Council OKs settlement on claim against Promote La Jolla, new group in offing


By Kathy Day

Staff Writer

The city attorney’s office and the insurance carrier for Promote La Jolla have worked out a settlement on a claim seeking repayment of $112,070, Councilwoman Sherri Lightner told those attending a meeting on Thursday aimed at getting a new organization started to run the La Jolla business improvement district.

The settlement earned only a passing mention as Lightner encouraged businesss people to get “passionate” about forming a new group quickly so they could apply to the city to run the bid. She brought three speakers who talked about the merits of being part of a business improvement district.

Details of the settlement have not been released because it has not been signed and the parties are bound by a confidentiality agreement, but Lightner said the city council approved the terms on Tuesday.

“Once this is signed, this chapter is closed,” she said, speaking to about 35 business owners and community members.

After an hour or so of cheerleading and encouragement from the speakers, Phil Coller of Everett Stunz, the luxury bath and linens shop on Girard Avenue, stepped up and asked how to get things moving quickly. A few minutes later he asked for a signup sheet and was the first to put his name on the list.

About nine others joined him, volunteering to be part of a group to get the ball rolling and Lightner said her office and the Business Improvement District Council would put out a call immediately for more committed business people.

One of the speakers, Patrick Edwards — president of the citywide Business Improvement District Council and a founder of the North Park BID — said they needed 15 people. The other speakers were Warren Simon, formerly executive director of the Hillcrest BID and a member of the BID Council Foundation, and Jimmy Parker, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association.

In order to enter the BID contract process, a proposal must be submitted to the council in early January for the right to manage the district. A group needs to be formed, with tax exempt and nonprofits status approved, bylaws written and a board formed.

When Rick Wildman, president of the still existing Promote La Jolla nonprofit, noted that he already had applied for nonprofit status, Edwards said it was possible there could be more than one applicant and that it would be up to the city council to select one to manage the district.

Promote La Jolla, while still existing and holding board meetings, has been without funds since the city failed to renew its contract following a city auditor’s 2009 report that outlined “alleged accounting irregularities and possible misuse of city funds” totalling $112,070. It named the board of Promote La Jolla, which managed the business district that is funded by fees paid on business tax bills by about 1,200 Village merchants. Also named were former PLJ president Deborah Marengo and former treasurer Reza Ghasemi and former executive director Tiffany Sherer. (Both Marengo and Ghasemi attended Thursday’s meeting as did several other former PLJ directors.)

Funds recently started flowing back to La Jolla’s business district, which is now managed by the city staff who looks to Wildman and three of the PLJ directors as their official “advisers.”