a pretty demanding schedule,” he added. “We would have to define exactly what we intend to do, the scope of the MAD, and also the geography that would be involved.”

Emerson said LJSA also would have to estimate expenses as part of the application.

The city of San Diego would then “analyze this to see if what you’re doing is actually of service and if your estimates have been accurate,” she said.

Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, confirmed the process details.

The formation of a MAD would need to be voted on by all property owners in the district, Emerson said.

“A very nominal sum” would be added to property taxes “based on a percentage of size of property, etc.,” she said.

The idea to form a MAD was introduced about five years ago but “didn’t go any farther,” Emerson said. It has resurfaced because of The Shores’ outdoor dining program, she said.

The dining program, which began in July as a response to limits on indoor restaurant operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, closed one block of Avenida de la Playa between El Paseo Grande and Calle de la Plata to enable restaurants to place seating on the street.

Some of the tasks involved in acquiring permits for the program “were so much harder because we didn’t have an organization” such as a MAD, Emerson said.

“With all the people that have been coming to us in the last couple of months with issues about traffic and how to mitigate traffic, it appeared that this was a really wonderful time to take a good, hard look at” forming a MAD, she added. “There seems to be a real need for something of this measure.

“What would make sense at this point if we want to move forward is to form a committee that will move forward on this.” She noted she’s heard from “several people that are interested in doing that.”

LJSA board member Pam Boynton said “we’ve seen what Enhance [La Jolla] has done” and called the MAD in Bird Rock “exemplary.”

“I think it can only be beneficial,” she said.

Board member Andi Andreae said “it’s certainly worth exploring. … One thing I would like is complete transparency into ... how the cost sharing is done.”

“I’ve been in favor of it for five years now,” board member Dede Donovan said.

The committee will provide a report at the next LJSA meeting, Wednesday, May 12.

Outdoor dining to become permanent?

LJSA board member Phil Wise, who has organized the various permits needed for The Shores’ outdoor dining program, said he is working toward making the program and the related closure of Avenida de la Playa permanent while simultaneously working to extend the current permit.

Currently, the dining program’s permit, given by the city’s Special Events & Filming Department, expires at the end of this year, “or whenever COVID is resolved,” Wise said.

The state plans to lift most COVID-19-related restrictions June 15, although a mask mandate will stay in place.

Wise said it isn’t clear whether Special Events will revoke the permit at that time, though he said it has indicated it was considering extensions.

“However, I have been discussing permanent street closure with the Development Services Department,” he said, which “has told me that they’re going to be issuing permit extensions to all their parklets,” which are structures placed on parking spaces.

The extensions would last 180 days, Wise said.

Jerry McCormick, senior public information officer for the city, told the La Jolla Light that the City Council will consider extending the temporary outdoor business operation grant, which would cover all permits related to outdoor dining. The council has not yet scheduled the matter.

Last month, LJSA voted to send a letter to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and the Development Services Department asking them to consider keeping Avenida de la Playa closed permanently for outdoor dining.

Hadley said the city has formed an outdoor dining working group composed of people in various departments.

He said the group is “quickly working with the city attorney’s office, trying to determine a lot of questions that heretofore have prohibited this kind of thing,” including “private use of public space” and the loss of parking spaces.

“The city is trying to create several plans to meet different needs, different requests, rather than shoehorning everybody into a one-size-fits-all kind of program,” Hadley said. ◆