Group forming to revive La Jolla


The mission is the same for all concerned: How best to polish “the Jewel”?

The “vision” and how to get there were the main topics at an informal meeting last week of eight people — all but one of whom are La Jolla Town Council trustees — discussing formation of a new group to replace the community’s former business improvement district Promote La Jolla, which ran into troubles following a city audit a year go.

Because a few people interested in spearheading the group were absent, no action was taken, although a lot of opinions came out.

Ed Ward, of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Association and an LJTC trustee, had a lot of support when he said, “La Jolla is our home. La Jolla is a community first, and a destination second.”

That sparked some discussion about whether the new group should be for residents and businesses — or one or the other — a topic they pushed off for later meetings, although the idea of a “community benefit district” that could serve both was floated.

Joe LaCava, president of La Jolla Community Planning Association, the advisory group that makes land-use recommendations to the city, made it clear that defining their mission is the first step.

“What is La Jolla?” he asked. “Where has La Jolla gone? A lot of people feel it’s been lost and they’re struggling to get it back.”

Town Council President Rick Wildman — also the president of the nearly defunct PLJ and adviser to the city for the replacement La Jolla Business Improvement District, which is filling the gap for marketing and beautifying the Village area —said he believes a new group could solve some of the issues being addressed by those who want La Jolla to become its own city.

“The (La Jolla) incorporation drive is too big a step right now,” he said. “The idea is to get people who want to be involved.”

The group is looking for guidance to Marco Li Mandri of New City America, a firm that has helped form 55 different districts of varying kinds in communities statewide.

He recently guided them around Little Italy, where his company operates a community benefit district. He had been expected to attend the June 17 meeting but was unable to so he rescheduled his visit.

“I gave them different options they can consider,” said Li Mandri, who helped Little Italy form its 14-year-old district. “There are models that exist all throughout the country. You can pick and choose the best models.”

Li Mandri said communities need to consider forming their own districts because cities in these recessionary times are increasingly hard pressed to maintain acceptable levels of public services.

La Jolla restaurateur George Hauer, owner of George’s At The Cove and a former PLJ director, said he wishes the new group well, but doubts the wisdom of trying to create one organization representing both residents and merchants.

“The business community has its own voice and the residents have their own voice, and sometimes they are at odds,” Hauer said.

“Downtown, Del Mar, Old Town all promote themselves,” he noted. “If you don’t promote you will be left behind.”

With the emergence of the Gaslamp District downtown and retail centers elsewhere, Hauer pointed out La Jolla is commercially no longer “the center of gravity” in the region.

“La Jolla is a beautiful destination, but if La Jolla wants to maintain itself as a thriving community, it needs a thriving business district,” he said.

The steering committee will next meet July 22 at 4 p.m. at The Riford Center, 6811 La Jolla Blvd.