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Council OKs plan for La Jolla business district

With about 25 La Jollans in the audience, the City Council on Monday unanimously approved a new form of a La Jolla Business Improvement District as well as a resolution collect assessments from businesses within its boundaries for the 2010 fiscal year.

The vote was 7-0 with Second District Councilman Kevin Faulconer absent.

“The (business improvement district) has suffered a lot,” said First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner. “This interim measure will serve us well. Hopefully, you’ll see them (BID) come back just fine.”

The assessments, formerly utilized by Promote La Jolla, were put on hold earlier this year by the city due to deficiencies revealed by a city auditor’s report in June. These assessments will go toward improvements and activities that benefit businesses within the boundaries of the downtown Village.

Under a recently worked-out arrangement with the city, Promote La Jolla and four of its directors will take on an advisory status to the city’s Small Business Office, which will administer the funds.

Also on Monday, the council also approved a $130,000 budget, outlining expenditures through June, developed by members of PLJ’s board with city officials. The measures require a second vote on Dec. 8 before they take effect.

Rick Wildman, PLJ president, characterized the council’s decision Monday as a “remarkable” sign of growing unity.

“There were so many community leaders there to support it and nobody spoke in opposition,” he said following the council hearing. “I felt good about how our community is a community — everybody working together.”

Wildman credited Councilwoman Lightner and Meredith Dibden-Brown of the city’s Small Business Office for the role they played in bringing the business district and its funding back to life.

“They both made this happen,” he said. “It’s just fantastic to see us and the city working together.”

Speaking in favor of the bid proposal at the council hearing, Joe LaCava said a yes vote by the council was a vote for self-help.

“This is not about dipping into the general fund,” he said. “This is about a group of merchants self-taxing themselves so they can help themselves.”

Lightner, who represents La Jolla, asked that the city staff implement the annual appropriation process and administer the La Jolla BID for the remainder of FY2010, to support La Jolla businesses which have been struggling to continue activities and provide services without the benefit of any business district assessments.

Council members Marti Emerald and Todd Gloria questioned whether any city general fund monies would be spent on the reconstituted district.

Dibden-Brown replied city staff time used for the La Jolla district will be recovered from business assessments and has been included in its budget. The budget allocates $16,000 for staff time as well as $1,500 for manual billing of the assessments by the city treasurer’s office.

The four-member advisory board to the city’s Small Business Office will be appointed by the council on Dec. 8. Rick Wildman, Jennifer Clark, Glen Rasmussen and Daisy Fitzgerald have been suggested as members of that board.

LaCava, who heads the La Jolla Community Planning Association, requested the advisory board be required to conform to the Brown Act requiring open public disclosure and public participation at legislative meetings.