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La Jolla business district structure isn’t working

When the city auditor’s report on Promote La Jolla was issued last June, we wondered about the city’s oversight role with the business improvement districts. Their lack of it was called out in the auditor’s report, which urged changes in how the city works with the districts.

Now it’s nine months later and we’re still wondering.

It used to be that Promote La Jolla hired its vendors and sent bills along to the city for reimbursement. The city paid them, apparently without good oversight — one of the issues that led to the audit.

Now that the city has taken the management reins of what is called the La Jolla Business Improvement District, getting anything done seems next to impossible. When the new arrangement was approved, it seems that no one sat the “advisers” down or explained to the broader merchant group what the ground rules are. Are multiple bids required over a certain dollar amount? If a committee (say the Pet Parade group) wants to pay for something to support their project, how do they do it?

The current flap over getting new hanging baskets for the Village installed and maintained is a perfect example of something that’s not working.

It’s been two weeks since the advisers approved the deal, with only one bid despite a challenge from a member who’s out seeking more economical ways to accomplish the task. We’re still waiting for answers and action.

With the new set-up, it’s not at all clear if the merchants are getting value out of the fees they pay to the business improvement district. Since the city council approved the new La Jolla group, not much has gotten done, other than collect fees.

We don’t think La Jolla’s Village merchants and business owners are getting ANY bang for their buck.

Are there other options? Probably, but we should tread cautiously down the road proposed by PLJ President Rick Wildman (now a Town Council trustee) who has said he thinks the answer is a 92037 business group under the Town Council’s auspices.

Local businesses are struggling in this economy. If the value is not there, the district should be disbanded until the business community determines how they want to proceed. That would require repealing or amending the ordinance establishing the entity — approved by businesses when the BID was set up. We think it’s time to consider that option.