Independent La Jolla votes to seek change in state law

Group aims to solicit support of legislator

Choosing among three alternative “paths” for seeking cityhood for La Jolla, members of Independent La Jolla voted overwhelming for a proposal to seek changes in state law to relax requirements placed on a seceding city.

Then they decided their next step, which would be to solicit the support of a local legislator to carry a bill to achieve that objective.

Nine of the 20 or so attending the Feb. 17 meeting at the La Jolla Riford Library favored the “legislative” alternative in a voice vote.

Four others opted instead for the existing secession approach, which is to secure a ballot measure requiring a simple majority (50 percent plus one) of residents within the new city’s boundaries, as well as the rest of the city of San Diego, for passage.

One person supported a third option — to file a lawsuit challenging the law governing how sections of cities, like La Jolla, can separate from “parent” entities and become their own cities.

After the meeting Richard Smith, a longtime La Jolla cityhood proponent who has been among those members of Independent La Jolla leading discussions on potential incorporation, said he liked the discussion surrounding the group’s voice vote. But he had “no opinion” on its outcome.

“I really didn’t care which way they went,” he said. “I can think of a lot of pluses and minuses for any of the three (options).”

Smith added it was important for the group, formed as a membership-based nonprofit public advocacy group, to come to some kind of a consensus on which direction to go.

“The more support you have for any one of the three (options), the more likely the pluses are going to win over the minuses,” he said.

Nearly all of those assembled agreed that whatever direction is chosen in the attempt to achieve cityhood, it will ultimately require a lot of money — and that there is little or none immediately available to launch the effort.

Acknowledging funding is a problem, longtime La Jollan and cityhood proponent Melinda Merryweather said she had faith that financing is not an insurmountable dilemma.

“All we need is somebody to step forward with $2 million and they can be founder of the city of La Jolla,” she said. “It’s just a question of money. That’s all it is. I know there’s somebody out there who can write that check.”

An initial fiscal analysis for La Jolla’s proposed incorporation done by Berkeley-based Economic & Planning Systems (EPS) published March 21, 2005, concluded creating a new city of La Jolla would be financially feasible. Done with the cooperation of the city of San Diego, based on cost and revenue projections for an entity within the 92037 ZIP Code boundaries, that analysis projected an approximately $5.9 million general fund surplus for a new city of La Jolla.

Rules presently governing incorporation require any entity detaching from an existing city and becoming independent to make a mitigation payment, so-called “alimony,” to compensate the city it’s leaving for lost revenues. The IFA analysis also determined if La Jolla separated from San Diego, San Diego could experience a $4.6 million loss annually.

“Assuming the mitigation payment is equal to the estimated $4.6 million net loss, the new city (of La Jolla) would experience an annual surplus of $1.3 million in the third year,” concluded EPS’s fiscal analysis.

Independent La Jolla also opted to form a working committee, something the group intends to do at its next meeting on March 17, in lieu of establishing a board of directors, which members agreed was premature at this point.