Funds sought for LJ holiday decorations

$7,000 is needed for signs, lights

With the continuing recession and a business improvement district in financial limbo unable to collect funds, La Jollans are once again being asked to “dig deep” to come up with $7,000 needed to put up the “Season’s Greetings” sign and holiday streetlight decorations.

“We’ve collected about $2,700 so far,” said Joe LaCava, president of two local community advisory groups. He took up the holiday fundraiser when it became clear that the financial predicament of Promote La Jolla (essentially without funds until/unless the city decides to renew its contract) would prevent the group from funding holiday signage and decorations as it has done annually.

LaCava noted that the holiday fundraiser is a grass-roots effort, underscoring just how important the role PLJ has played in beautifying the Jewel and polishing its image.

A Web site for holiday donations has been set up at

  1. LaCava talked about what will happen if the fundraiser exceeds its $7,000 target. “We’ll go back to those donors and give them the option of having their donation returned, or redirect it to some other fundraising effort like street cleaning, watering hanging baskets or the Christmas parade,” he said.

Other programs PLJ has funded in the past included the hanging flower baskets and supplementing street cleanup. Donations currently are being solicited to pay for basket care.
The holiday fundraiser is just the latest last-ditch effort to save a traditional community event threatened with closure in La Jolla during a recession-wracked year. It all began in June when restaurateur George Hauer announced that he was canceling the Fourth of July fireworks he had sponsored for 24 years at the Cove because of rising costs.

That cancellation led to an Internet fundraising campaign launched by La Jolla native and business consultant Adam Harris and former PLJ President Deborah Marengo, which raised the $27,000 needed to resurrect the fireworks display.

That Internet fundraiser generated enough funds to cover this year’s event with some to spare.

“We have about $15,000 for next year’s event,” said Harris, noting that the event Web site is being reconstructed. “We’re conceptualizing what the new site will look like and how it will change,” he said. “That will probably get done next month.”

Harris added that the fireworks fundraising group was also approved for nonprofit status.

“We’re actually meeting with attorneys in the next two weeks to solidify all that,” he said.

Harris expressed doubts that a portion of fireworks funds could be turned over to the holiday fundraiser.

“We would definitely entertain the notion of starting a new (fundraising) drive, but we would have to be cautious about intertwining the two separate entities,” he said, adding that commingling events would present a multitude of organizational and accounting problems.

A third traditional community event, La Jolla Concerts by the Sea, which has provided free live Sunday summer music concerts at Scripps Park since 1984, nearly had to be shut down this year due to funding issues.

If not for local government grants and contributions from residents, the concert series might have ended this year.

“This past season, we’d contracted with 11 bands without having the sponsors,” said Shirleymae Davis, who heads the nonprofit that handles the concert series. “Our plan is we will solicit sponsors early in the calendar year, and depending on how many sponsors we get, we will have that many concerts, up to nine.”

Davis said it costs about $2,400 to sponsor each concert. Sponsors typically have been community service groups such as Kiwanis or Rotary. But some individuals have stepped forward, including an anonymous donor whose last-minute contribution guaranteed a successful conclusion for 2009’s summer concert season that concluded in September.