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GUEST COMMENTARY: Just the facts, ma’am, about an independent La Jolla

By way of introduction, I’m an environmental scientist and consultant, with a 38-year career, primarily in the public works arena. I have provided budgetary input at the federal, state, county, municipal and local levels for much of that career. In her Jan. 22 letter to the La Jolla Light, resident Melinda Merryweather says that I am “… so wrong” to question the feasibility of La Jolla becoming a city independent of San Diego. She then cites the 2005 Initial Fiscal Analysis (IFA) that was prepared by Richard Berkson, principal in the consulting firm Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. We know that the IFA is no longer valid because the data in it is so old, but since Ms. Merryweather brought it up, let’s take a closer look at it.

The IFA presents a budget model that concludes it is fiscally feasible for La Jolla to become an independent city, and projects a budget surplus of $5.2 million at the end of the first full year of operation. The cost side of the budget model contains dollar figures obtained from the City of San Diego that represent the amount spent by the city on La Jolla for each line item. If the proponents of an independent city aren’t satisfied with the level of services provided by San Diego, than each of those dollar amounts, on their face, are too low. Additionally, the cost side of that budget model does not contain several significant cost items, such as the following.

Capital Costs: There are no costs for desks, phones, computers, radios, tools, vehicles, office space, or hundreds of other items needed for the day-to-day operation of a city. What are the proponents going to do – run the new city from their kitchens? These items won’t eliminate the projected surplus on their own, but will be a significant cost.

Contract Costs: Costs associated with services that will be contracted back to San Diego, such as police, fire, street sweeping, lifeguards and others, are not fully included. Only the administrative costs to the new city for these items are figured into the IFA. It is easy to foresee situations where these costs by themselves could deplete the projected surplus.

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Utility Underground Projects: While these may have come about after the 2005 IFA was prepared, there are currently more than $100 million worth of utility undergrounding projects on the books for La Jolla, but for which no money has yet been allocated. Where will this money come from? This item alone could use up the projected surplus.

Infrastructure Costs: The IFA includes $2.1 million per year for road maintenance. We already know that one section of one project on Torrey Pines Road required an additional $2.5 million to complete. The entire Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project was estimated to cost $25 million! Where would this money come from? The Jan. 15 La Jolla Light contained a La Jolla infrastructure priority list of projects from the La Jolla Community Planning Association, which were not considered in the IFA. The public must realize how expensive infrastructure projects can be, and all one needs to do is drive around La Jolla to see, and feel, the condition of many streets and roads. If the Independent La Jolla group can really fix potholes for $8 apiece, I’ve got a shovel they can borrow. But our local infrastructure repairs entail a lot more than just filling potholes. That projected surplus is looking less and less viable now, isn’t it?

Community Groups: There were no costs included for community groups, such as the Bird Rock Community Council, La Jolla Shores Association, and the La Jolla Village Merchant’s Association. Each of these entities receives money from San Diego, and also apply for additional grant money. This item needs to be included in the budget model.

I discussed these cost items with Mr. Berkson and he agreed that the Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis should include them. So, when, and if, Independent La Jolla can raise the money to hire a consultant to prepare the required Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis, the consultant needs to provide us with accurate, realistic, complete, and valid financial data that truly represents the cost of starting up and running a city. Any projected surplus resulting from the new analysis must be a lot larger than the $5.2 million projected in 2005.

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The above cost items provide the basis for my concerns about the feasibility of becoming independent. But, let’s get a realistic analysis and see what the dollars tell us. As a scientist, I want to see hard data, and emotional arguments, or comparisons to Del Mar, won’t take that data’s place. As Tom Cruise said in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money!” Then we’ll see how “wrong” I really might be.

Disgusting dog doo-doo defaces Village sidewalks

For the last several months I can’t help but notice that Eads Avenue sidewalk has officially become doggy poop alley. My husband and I refer to it as “the poop street.” Someone or several individuals allow their dog(s) to poop in the middle of the sidewalk and don’t pick up.

Every day I walk my stroller dodging the poop (which has almost always been stepped on and smeared across sidewalk in several places). What is going on? There are new piles every couple of days!

Can we get some complimentary doggy poop bags on Eads Avenue? Perhaps a friendly reminder can be installed stating we all enjoy walking in La Jolla and shouldn’t have to dodge large piles of poop or smell it while out for a nice walk.

The worst seems to be between Silver and Silverado streets. When it first started happening, I thought it was a one-time thing, like someone didn’t have a bag. However, it continues daily and I’m tired of getting doggy poop on my baby’s stroller!

Hope the offender (or offenders) will show some common courtesy to their neighbors and pick up after their dogs!

