Promote La Jolla looks to future as adviser


La Jolla’s merchants stand to see money coming back to the Village soon for activities such as maintaining the hanging baskets and coordinating with area convention bureaus.

But that money won’t be coming to Promote La Jolla in the foreseeable future, the group’s president, Rick Wildman, told those attending the group’s board meeting last week.

Instead, as announced by Councilwoman Sherri Lightner on Oct. 27, funds for activities and running the La Jolla Business Improvement District (LJBID) will be managed by the city.

PLJ, which continues to exist as a nonprofit entity, will act in an advisory role, planning activities and approving recommendations from its various committees, Wildman said.

“Without this agreement, there would be no continuity — all of the events would fail,” Wildman said as he outlined a $130,000 budget for the LJBID through June.

Vice President Jennifer Clark called it “a Band-Aid.”

Officially, under terms of the plan — which is now expected to go to the City Council on Nov. 23, with final approval anticipated on Dec. 8 — the “advisory board” will consist of Wildman, Clark, Glen Rasmussen and Daisy Fitzgerald. They are all members of PLJ’s executive committee.

Once the council approves the plan, assessments for BID fees that have been suspended since July will go out to fund activities for the rest of the year.

Joe LaCava, president of the Community Planning Association and Bird Rock Community Council who said he was there as a La Jollan who wants to see the new arrangement work, asked why the full board wasn’t named as the advisory panel since members had been elected by the merchants.

“It’s the principle, not the people,” he said.

Wildman explained: “There are issues that specify Promote La Jolla Inc. and its board is a separate entity. ... This is the way (La Jolla’s merchants) can have input.”

Beth Murray, of the city’s Planning and Community Investment Department, added, “This is a temporary fix to allow the BID to get money ... during resolution of the audit.”

She said that the city “has to remove PLJ until the issues are resolved there ... but we recognize we can’t make decisions for the community.”

PLJ’s finances remain in a state of limbo while the city attorney and its Office of Small Business continue to sort fallout from a June city auditor’s report. Fitzgerald’s treasurer’s report indicated a total of $8,569 in expenses for October, $1,100 in income (not counting about $16,000 from the recent Gallery Wine Walk & Taste event), and a total of just over $2,000 in its accounts.

A full accounting of the wine walk has yet to be completed, although there were fewer tickets sold this year than last, 530 compared with nearly 1,000 in 2008.

Board member Nancy Warwick asked whether there were guarantees that PLJ would get its official status with the city renewed by July.

“What’s being done to clean up the mess? ... It seems like it’s endless,” Warwick said.

She also questioned the outstanding bills, such as a $4,000 payment due to SNAP, the animal group that co-sponsored the inaugural La Jolla Pet Parade.

Wildman said all of PLJ’s obligations are up in the air and can’t be paid under

the new arrangement with the city until concerns outlined in the audit are cleared up. If PLJ is eventually reinstated, funds being held in abeyance could be returned to PLJ “and we can pay all these people back,” said Clark, who worked to develop the new BID’s budget.

Murray said outstanding issues include looking into files, which she said were being handled “in another department ... I’ve heard they’re close to reviewing those documents.”

She noted that it’s possible the city attorney could make a decision within the next month whether to “wipe out” the $47,000 alleged in the auditor’s report to have been double-billed or misused. PLJ administrative assistant Maryam Bakhsh has gone through all the reimbursement requests and billings and has clarified questions the city had, and determined that there was well more than the amount that PLJ was not reimbursed for.

When the vote came on the budget, Warwick abstained on a 5-0-1 vote with Wildman, Clark, Rasmussen, Fitzgerald and Deborah Marengo in favor. Board members Bob Collins, Terry Underwood and Shannon Turner did not attend.

By the numbers

The La Jolla Business Improvement District budget includes:

$16,000 for city staff to coordinate implementation, manage finances and meet with the advisory committee, convention and visitors officials “to feature La Jolla as a tourist destination”;

$26,000 for office/operation costs and a survey on business needs and interests

$14,000 for publications, printing and a new Web design “to increase awareness of and commercial activity for BID businesses”;

$4,000 for special events as seed money;

$35,000 for design and improvements to cover holiday lighting and seasonal displays and to buy about 100 new hanging baskets;

$32,000 for cleaning streets and trash removal and maintenance of trees, hanging baskets and benches; and

$1,500 for the city treasurer’s office to cover billing for BID assessments.