Idea for LJ cityhood resurfaces

Group may challenge state law

Interest in making La Jolla its own city is bubbling to the surface again, but this time there’s a new twist -the possibility of challenging the state law that establishes rules for secession.

At a June 10 informational meeting at the La Jolla Library, about 20 people showed up to explore the idea that has been floated more than once, including in the 1940s. Called Independent La Jolla, the most recent effort in 2006 was dropped for a couple of reasons, said Melinda Merryweather, who has been behind the idea for more than 20 years.

The group wants to create a new city that would encompass the 92037 ZIP code area from Torrey Pines Golf Course to Turquoise Avenue, bounded on the east by Interstate 5 except for a small loop that would take in UCSD Medical Center and Thornton Hospital, La Jolla Country Day School, the police substation and a couple of office buildings.

The last time they tried, the completed fiscal analysis showed the city could support itself without any adverse impact on San Diego, in part because the City of La Jolla would have to pay mitigation or “exit alimony” to the city. The study estimated that those payments would be $4.6 million a year for four to eight years after the new city was formed.

That fiscal analysis showed a budget surplus of more than $5.2 million, according to a brochure put out by the group in May 2006.

While noting “there are lots of battles ahead,” Merryweather said Friday, “If we’ve ever had a chance it’s now, regardless of the state of the economy.”

In 2006, the two-year process of getting the information from the city for the feasibility study caused interest to wane, Merryweather said.

They also let go of the initiative because so many felt they would be unable to get residents in the rest of San Diego to support the secession.

State law requires that 50 percent plus one of the voters in the “mother city,” as well as in the proposed new city, approve the plan. Merryweather said the revitalized group is looking at a couple of options. One would be to follow the same requirements as before on the path to cityhood. The other would be to “change state law since no other city has been able to accomplish this,” she explained.

Attorney Paul Kennerson - a former member of the La Jolla Town Council who is widely known as the man who brought the lawsuit against the city in an effort to get the seals removed from the Children’s Pool - talked about the process last week.

He said he thinks the law could be challenged because it “poses an impossible burden” that would fall under equal protection and due process clauses of the state Constitution.

“Some strong, imaginative lawyering could carry the day,” he said.

Even so, he cautioned the group that they would likely face major opposition from such groups as the League of California Cities.

Among those attending last week’s meetings were prior supporters like Richard Smith and Don Dewhurst as well as Joe LaCava, president of the La Jolla Community Planning Association and Bird Rock Community Council, Town Council board members Cindy Thorsen, Egon Kafka and Michelle Addington,Merryweather said the core group includes people from earlier campaigns, including Audrey Geisel and La Jolla High Principal Dana Shelburn as well as Bill Kellogg and Karl Zobell. There’s also a new group of supporters, she added.

In all, about 100 people have signed up and said they want to be involved, she noted.

The group’s mission statement, which has been carried over from the earlier push, says it is an “informal group of local concerned citizens who care deeply about La Jolla … We believe local management would improve its quality of life, operate it more cost effectively for the benefit of the San Diego and the state of California now, and for generations to come.”

The group is a registered public advocacy nonprofit, a 501(c)4.

For information, e-mail


Steps to become a city

  • Circulate a petition and get the support of one-third of the registered voters in the proposed new city.
  • Conduct a feasibility study examining financial impacts on the “mother” city and looking at the new city’s viability.
  • Prepare a map detailing the new city’s boundaries.
  • LAFCO does its own analysis.
  • Gain approval from LAFCO.
  • Final vote: Voters in all of San Diego, including 92037 residents, cast ballots: voters in just 92037 cast ballots. Both ballots require 50 percent plus 1 voter for approval.