Village merchants group gets county grant and seeks more, with an eye on new signs

The La Jolla Village Merchants Association meets May 11 at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

As part of its annual strategic plan, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association is exploring ways to bring in revenue and looking at meaningful ways to spend it. LJVMA Executive Director Jodi Rudick said it recently has come in the form of a San Diego County grant.

She told the board during its May 11 meeting at the La Jolla/Riford Library that earlier that day, she was informed that the county had awarded LJVMA a $15,000 grant under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“We can’t thank county staff enough” for the ARPA grant, Rudick said. “We’re talking about what we are going to do with that and [are] considering funding a marketing position.”

With the board’s blessing, Rudick also applied for a Neighborhood Reinvestment Program grant, which carries a maximum award of $40,000, to be used specifically to fund a directional, or wayfinding, sign program that has been explored the past few years.

“I’m happy to say [that] with some help from the county, we can take a big chunk out of it,” she said. “The total budget is about $140,000 and would include … a large La Jolla monument [sign] at what we call ‘Rotary Corner’ [on Torrey Pines Road near La Jolla Shores Drive, where there is a partially landscaped median]. It would be an amazing addition, and I can’t believe we don’t have one already.”

The same day, the La Jolla Shores Association board supported a concept for that “Welcome to La Jolla” sign, presented by local architect Trace Wilson. The Rotary Club of La Jolla donated $17,000 to the city of San Diego in 2018 for maintenance of the median at Torrey Pines and La Jolla Shores.

“We’re all working together to unify La Jolla,” Wilson said.

A concept for a “Welcome to La Jolla” sign got unanimous support from the La Jolla Shores Association board during its May 11 meeting.

Working in concert with the La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board, the directional sign project could include static signs posted throughout The Village that point to area landmarks and beaches.

Rudick said she is trying to get the proposals in front of the county Board of Supervisors before the end of the fiscal year in June.

New board members

Three new members who self-nominated are joining the LJVMA board following the resignations of four members — Karen Finerman, Andy Fostch, Michael Matthews and Lauren Turton. One seat remains open.

Hallie Swenson from Will & Fotsch Architects, community volunteer Bill Podway and Havaiana’s flip-flop shop owner Brandon Lindley each gave a candidate statement at the May 11 meeting.

Lindley said he wanted to be “integrated into the community” and would bring “a fresh perspective and new ideas to the board.” Havaiana’s opened April 2 at 1049 Prospect St.

Swenson, an architect and a La Jolla native who recently moved back, said: “I’m interested in all the design aspects of [what this board does], such as the wayfinding signage project. I think I could really help out in those areas.”

Podway, a retired retail executive, has represented the board on other community planning groups, such as Coastal Access and Parking. “I look forward to making La Jolla the best place to live, work and play,” he said.

A motion to accept the candidates passed unanimously. They will be sworn in during LJVMA’s next meeting. The three are filling midyear vacancies and will need to run for a full term during the election this fall.

Other LJVMA news

“Spaces as Places”: Steve Hadley, representing the office of San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava (whose District 1 includes La Jolla) said the city’s “Spaces as Places” program was not heard during the May California Coastal Commission meeting as planned.

“We’re told maybe June,” Hadley said.

Spaces as Places, approved by the City Council in the fall, is intended to allow temporary outdoor dining and other community gathering spaces in the public right of way to be made permanent.

Many restaurants and some other businesses currently have permits for temporary outdoor business operations, or TOBO, that were granted during the COVID-19 pandemic to enable social distancing and ventilation. But those permits are to expire July 13, and those that have not received a Spaces as Places permit before the original permits expire would have to take down their temporary outdoor spaces.

Hadley said LaCava is working with the mayor’s office toward extending the existing outdoor dining permits beyond July 13.

The Coastal Commission must lend its approval to operations in the coastal zone, which includes much of La Jolla.

Full of pride: The theme for the June 3 La Jolla First Friday Art Walk will be “pride” in accord with LGBT Pride Month.

“I’m not sure La Jolla has ever celebrated pride, so I’m excited to see what our galleries come up with. They have been so creative,” said LJVMA board member and event organizer Katey Longo.

The First Friday Art Walk, from 4 to 7 p.m. the first Friday of each month, invites Village galleries to stay open later and provide entertainment and refreshments in partnership with other local businesses.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Village Merchants Association next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 8, at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. Learn more at

— La Jolla Light staff writer Elisabeth Frausto contributed to this report.