Merchants organize new La Jolla Shores Business Association

Pop quiz: How many businesses are there in La Jolla Shores?

The answer: 150 ... and the newly formed La Jolla Shores Business Association (LJSBA) wants to make them all more visible. Formerly the La Jolla Shores Merchants Association, the group held a mixer April 22 to present its preliminary ideas for enhancing the Shores business district and giving it “an identity.”

Piatti restaurant manager and LJSBA member Tom Spano said he and five other business owners decided to form the association during brainstorming sessions held after each of a series of weekly meetings organized by the city. During the meetings, city staff provided the owners of hotels, offices, restaurants and non-merchant businesses in the Shores with updates on sewer and waterline work taking place along the business district’s main thoroughfare, which began in December 2013.

“The construction really brought us together,” Surf Diva co-owner Izzy Tihanyi said. “We realized we can’t just let this disruption happen without coming together and making the area better afterward.”

During the brainstorming sessions, the business owners discussed ways to enhance the area to make it more attractive to visitors. Hoping to establish a group with a unified goal of representing all types of businesses – and with the blessing of La Jolla Merchants Association’s founding members – the group was re-born as the La Jolla Shores Business Association. With its formation, the LJSBA established a new formal mission: “To promote economic vitality and community involvement in La Jolla Shores; by providing valuable services to our members and community; to participate and partner in initiatives that protect, beautify and improve the quality of life in La Jolla Shores area.”

“What we realized is that we, as a group of businesses, need to be more proactive in representing ourselves,” Spano said, adding that many areas have a Business Improvement District (BID) or Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) that businesses or residents can pay into. “We don’t have that here, so we need to be more creative and work together.”

The LJSBA could not be included in the La Jolla Village Merchants Association BID group because the Shores is located outside the Village’s 30-block BID boundary, Spano explained.

Member Angie Preisendorfer noted that 2 to 3 million people visit the beach at La Jolla Shores each year and her goal is redirect some of those visitors to the shops, restaurants and services near and along Avenida de la Playa.

LJSBA has already launched — a website that showcases Shores resources and businesses by category and lists events.

Other ideas include: installing a gazebo in Laureate Park, less than a half-mile from the beach on Avenida de la Playa and often mistaken for frontage of a four-story office building there; adding more lighting on Avenida de la Playa and making it uniform with existing lighting; adding more solar-powered trash compactors for public use; installing “you-are-here” maps that show surrounding businesses; and additional efforts that give the area “an identity,” such as an archway on both sides of Avenida de la Playa, similar to ones found in Solana Beach, Little Italy, Hillcrest and Encinitas; hosting more events like the Shores’ signature Fall Fest; and designing a logo to brand the area.

Mark McQueen, who established with his marketing business soBEso, said, “It’s up to us to generate ideas to help the businesses and community grow and thrive. We are going to start with projects, get the needed support and input, secure capital through fundraisers and grants, and execute those plans.”

The archway concept generated immediate excitement and support from attendees. Spano said the first step would be to determine project costs and solicit private donations. “This is where we as a group need to come together,” he said. “We just have to get organized and move forward.” Spano said he spoke to the group in Solana Beach that installed the Cedros Avenue Design District archway and they advised him to have the archway posts installed on

private property (to expedite the project and save money). However, the arch areas being considered would have one post on private property and the other on city property. It cost the Solana Beach group $90,000 to install two archways, 14 years ago, Spano said.

LJSBA is also in the process of becoming a 501(c) 6 non- profit organization so it can accept donations. The group will continue meeting and will report to the La Jolla Shores Association during its monthly meetings, 6:30 p.m. second Wednesdays at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Building T-29, 8840 Biological Grade.