Festival of Lights contest: It's On!

La Jolla Village Merchants Association announces ‘Festival of Lights,’ elects officers, grapples with PROW issues

The La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) is hoping to make the holiday season a whole lot brighter in the Village with its new “Festival of Lights” contest.

Business owners in the Village of La Jolla are asked to festoon their storefronts and/or interiors with twinkling lights, trees, menorahs, dreidels, mistletoe, wreaths, garland and/or other holiday décor. “The whole idea is just to get more lights, more energy and more excitement in the Village,” said LJVMA Executive Director Sheila Fortune.

The competition began Nov. 15 and runs through New Year’s Eve. Businesses can compete for a “Holiday Spirit Award” in each of the following categories: Best Small Restaurant (25 seats or less), Best Large Restaurant (26 seats or more), Best Nonprofit, Best Art Gallery, Best Hotel/Motel, Best Retail Storefront, Best Professional Business and Best Overall Business.

Businesses may also complete for the most “Likes” on the LJVMA’s Instagram page using the hashtag #LaJollaHolidaySpirit

Winners will be selected by an independent panel of judges at the end of the year and announced during LJVMA’s January board meeting. E-mail events@lajollabythesea.com for a contest application, or phone (858) 454-5718.

In other LJVMA news

Officers elected: Six new LJVMA board members took their seats during the group’s Nov. 12 meeting at Cuvier Club, including: Elsie Arredondo of Monarch Gallery; businessman and consultant Paul Burke; Michael Dorvillier of Symbio Financial; attorney Glen Rasmussen; Richard Walker of Richard Walker’s Pancake House; and Terrance Underwood of the Grande Colonial Hotel. In addition, the board re-elected Claude-Anthony Marengo as board president and Krista Baroudi as secretary and elected James Niebling as vice-president and Burke as treasurer.

Cove odor monthly spraying: President Marengo said he met recently with Mayor Kevin Faulconer to discuss several issues, coming away with the mayor’s commitment to spray the bluffs at La Jolla Cove on a monthly basis — “whether it needs it or not” — to help manage the pungent, business-deterring odor there from a continual buildup of bird and marine mammal excrement, which has returned after a brief reprieve.

“We’ve got some commitment that we can follow up on,” Marengo said. “A least if that doesn’t work then we (know) we have to move on to other options."

Communication with city: Marengo said he also would like the LJVMA’s executive committee to meet with the offices of the mayor and District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner on a quarterly basis to apprise the city of the merchants association’s progress and challenges, and let the city know how it can assist with its efforts to promote business in the Village.

Maregno said he and Fortune suggested to the mayor that the LJVMA collect a fee from business owners to regulate any signage they place within the public right-of-way (PROW), as the LJVMA currently does with tables, chairs, planters and other objects in the PROW.

“We can then (stipulate) the size, shape and location that sign can (be),” Marengo said, noting LJVMA is the only business improvement district (BID) group in San Diego that does not allow or regulate signage within the PROW.

“We’re the only one that says, ‘No way, Jose — you can’t have it,’ ” he said.

Fortune noted that other BID groups in San Diego have established guidelines for managing signage in the PROW, which LJVMA could use as a guideline.

Permit streamlining effort: Marengo said he also met with the city’s Development Services Director, Robert Vacchi, to discuss his plan to have the LJVMA offer its services to prospective business owners trying to navigate the often cumbersome process of obtaining permits and other city approval for development and renovations. He said many business owners find the process so daunting on their own that they take a proceed with the work first, and ask forgiveness later mindset.

Treasurer’s statement: Fortune reported total income of $88,076 from July to October, while expenses for the year were $82,864. “It’s really been a big, big change from last year to this year,” she said. “We’ve worked hard to generate more money, to watch our expenses and bring in more rent money, and it’s finally starting to pay off.”

Strategic planning: The LJVMA board voted to get a jump on 2015 and hold its annual strategic planning meeting during its next meeting, 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10 at the Cuvier Club, 7776 Eads Ave.

“We need to start thinking about subject matter — some things that we’d like to accomplish for next year, goals, anything new that we would like to do or improve,” Fortune said. “We’ve always been a little overzealous in our planning and our goals, so this year I’d like to kind of reign that in and pick a handful that we can really focus on. You guys have to run your businesses and by the time we put it all on paper it’s limited (as to) how much we can really take on.”

Marengo also noted a paucity of “wild” and “exciting” ideas proposed during the 2014 strategic meeting. “Some of them we got to put in play and some of them we didn’t,” he said. “I think it behooves the new directors to hear some of those ideas.”

The public is welcome to attend LJVMA meetings and learn more about the group’s activities. lajollabythesea.com

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