Scorecard: A look at how community projects fared in 2011

By Dave Schwab

daves@lajollalight.com

Here’s a peek at how those profiled in 2010’s Voices for La Jolla fared with their endeavors in 2011.

• Phil Coller, co-owner of Everett Stunz and president of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA), helped the new business group hit the ground running.

“We made a lot of progress,” said Coller of efforts that included creating committees, establishing a budget, and devising a 5-year strategic plan.

“Persuading the community we were an open organization that would conduct our business in full view,” was an obstacle to overcome.

LJVMA, he added, believes the key to the business community’s future lies in restoring its past.

“A high priority is to get back to a village feel,” he said noting La Jolla has gone through renewal many times in its 100-plus year history. “We’re on the verge of the latest one, to revive La Jolla and make it a modern version of what it used to be, which was a village.”

Future LJVMA challenges include beautifying the Village, finding just the right number and kind of events to host, and figuring how best to draw customers in the evening hours.

• Scientist John May, chair of the finance committee of the La Jolla Cluster Association, characterized the district’s financial situation as “a mess.” May and others are still trying to figure out how to plan for uncertainty, given the state legislature’s consistent underfunding of education.

“We have these boom-and-bust cycles, and right now it’s a very down cycle,” he said noting all the district can do in responding to state funding shortfalls is cut even deeper into San Diego Unified School District’s operating budget.

“We’re way past cutting fat and into muscle and bone — there’s no fluff,” he acknowledged, adding, “What really worries me is the long-term effects of this kind of budgeting.”

May believes in changing the mechanism by which education is funded statewide so that it’s “not such a roller coaster ride.”

“What the kids really need is a long-term plan in California: We don’t have that,” he said.

• The “jury’s still out,” said Terry Underwood, general manager of Grande Colonial Hotel La Jolla and board member on San Diego North Convention and Visitors Bureau, about the effectiveness of how the Bureau spent the 10 percent of funds allocated to it by the Tourism Marketing District (about $2.5 million) in 2011.

“It’s a case of half of my marketing works — I just don’t know which half,” he quipped. “I think we all had a better year than 2010,” noting long-term results are difficult to gauge as success depends on public relations and marketing efforts.

In August 2010, the tourism organization serving North County turned over marketing duties to the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau to consolidate promotion of local hotels and attractions.

Underwood said San Diego North’s board focused on restructuring and reutilizing TMD funds to “impact tourism within our sub-region.”

Underwood noted North is tapping the San Diego Convention and Visitor Bureau’s resources to help use those funds.

• Buzz Woolley, venture capitalist and founding member of the La Jolla Community Foundation, a nonprofit with a mission to improve the quality of life by providing leadership for effective philanthropy, praised the Foundation’s efforts in 2011.

Woolley spearheaded the Foundation’s latest endeavor, a series of signs along the coastline highlighting the local environment.

“This year, in cooperation with the Birch Aquarium, we installed two prototypes,” he said. “One is located on the railing above steps to the beach at the very south end of Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the other at The Birch.”

In 2012, Woolley said the Foundation hopes to install a dozen or so more signs along the coast in La Jolla. “We are confident that the La Jolla Foundation can raise the money,” he said. “We are awaiting approval of the idea from local citizen groups and the City of San Diego.”

• The task of organizing the annual Jewel Ball, the biggest fundraiser of the year for Las Patronas, a philanthropic group with a long history of grant giving, fell to its immediate past president Sallie Warren.

She said the group held its own in 2011, raising slightly more than $600,000.

“Our stalwart supporters are still here for us,” Warren said, pointing out San Diego is fortunate to be a dynamic town with vibrant biotech, medical care, and university communities.

Though donations were down slightly, Warren noted, membership in Las Patronas is up by two over the traditional 50. The group’s motto is “50 women making a difference.”

“It’s an amazing symphony of players, everybody has their talents,” she said. Members include artists, accountants, doctors, ER nurses and lawyers.

• Progress was made on long-range plans to make Torrey Pines Road (TPR) safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, noted Sherry Nooravi who lives in the TPR corridor gateway from I-5 and has led the campaign for improvements there.

But she believes more can — and should – be done to make the corridor safer for pedestrians in the near term.

“It is no safer for pedestrians today than it was at the beginning of 2011,” she cautioned, noting in July, La Jolla Community Planning Association Trustees voted to add V-calms, narrow lanes, trim vegetation, improve the safety of debris fences in the corridor, as well as to start work on Segment 4.

Segment 4 stretches from Little Street to La Jolla Shores Drive — the entrance to the Village and the longest segment — which will be done first in the estimated $26 million Torrey Pines Corridor Improvement Project.

“Residents for Torrey Pines Safety would like to see action on the approved motions, small changes that can help with safety, be started immediately and kick off the project,” Nooravi concluded.

• Last year, English teacher Susan Minnicks was busy empowering Muirlands Middle School students to make a difference via an after-school Social Action Club. She said members’ efforts to identify groups worthy of their support, then raise funds or items for them, has borne fruit.

“So far we've collected and wrapped almost 1,000 gift bath kits for Rachel's Women's Shelter downtown,” Minnicks said. “We raised $1,066 for UNICEF at Halloween, and we've started a small fund for a girls’ school in Afghanistan. Most recently we collected some art supplies and small puzzles that will be taken to a school in Myanmar.”

Minnicks said participation has sensitized students to “be concerned with the well-being of children and women everywhere.”

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