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Promote La Jolla leader calls for all-La Jolla panel

An old idea of creating a group that would represent businesses and residents has resurfaced in a new way: having it include all of the 92037 ZIP code and be aligned with La Jolla Town Council (LJTC).

This reimaging of what form a new group might take is rising from the ashes of the old Promote La Jolla (PLJ) business improvement district, which flamed out after a city audit of its finances last year.

“I think it’s an idea whose time has clearly come,” said PLJ President Rick Wildman in a column in this week’s Light and a presentation at the Jan. 14 La Jolla Town Council where be briefly touched on PLJ and said the organization is “upside down” and possibly facing claims from creditors.

Although the city has established a structure to collect fees from merchants and run the activities PLJ used to organize, PLJ is operating merely as an independent nonprofit. Four of its executive committee members are advising the city on how the assessments should be spent through the temporary setup called the La Jolla Business Improvement District.

Wildman said using the boundaries of the 92037 ZIP code would broaden the base of a new overarching community group, bringing in residents and hotel operators in the Torrey Pines area, Bird Rock and La Jolla Shores to replace an entity that heretofore has only represented business in the downtown Village.

Although he initially described the proposal as a business improvement district, he said his idea really was to reach out to the whole community “so it’s not just a small group of merchants.”

The new group could be called “whatever people want to call it,” he added later.

A robust discussion ensued at the Jan. 14 Town Council meeting. Several trustees suggested various options to create a new group. Although no action was taken, trustees appeared generally enthusiastic about the idea and said they wanted to explore it at a future meeting.

La Jolla Community Planning Association Chairman Joe LaCava noted that any new entity would require voter approval to both form the district and levy a fee to support it. Promote La Jolla was formed after merchants in the 30-block area of the Village voted to assess themselves.

He suggested that a Maintenance Assessment District (MAD), like the one in Bird Rock where residents and businesses tax themselves for roundabout upkeep, might be the proper form for a group because it would allow greater local control.

“If everyone in La Jolla would put in $50, $100, think of all the money we would have” to accomplish community projects, LaCava added, noting that the key would be having everyone involved.

He also wondered aloud, as did others, whether “this would become a precursor to cityhood.”

Wildman said forming a new group would take time and require broad-based support.

“The whole community needs to be involved and decide what’s right for our community,” he said.

He said an informal survey of local community planners and business leaders indicated a generally warm reception for creating an umbrella group representing all of La Jolla. But they had lots of questions — and a few reservations, mostly about how the areas would retain their identities and how it would be funded.