Merchants group maps out improvement plans

Now in its second year, the La Jolla Shores Merchants Association is moving full speed ahead with plans to improve the neighborhood.

“The economy is always in our minds, but our goal is to make the Shores a better place, " said John Metzger of OEX Scuba and Kayak Shop, who chaired the group’s May meeting.

The Shores has 180 registered businesses and the meetings, normally held at 4 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at Papalulus, usually draw about 25 members - landlords, shop owners, restaurateurs and consultants.

They’ve already helped with a solution to parking, figuring out how to accommodate commercial loading while finding more spaces for visitors at peak times. They worked with the La Jolla Shores Association and Traffic and Transportation Committee to reconfigure parking times and turned the formerly underutilized triangle at the corner of El Paseo Grande and Avenida de la Playa into nine new parking spots.

Fall Fest returning

And they hosted their first Fall Fest last year and are now making plans for another, Metzger said.

It’s tentatively set for 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25.

“It will be bigger and better,” said Izzy Tihanyi, president of the association and co-owner of Surf Diva with her sister Coco.

The group has focused on safety, cleanliness and beautification issues, she said.

“We are beach businesses, restaurants with character,” she said, adding that many like hers are family run.

While tourists keep them going for the 10 weeks of summer and spring break, it’s the locals they count on the rest of the time.

“We want people to think of us when they think about buying birthday presents and baby clothes, or going to the dentist or to dinner or even to come to us to buy sunscreen instead of going to CVS,” Tihanyi said.

And now, with the addition of Yogurt Escape, the La Jolla Art Association’s gallery and Two Top Realty, there are more businesses to frequent, she said.

The Fall Fest was created to thank their neighbors and show off the businesses, Metzger said.

Focus on safety

It’s also why they have worked to raise money for benches along the streets and conducted a “walking audit” to focus on pedestrian safety.

Noting that people often ignore the stop sign at Avenida de la Playa and Calle de la Plata, Tihanyi said, they worked to move the sign into the street and are preparing to put in landscaping in pots while they watch to see if their solution works.

They’re about to add hanging baskets like those in the Village and are talking about hanging banners that would identify the Shores as a “beach business district.”

“We want to create a destination … to redo the street so it has a character of its own,” Tihanyi said.

Through all of their efforts, the Shores merchants are focusing on being “green,” she added, using a sidewalk cleaning service that has no runoff and installingg a Big Belly solar trash compactor.