La Jolla merchants group debates board election process

La Jolla Village Merchants Association board candidate Marc Cormier speaks during a candidates forum Sept. 13.
La Jolla Village Merchants Association board candidate Marc Cormier addresses the audience during a candidates forum Sept. 13 at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Amid suggestions to distribute ballots and allow voting by mail, the board may review and possibly revise its bylaws.


With the La Jolla Village Merchants Association having more candidates than seats to fill in its upcoming board election for the first time in recent memory, there was heated discussion during the group’s Sept. 13 meeting about how to best distribute and return the ballots.

Thirteen candidates are looking to fill six available seats. Three of them are board members seeking reelection: Amber Anderson, the current president; Andy Fotsch, who is shepherding LJVMA’s ongoing directional signs project; and Japhet Perez, who was elected to fill a midterm vacancy after volunteering with the board for months.

During a candidates forum at this week’s meeting, new candidates gave brief statements, and those who were not in attendance submitted their statements to be read aloud. All submitted statements can be viewed at

Among those in attendance were Random Happiness Wellness owner Jen Graziano, Smart Fit Method owner Marc Cormier, Berkshire Hathaway La Jolla Realtor Elnaz Iraj, Historic La Jolla Walking Tours owner Chas. Dye, Mundoval Capital Management director AJ Johnson and CC Patio Lounge director Stephanie Thompson.

Those not in attendance were Playa Fit owner Candy Agundez, art gallery owner Klara Chavarria, Sweet Paper owner Karly Matzen and The Cottage restaurant owner Jason Peaslee.

Voting will take place in person from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 2-4, at the LJVMA office at 7734 Herschel Ave., Suite C, where ballots will be available. Transportation will be provided for those who want a ride to the office to vote and then be returned to their place of work.

One vote can be cast by each business owner or delegate. No absentee, proxy, mail, text or email ballots will be accepted.

A sample ballot will be emailed to the full list of active merchants.

LJVMA Executive Director Jodi Rudick said that in her time in the job, “we have never had more candidates than we had open seats.”

Anderson said some merchants have reached out to her for clarity about the election process and questioned whether in-person voting should be the only option.

She suggested that ballots be accepted by mail and the votes be kept secret by putting the business name on the outside of one envelope so the business can be verified as having paid its Business Improvement District assessment, and then placing the ballot in an envelope inside of that.

“That way, no one knows who is voting for whom,” Anderson said.

However, Rudick said the board had approved the election process at a meeting where Anderson was not present and that it was posted on the association website.

Board member Summer Shoemaker added that the group is limited to what is allowed by the bylaws. During the last election, she said, restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic allowed for modifications such as voting by mail.

“We need to follow the bylaws, which we didn’t necessarily have to before because we were able to make adjustments,” she said.

Anderson also suggested that ballots be mailed to all eligible voters “to ignite our merchants and let it be known that there is an election.”

But Rudick said there isn’t time to mail ballots ahead of the October election. Instead, she recommended that the bylaws be reviewed and possibly revised to allow different election protocols.

“But this late in the game, when we already have ballots in place … we are best suited to the election timeline that was approved by the board,” Rudick said.

The bylaws and election protocol will be revisited at a future meeting.

The ballots will be opened publicly and counted starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11. The results will be announced at the board’s meeting that day.

Other LJVMA news

Porsches on Prospect: After discussing the idea in June of LJVMA taking over the Porsches on Prospect event, Anderson announced Sept. 13 that the effort is over.

Porsches on Prospect, which brings dozens of the German high-performance autos to La Jolla to line Prospect Street for free public viewing as part of the Concours d’Elegance car show, is currently organized by McFarlane Promotions. On June 14, the LJVMA board voted to create a committee to explore whether it would be feasible to run the event if all parties agree.

This month, however, after speaking with the current organizers, “it has been decided that … they are going to keep it a Concours event,” Anderson said.

Creepy Candy Crawl: The annual Halloween trick-or-treating event in The Village now known as the Creepy Candy Crawl (formerly called Pillage the Village) will return from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31, along Girard Avenue.

Participating merchants will hand out candy to costumed children and host a costume contest. More details will be announced as they become available.

Next meeting: LJVMA next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. Learn more at ◆