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La Jolla cityhood proponents brace for next step

A group of La Jollans reigniting the drive for cityhood have come to a fork in the road on their long quest — several forks actually.

“We need to get people together and decide which path (to cityhood) we’re going to take,” said Melinda Merryweather, longtime incorporation proponent. “That will determine our next steps.”

Independent La Jolla, a registered public advocacy nonprofit, a 501(c)4, has formed with upward of 100 people signed up to promote cityhood. The group has begun hosting monthly meetings and is in the process of forming a governing board.

Mike Ott, executive officer of the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), the agency overseeing jurisdictional boundary changes including incorporation of cities and formation of special districts, said there are “lots of caveats” with every incorporation alternative.

“There isn’t a correct or incorrect way (to incorporate),” he said adding, “With every alternative, you have to come up with enough funds.”

It would be LAFCO’s call, said Ott, in determining the terms of any “alimony” payment from La Jolla to San Diego.

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.

“LAFCO would calculate the amount and determine whether that money would paid in a fixed period of time, say seven or eight years, or in perpetuity,” Ott added.

Ott said the administrative process involved in incorporating is “very complex,” with seven or eight major steps, including developing a service plan and conducting an environmental review and fiscal analysis.

“On top of that, there would be public hearings and then (likely) a public election,” he added.

Besides the complexity, there would be substantial cost.

“We estimate for La Jolla that the cost would easily top $800,000 for the entire process,” Ott said.

Merryweather said the community has three primary choices regarding how to attempt to incorporate: go to Sacramento and try and change the law requiring the seceding city to make “alimony” payments to the mother city; get it on a ballot requiring a simple majority (50 percent plus one) of the residents within the new city’s boundaries as well as the rest of the city of San Diego for passage; or pay the city alimony outright in advance to leave.

No matter which path to cityhood La Jolla ultimately chooses, it will have to go through these time-consuming, preliminary steps:

  • Circulate a petition and get the support of one-third of the registered voters in the proposed new city.
  • Conduct a feasibility study examining financial impacts on the “mother” city and looking at the new city’s viability.
  • Prepare a map detailing the new city’s boundaries.
  • Have LAFCO do its own incorporation analysis.
  • Gain final approval from LAFCO.

Watch the Web site for information on the next meeting at www.independentlajolla.org or
e-mail independentlj@gmail.com.