Questions arise over planned weekly Wall Street event in La Jolla
In its first local review Aug. 9, the proposed “Walk on Wall” event was met with a series of questions from the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance review committee. The Wall Street “activation event” has been described as a public market with a street fair feel, to be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays starting next spring (the event was originally scheduled to begin in October).
A first draft of the permit application to close the street to vehicles and host an event was submitted to the city’s special events department on Aug. 6, which starts a 60-day review period.
La Jolla Village Merchants Association Executive Director Jodi Rudick said she wanted to use a “vendor/booth model” but “not necessarily a farmers market” to create a sustainable weekly event that would lean towards “artisans and makers.”
In garnering support for the concept, Rudick previously said, “We can’t necessarily compete with Amazon in terms of buying a commodity, but what Amazon can’t touch is our ability to provide an experience. And this is an opportunity to create an experience.”
Rudick said she conducted a survey of merchants about the public market concept and received 73 responses, or about 20 percent of merchants.
Among other questions, the survey asked about merchants’ confidence in going to outdoor events, whether an event like a street fair would be beneficial for merchants, whether they support a public market concept and what to do with the money generated.
The large majority of responses were positive, Rudick said. The top response about what to do with the proceeds was “put the money back into the community for beautification,” she said.
However, at the Aug. 9 PDO meeting, questions immediately arose about how vendors would be chosen, whether those vendors would compete with existing La Jolla merchants, and how the event would avoid conflicting with the Sunday La Jolla Open Aire Farmers Market.
Possible booths could include live entertainment, chef demonstrations, produce, local merchants, artisans, games, and more.
Community Crops owner Diem Do, who has been selected as the market manager, added that she has been operating farmers market-type events for 25 years and that “every single neighborhood really needs different things.”
By having two other farmers markets and one artisan market in San Diego, she said, “We have 300-plus vendors at our disposal that we have worked with … of those vendors, our idea was to do a better more in-depth survey of the businesses along Wall Street and see what they offer in terms of goods and foods and try to make sure we are not competing with them” and then select vendors accordingly.
“We don’t want any of our market vendors to come from outside La Jolla and compete with our merchants; that is not the goal. Every one of our merchants and restaurants is going to be given the opportunity to have a booth,” Rudick said, adding that they would be given the right of first refusal. No vendors have been selected, but the La Jolla/Riford Library has committed to having a booth.
PDO chair Deborah Marengo and member Brett Murphy both said they were worried the Walk on Wall event would also compete with the Open Aire Farmers Market, the proceeds from which support La Jolla Elementary School.
“Our farmers market is very successful and brings a lot of people into The Village early on a Sunday, and that filters down to our businesses,” Marengo said. “If we had vendors that also participate there and this event would be a repeat of the Sunday morning market, I think that would be a mistake.”
While Rudick said she has contacted the management of the Open Aire Market to engage them in the conversation and “haven’t heard back,” market manager Julie MacDonald told La Jolla Light, “I have never been contacted from anyone affiliated with the planned Wall Street activation event,” and market founder Sherry Ahern echoed that she had not been contacted about the event.
Marengo also asked how much of the Business Improvement District fees that local businesses with a brick-and-mortar pay would be used to get the event up and running. Rudick said they “have not worked out the final negotiations of the contract” and “I don’t want to disclose that at this point in time.”
Community member Christy Littlemore said there are businesses in Bird Rock and other areas outside The Village that might want to be involved, and suggested a certain percentage of booths be dedicated for La Jolla merchants.
Ed Witt, president of Enhance La Jolla, noted that of the merchants who responded to the survey, the majority were in support of the event, whether they have a booth or not. “I see this as an opportunity for La Jolla merchants who are not seeing all the traffic they might like because they are not on Girard,” he said. “I think it could be huge for them. I also firmly believe La Jolla needs activity, really desperately … I think if we didn’t try this as a community, it will be a mistake.”
Because the board didn’t “have a sense of what this is going to be,” Murphy said, including how the event would avoid conflicting with the Farmers Market, who the vendors would be, how many booths would be made available, missing endorsements from the surrounding businesses, and more, the board opted to postpone a vote until a future meeting.
The plan comes as other groups look at potential uses for Wall Street as a pedestrian plaza and at events that could take place in the plaza.
The La Jolla Planned District Ordinance committee next meets (pending items to review) at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13. It is not yet known if it will be online, in person or a hybrid meeting. Learn more: lajollacpa.org ◆
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