Merchants divided on future of monthly car show
By Pat ShermanA monthly car show on Girard Avenue has drawn both praise and criticism from merchants in the La Jolla Village.
The event, titled Nuts4Cars, began last year with five shows that each drew between 30 and 60 auto exhibitors, said organizer Howard Singer.
Bookstore owner Nancy Warwick and Realtor Claudette Berwin expressed displeasure with the event during last August’s meeting of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA). Though the event was originally held in the 7800 block of Girard Avenue, between Silverado and Wall streets, March’s show was moved a block south to accommodate some merchants’ concerns about a shortage of customer parking and other issues.
The event, held one Sunday per month from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., has thus far taken place without a city permit or street closure — something Singer said he felt was unnecessary.
“I’m very concerned about people walking around the cars in the street,” said Claudette Berwin, of Gallery Properties. “I’m also opposed to loitering — people sitting in chairs in the street next to their cars and on the sidewalks. I don’t think that’s conducive to the Village atmosphere and the merchants.
“I’ve always believed that it’s a great event,” added Berwin, who sits on the LJVMA board of directors, “but it needs to be moved to a different location.”
LJVMA board president Phil Coller said organizers of events, such as Nuts4Cars, are required by the city to obtain a special events permit. However, to obtain a permit an event must first receive the approval of community boards such as the LJVMA, Traffic and Transportation and the La Jolla Community Planning Association.
Singer said his frustration lies with the LJVMA, and that Coller and the organization’s executive director, Rosemary Murrieta, refused to meet with him — though Nuts4Cars was recently placed on the LJVMA’s April meeting agenda.
The LJVMA board lent its unanimous approval to the La Jolla Historical Society’s upscale annual car show, Concours d’Elegance, which took place last weekend.
“The merchants association has no objection to events being held in the Village, as long as they follow city regulations, and will assist people, if possible, if they follow the city’s regulations and permit process,” Coller said. “We’ve sent Howard, at his request, our procedures for holding events.”
Coller said the LJVMA also asks those requesting the association’s buy-in to obtain the approval of 80 percent of the merchants or businesses that will be impacted by their event.
Last week, Singer received signatures from 17 of 18 merchants in the 7700 block of Girard Avenue who support Nuts4Cars.
Bob Meanley, owner of Meanley’s Ace Hardware, was among the signatories. Though Meanley doesn’t work on Sundays, he said his staff reported favorably on Nuts4Cars.
“They seemed to think it was a fun, interesting event that made being in La Jolla on Sunday a more interesting experience,” Meanley said. “Business didn’t appear to be hurt by it.”
Meanley said Singer promised to leave some parking open for his customers. “I appreciate that cooperation,” Meanley said.
Michael McConnell, owner of the Coin Shop on Girard, said he is closed Sundays, but came in to his shop during Singer’s last event and had a chance to walk around and experience the car show, including an old police paddy wagon on display.
“I thought that was really cool,” McConnell said. “It really seemed like people were enjoying (the show). I didn’t see any reason, really, to not support it.”
Local radio personality and La Jolla Rotary Club President Ron Jones served as emcee for Singer’s March event. “I think it’s a good thing for the village,” Jones said. “It brings traffic and I’m surprised that the merchants association didn’t jump on board immediately to support him.
“Every other city has these (car shows), and it’s a Sunday morning. Who’s going to be impacted?”
Following a March 28 meeting with officials in the city’s Special Events Department, Singer at first said he was not certain whether he planned to continue holding his event in the Village.
Carolyn Wormser, executive director of the city’s Special Events Department, said that if Singer’s “event footprint and activities are identical in nature,” he can apply for a series permit, which costs $150 and is good for one calendar year.
“He’ll go through the same process that everybody else does,” she said. “It will be reviewed by the various departments that are affected by what he wants to do — police, fire, emergency, risk management — and the police department will provide him with a signage list and equipment list for closing the street.
“He will need to work with the community on mitigating the impacts and working out kind of a community relations plan with them.”
Singer also would need to obtain commercial general liability insurance to receive a permit.
With registration fees of $25 to $35 per car, Nuts4Cars shows bring in anywhere from $750 to $1,500 per month, minus expenses such as $225 to purchase gift cards for the winners and up to $125 for fliers.
Singer said he plans to start making regular donations from the car shows to the San Diego Police Officer’s Association’s Widows & Orphans Fund, starting this month with a check for about $550.
However, Singer said that at “70 years young” he doesn’t feel like going through the red tape of applying for a permit. “It’s a long process; a long ordeal,” he said.
Singer said resistance from community groups could make it impossible for him to obtain the community buy-in required by the city to obtain a permit, placing him in a “catch 22” scenario.
“If they insist on a permit and a permit cannot be obtained, we’ll just take our event to a shopping center,” Singer said, noting that he was considering parking lots at the Costa Verde shopping center and at Westfield UTC mall.
At press time, Singer said all Nuts4Cars shows have been postponed for the foreseeable future. The event’s website, nuts4cars.org, also was taken offline.