Group mulls options for Promote La Jolla replacement

A grassroots group seeking to replace the nearly defunct Promote La Jolla (PLJ) is at a crossroads.

Will it choose the road less well-traveled in forming a new organization to represent local merchants and residents now that PLJ has lost its contract with the city in the wake of financial troubles?

That something new could be a community benefit district outlined in a proposal from New City America Inc., a company dedicated to business district revitalization and detailed by Town Council President Rick Wildman at the group’s meeting last week.

He’s also a member of a steering committee looking at options, which could include establishing a new business improvement district, building on the existing La Jolla Business Improvement District or forming a Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) — otherwise known as a Community Benefit District (CBD).

Wildman said forming a new BID or a new maintenance district are two worthy alternatives being considered concurrently. But he added that you can’t do both.

“They’re mutually exclusive: It’s one or the other,” he told Town Council members, adding that it would take about a year to create either new entity.

Noting that Bird Rock has a successful maintenance district in place, Joe LaCava, chairman of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, said at the July 8 Town Council meeting that it is a realistic means to achieve a goal.

“We all pay property and sales tax, and that entitles us to get city police, fire and other municipal services,” he said. “Some communities or neighborhoods vote to tax themselves to achieve a special benefit. It’s a very powerful tool.”

The Bird Rock MAD allows the community autonomy over maintaining its landscaped medians, a key component of roundabout traffic-calming, LaCava said. He noted that a benefit district, organized like a MAD, could enable La Jolla to pay for street sweeping, beautification and marketing of the Village merchant district without incorporating, an effort he characterized as “a monumental task.”

The proposal submitted by New City America to explore formation of such a district could carry a price tag estimated at $80,000 for research and execution.

Marco LiMandri of New City — which runs a program in Little Italy similar to what he proposed for La Jolla — said it was inappropriate for him to comment and deferred to Wildman.

The plan would be subject to public hearings and a vote for those who would be assessed to support the district. It would likely take until July 2011 to achieve, according to the proposal.

Asked where the $80,000 might come from to set up a community benefit district, Wildman said, “The money would come from the assessments.”

But Wildman added that the benefit district contract “isn’t even on the table, that’s just LiMandri’s proposal — just an example.”

Wildman added, “We are looking at options and not making any hasty choices.” He said the process to decide on what to do is “not going to happen fast. It’s not going to happen until the community decides that’s what everybody wants.”

Sunsetter gathering tonight

La Jolla Town Council’s Sunsetter community happy hour is from 5 to 7 tonight at Vigilucci’s, 909 Prospect St. in La Jolla.

Come to meet and mingle with local leaders in politics, the arts and nonprofits as well as local merchants, business professionals and your neighbors.

There will be complimentary hors d’oeuvres and drink specials. A free raffle with a $25 minimum value is being provided by local businesses and professionals.

Cost is $5 for La Jolla Town Council members and $10 for nonmembers, free for new members signing up and paying at the event.

For information, call John Weinstein at (858) 456-4995 or e-mail