Former legislator backs cityhood idea

The Independent La Jolla movement gained at least one high-profile backer last week when the group held its second meeting to determine how to tackle its goal of creating the city of La Jolla.

Attorney Lynn Schenk, a former Democratic congresswoman who also served as chief of staff to former Gov. Gray Davis, told an audience of about 50 who attended the second meeting on July 8 that they have their work cut out.

“I’ve been impassioned about this for many years and am delighted to hear how you’re doing it,” she said. “But you need to be realistic about the cost, time and vagaries of Sacramento.”

She was responding to a question from Paula de Sousa, an attorney with Best, Best & Krieger, who told the group that changing state law might be a more realistic way of achieving independence than filing a lawsuit to try and overturn it.

She said a lawsuit, broached at the group’s first meeting by attorney Paul Kennerson, was “not realistic or viable” and would be a “very costly and very time-consuming” effort.

“It’s not the best first step,” she said, suggesting that it would be better to seek an amendment to the Cortese-Knox Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act.

The legislation sets the rules for when a community wants to withdraw from its “mother” city and requires that, after a series of preliminary requirements are met, residents of both the area wanting to detach and the population of the entire city to vote. The process is called a “special reorganization.”

If an area is outside a city’s boundaries and is an unincorporated community, it requires only a vote of those in the proposed new city.

“I have a feeling you would have a knee-jerk reaction if you try to get rid of the dual vote altogether,” de Sousa said.

Instead, she suggested that the law could be changed in such a way that it would be limited to cover communities of a certain population or amount of the budget of the larger city. Doing that, she added, might cut down on opposition from such groups as the League of California Cities, which have opposed secession efforts.

The attorney estimated that her bill to research and draft an amendment to the law would run from $10,000 to $20,000, but explained that other costs would be involved in getting the Legislature to act.

Schenk said she agreed with de Sousa that they have a “better chance of being successful with this route.” But it will be critical, she noted, for people in the group to contact local legislators to help sell the issue and to hire a lobbyist to carry the bill through Sacramento.

The cost would depend on “who it is” and could range from $50,000 to $100,000, she added. “It’s not that simple.”

Jim Fitzgerald, a La Jolla Community Planning Association trustee, said he felt it was important to present “compelling logic other than that we just want to do it” before going on the legislative tack.

Others asked if there were alternatives to consider. De Sousa said that the options were limited because one had been removed from the law - forming a community services district that acts as its own governing board within a city.

Just before the meeting wrapped up, Michele Addington - the acting treasurer and secretary - asked for people to volunteer to serve on Independent La Jolla’s board of directors. She said Thursday that she had about 10 who wanted to help, including four willing to be on the board.

While Schenk said that she would help the effort, she said she didn’t want to be on the board.

To see copies of the fiscal analysis completed in 2005 when Independent La Jolla last explored options and questions and answers about the group, click below.

March 2005 Fiscal Analysis

Questions and Answers

Statement of Purpose