Rule change may smooth road for La Jolla cityhood effort


By Dave Schwab

La Jolla’s incorporation drive is taking lots of time, twists and turns, but it will all be worth it — win or lose — to organizer Cindy Greatrex.

“If for some reason people decide they don’t want to become a city now — none of this has been a wasted effort,” said Greatrex, who was previously involved in a successful incorporation effort in rural New York State. “If La Jollans decide in the future they want to try again, the framework to become a city has been established and just needs to be updated.”

Now, though, she’s encouraged that a rules change governing incorporation may make the task easier to accomplish, affording communities an alternative to the standard practice of enlisting 25 percent of La Jolla’s approximately 44,000 registered voters — at a $2 per registered voter or about $42,000.

“What instead we can do now is get 11,000 audited signatures of anyone living within the 92037 ZIP Code in a 90-day period,” she said adding the new rule also allows an unsuccessful incorporation attempt to “begin again the next day,” without having to wait a year to start over.

Currently treasurer of La Jolla Town Council (LJTC), which she’s using as a platform to promote cityhood, Greatrex first learned about the ongoing incorporation effort reading the La Jolla Light in 2009, she said.

Right from the start, Greatrex found it interesting there was a growing groundswell of support for La Jolla becoming its own city when “there was no compelling call to action,” and when no government entity was “trying to do something terrible to La Jolla.”

What she saw instead was “people paying quite a bit of money in taxes” and that “(city) services being rendered don’t match the tax base.”

Town Council President Rick Wildman is convinced most La Jollans support incorporation.

“There’s no doubt,” he said. “It’s like the (anti-) parking meter thing: The only people against it are those who’ve said it’s never going to happen.”

Noting the town council has already “had a pretty active role” in framing the incorporation debate, Wildman said city public services are presently so poor that “it makes sense to everybody” that incorporating is the only way to “have some control” if La Jolla is ever to “reach its highest place and fulfill its potential.”

Since as far back as the 1940s, various La Jolla groups have explored the possibility of incorporating. During the last attempt in 2006, a fiscal analysis was done which showed a budget surplus of more than $5.2 million resulting from La Jolla becoming a city.

But that study showed La Jolla’s “secession” from San Diego would come at a price: $4.6 million a year in “alimony” —compensation payments to the city of San Diego for four to eight years after a new city of La Jolla was formed.

Longtime La Jolla cityhood supporter Melinda Merryweather talked about what the incorporation drive really needs now.

“The reason why Independent La Jolla is at a standstill … the only thing we need is money — $2 million worth of it,” she said. “We need to redo our (cityhood) feasibility study and $50,000 for a map and all the other steps we have to take amount to about $2 million.”

Merryweather had one final question to ask La Jolla cityhood backers.

“Is there anybody in the community who’d like to make a donation and have their name put on city hall as the founder of the city of La Jolla?”

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