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Kayak launch selection process suspended

The controversial La Jolla Shores process for determining weekend launch times is on hold.

“I have met with city staff and thoroughly assessed the Association’s concerns,” Stephen Lew of the mayor’s office wrote Monday in an e-mail to the La Jolla Shores Association. “We have temporarily suspended the lottery process to investigate and address your concerns. Please expect a response by Feb. 10.”

“We’re very pleased,” Jim Heaton, Shores Association chair, said Tuesday morning. “We look forward to working with the Kayak Association and the city to resolve the issues to everyone’s satisfaction.”

The Kayak Association is an ad hoc group of Shores operators who’ve banded together out of common concern over the selection process.

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Shores kayak operators and community planners were concerned about the criteria used by a panel judging kayak operators seeking launch times. The process began about six months ago when lifeguards complained the proliferation of kayaks on summer weekends was monopolizing their attention and causing an unacceptable number of accidents with swimmers.

Two of the panel of five judges, both Encinitas city employees, recently explained the rationale they used in judging kayak applicants.

Quality considered

Michael Stauffer, senior analyst in the Encincitas Parks and Recreation Department said, “Some of the criteria was based on the quality of the proposal - how well it was put together, its organizational skills, whether it was typed or handwritten, whether everything (business plan) made sense.”

He said they also evaluated the financial capability of the applicants and their capabilities, considering staffing and business volume.

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Encinitas head lifeguard Capt. Larry Giles said safety was critical in his analysis. He added all five judges were also given specific criteria to score each applicant on.

“It was pretty black and white,” Giles said, adding that thoroughness was an important factor. “If they didn’t put info that was requested into the RFP, that definitely affected the outcome.”

Seeking answers

The selection procedure has been called into question by some including longtime operator Doug Marshall of La Jolla Surf Systems who did not receive a permit and has appealed the decision.

Heaton said the Shores planning group and the community have seriously questioned the fairness and impartiality of the RFP process. They asked Councilwoman Sherri Lightner’s staff to find out “who was on the (RFP) committee, what was the (judging) criteria, and full disclosure on who was lobbying.”

Shores Association member Mary Coakley said the next step should be that “the kayak business owners should jointly decide on a proposal to regulate their businesses.

“Then the non-kayak businesses and residents should meet to decide what issues are important. Then representatives from both groups should come together and figure out a reasonable proposal to make to the city.”