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La Jolla city group gets tips

Encinitas Mayor Maggie Houlihan’s recommendation on cityhood for La Jolla: Go for it.

“You’ve got the hotels, the restaurants, the tourist shops; such a rich mix of commerce and retail and really fine neighborhoods,” Houlihan, a former UCSD librarian, told incorporation backers at an Independent La Jolla community meeting Dec. 2 at Riford Library. “You are a cash cow.”

Encinitas and Solana Beach were the last two communities to successfully incorporate in San Diego County back in 1986.

A cityhood movement, discussed off and on for many years, is re-emerging in the Jewel as financially strapped city services during the ongoing recession have led local residents to again question whether they might not be better off doing things themselves.

“The most important thing for La Jolla is that feeling that they are in charge of their own destiny, making those decisions that reflect their values,” Houlihan said, adding the character of coastal communities can be ruined by poor planning or overdevelopment.

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 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.

For La Jolla to successfully “secede” from San Diego would require a simple majority (50 percent plus one) vote of the residents within the new city’s boundaries as well as the rest of San Diego.

Longtime La Jolla cityhood supporter Melinda Merryweather said the community is at a crossroads now with incorporation.

“We could go to Sacramento and ask that the law (requiring alimony) be changed so that we’re not forced to stay in this bad marriage,” she said. “Or we can try to convince the people of San Diego that, by La Jolla becoming its own city, that we can make it a better place for all of San Diego.”

Houlihan said, “The biggest challenge is getting that alimony payment which is pretty substantial for as long as eight years,” adding that just applying to start the process costs $13,000. “It is very expensive, it is hard work and it takes a whole community.”

She advised that “the next step would be to sit down with the (Local Agency Formation Commission person who will be able to tell them about state and local laws and some of the challenges of applying,” she said.

The next Independent La Jolla meeting will be Jan. 13.