As Promote La Jolla settlement nears, new group taking shape

By Kathy Day

Staff Writer

As merchants work to organize a new Village business group, a settlement in the claim against Promote La Jolla, two former board members and the executive director has apparently been reached.

Before the Light’s press time on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the city attorney’s office would say only that a settlement was being finalized.

But at a meeting of the PLJ board on Nov. 10, President Rick Wildman announced at that four of the five remaining directors had agreed to sign the deal. (Former PLJ president and current board member Deborah Marengo, a party to the claim as an individual, abstained from that vote.)

The only detail Wildman alluded to was that $65,323 in funds taken by First Republic Bank to cover an overdue payment on a line of credit would be “reconstituted by the settlment.”

The claim had sought repayment of $112,070 — a figure that includes the money seized by the bank that PLJ had been holding in trust for the Coastal Access and Parking Board. A city auditor’s report claimed that was the amount allegedly misused or double-billed.

When asked last week by board member Jennifer Clark what were the next steps, Wildman said, “Once the prospect of the lawsuit is done, we can meet and decide how to wrap it up … we need to get this thing put to sleep.”

He added that he was hopeful the city would release funds caught up in the claim so PLJ can settle with creditors.

Meanwhile, at the third of a continuing series of Monday morning coffees, consultant Mike McLaughlin told 13 in attendance that in talking to people around town he is hearing there is “real interest in forming a new group” to apply to the city to run the business improvement district.

He emphasized that his message has been that without a group he dubbed a “not-for-profit business betterment corporation,” business owners aren’t getting much of a say in how their assessments are being spent.

(Currently the city is managing the business district with advice from four PLJ board members designated as “advisers.”)

McLaughlin estimated that once the city approves a group to replace Promote La Jolla as the organization running the district, there likely would be about $250,000 to be spent on projects to improve the prospects for business in La Jolla. The funds can be used for beautification, security, promotion and special events, he explained.

It’s up to you to answer the question “How are you going to spend it?” he added.

Phil Coller of Everett Stunz on Girard Avenue is among those who have offered to serve on a new board. The key, he said, is to “get people together and have a big voice.”

He got nods of support from around the room when he said the group has to change “the perception that it’s hard to get in and out of La Jolla,” especially among those in the 30-mile radius around the community.

The group will meet again the next two Mondays at 8:30 a.m. at Hennessey’s, and McLaughlin is planning a larger gathering for either Dec. 1 or 2 at the Rec Center. At that time, he said, the effort will move to its organizational phase, with the goal to form several committees to work on by-laws, elections and budget matters.

McLaughlin also said he would set up smaller meetings at times convenient for business owners. Contact him at (619) 295-5171 or