Grant jumpstarts Shores business district

Business owners in La Jolla Shores are using $8,500 in grant funds from the San Diego BID Council for beautification and improvements to the Avenida de la Playa strip.

The work is a first step in efforts to come together as an unofficial business improvement district (BID).

Izzy Tihanyi, owner of Surf Diva, 2160 Avenida de la Playa, has been the driving force behind the initiative, organizing meetings, communicating with residents and merchants, and completing the original grant application filed several months ago for the grant.

“I just feel like Avenida de la Playa is one of the most beautiful streets in the world, and we should clean it up and make it the best it can be,” Tihanyi said.

The La Jolla Shores area includes approximately 90 businesses, a significant shortfall from the 300 required for a formal BID. Still, Tihanyi and a handful of other merchants recognized the value of teamwork.

“When you have an organization, it’s easier to put programs together,” said Diana Spyridonidis, CEO of the BID Council. “It’s easier to find out what people in the community want when you have that structure.”

In addition to funding, the BID Council offers community professionals assistance and information on a wide range of topics related to making “the area a better experience for people who live and shop there.”

The first La Jolla Shores business district meeting drew four people. A recent decision-making gathering attracted more than 20 businesses.

With the grant’s spending deadline - June 30 - rapidly approaching, the group is eager to complete the tasks on its priority list. Sidewalks are in the process of being power-washed, and proposals for new benches and hanging baskets of flowers are awaiting approval from the La Jolla Shores Association. (LJSA).

Changes to improve parking are also underway, a joint effort between the business owners and the LJSA.

“Besides looking really pretty, we also want it to be safe,” Tihanyi said.

The benches and baskets are similar to ones already in place in the Village. Maintaining consistency was important even though the Shores has a different feel than downtown La Jolla, Tihanyi said.

“I think we compliment each other,” she said, “but sometimes people forget we exist.”

Several ideas are being considered to create a singular identity for the Shores business community, both within La Jolla and San Diego. Tihanyi said they are looking for a “cool name” like Cedros becoming known as the Design District. Creating a community event is also under discussion. Other projects include establishing a Web site, installing surveillance cameras and improving lighting.

The Shores isn’t limited to just beach biz, Tihanyi said. There are high-end boutiques, shops and great restaurants. Bibby’s Crepe Cafe recently opened a second location on Avenida de la Playa and The Kitchen, next door to Bibby’s, is a favorite lunch spot for Shores regulars.

“It’s important to let locals know that these restaurants are open,” Tihanyi said.

Calling themselves a “working group,” Tihanyi and founding members Don Goertz, architect, John Metzger of OEX, Greg Rizzi of La Jolla Shores Hotel and Fabio Speziali of Osteria Romantica are still designing the group’s infrastructure and goals.

“It’s really great to see the community coming together,” Tihanyi said.