Andrea Auerbach, La Jolla

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Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light took this issue right to the top and received this response from City Council President Sherri Lightner’s communications director, Jennifer Kearns: “Technically, leaving pet waste in any area where it could get into the storm drain system (such as a sidewalk near an inlet), and eventually a local waterway, is a violation of Municipal Code §43.0302, as pet waste is considered to be a source of bacteria.

“However, it is very difficult to enforce, because to my knowledge, the violator (and their owner) must be caught in the act by an enforcement officer in order to receive a violation. Currently, the city’s Code Enforcement Division does not list pet waste/feces as a priority violation. Imminent safety hazards, etc. are ranked higher; please see sandiego.gov/nccd/about/enforcement.shtml

The city does have a pollution prevention outreach program called Think Blue (thinkblue.org) that addresses these types of issues.”

The Light visited thinkblue.org to learn this disturbing fact: Dog poop left on the ground is not a small problem. It is estimated that the typical dog excretes between one half to three quarters of a pound of waste per day. In San Diego alone, there are an estimated 600,000 dogs — that is roughly 136 million pounds of poop per year; and this helpful fact: You can request “Scoop the Poop” lawn signs (for pick up only) by e-mailing a request to: thinkblue@sandiego.gov

Relocate sea lions to islands north of La Jolla

I’ve spent the last 48 years at La Jolla beaches, and still swim regularly at the Cove. Locals all know that there were not many (if any) sea lions on the beaches about 10 years ago. They were on the rocks, although there was not nearly as many, maybe one fourth the amount, at most.

I believe the best answer to fixing this dilemma is to relocate most of the sea lions to an area that has more food, yet similar to the feeding grounds in La Jolla. I’ve spent time at San Clemente Island and noticed many similarities in the habitat there. There has always been much more of the same fish species in the kelp beds, and there has been an abundance of bait fish not far off shore there for many years. The kelp beds are also the same macrocystis pyrifera species as in La Jolla, and have been growing prolifically for years. Some areas of Catalina would be good for sea lions, as well. Both islands have many untouched areas away from humans where sea lions would be more comfortable.

Me and the many other swimmers who swim miles every day from sun-up to sun-down at the Cove would be more comfortable without the sea lions there. I’ve been charged by huge bull sea lions as I swam, which I assume were attempting to mate. Also, the swimmers and tourists who come to snorkel and dive at the Cove would be more comfortable not having the huge amounts of fowl-smelling sea lion feces and afterbirth that wash off the rocks into the water. There must be more than 1,000 people there on a summer day. The Children’s Pool rarely ever has that many people on the beach.

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The only other answer is that the Great Whites will soon be here in larger quantities to eat their favorite food, the sea lions, and maybe a few humans …

SeaWorld would be a great choice for catching and releasing the sea lions.

Robert Fletcher

Inn not responsible for milky fluid in gutter

Let me start by saying I very much enjoy reading your newspaper each week.

I was surprised, however, when my property was mentioned by name in your Tarnishing Our Jewel article Feb. 12 “appearing to have been flowing down from Fay Avenue at a source near the Best Western Plus Inn by the Sea at 7830 Fay Ave.”

I hope that once the city has completed its investigation, you will print an article that clears up the misnomer that the hotel may be somehow responsible. On a more positive note, we are nearing completion of our guestroom and public area renovation, and invite you to take a look at how we are polishing our portion of The Jewel.

Sheldon Joyner, General Manager, Best Western Plus Inn by the Sea

More facts about athlete head trauma

In response to the article by Pat Sherman on high school athlete head trauma in the Feb. 5 issue, here are a few editorial issues:

  1. There’s still a tendency to label concussions as “mild” or “severe,” which we have abandoned.

  2. No helmet has been shown to prevent concussions despite claims to the contrary.

  3. There is no evidence that confirms CTE is solely caused by concussions. Think about how many NFL players do NOT get CTE despite multiple concussions. So much needs to still be studied with this, but the importance of proper concussion management is imperative.

  4. Baseline testing is very useful but I totally agree about the importance of athletic trainers on the sidelines of every game.

  5. I’d like to advocate for Athletes Saving Athletes as an organization helping students become educated and foster peer-to-peer communication: injuredathletes.org/about-asa-program/

It’s great these articles are being written and kudos to Dr. Hayden and coach Hernandez for their efforts!
Alan Shahtaji, D.O. CAQ-SM, Director, UCSD Concussion Clinic

Update on vaccination rate at Gillispie School

In the Feb. 5 edition of the La Jolla Light, The Gillispie School was listed as having 74 percent (23 out of 31) of kindergarteners up to date on their vaccinations. In actuality, 91 percent (29 out of 32) of kindergarteners are current in all their vaccinations.

The website mentioned in the article was using data last updated by San Diego County as of Oct. 15, 2014. If you could correct this information, I would greatly appreciate it.

Alison Fleming, Head of The Gillispie School


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