Surprised at support of road closure

Promote La Jolla’s new board listened to a pitch last week from organizers of a new event that wants to take advantage of the Village’s “panache” - a road rally called the Targa Trophy. They nearly unanimously backed the idea in principle, although they couldn’t take an official vote because the issue wasn’t on their agenda.

Not a bad idea: Bring specialty sports cars and exotic cars to town to show off before the event. Bring some high-end sponsors to town to show off their wares.

About 100 drivers would fire up their engines - up to an estimated 92 decibels (sustained exposure above 90 may cause hearing loss, according to a number of sources). The drivers and their navigators would then head for the Palm Springs area before turning around and heading back to the Gaslamp Quarter for the finish and post-rally party. It’s not a race, but a controlled road rally being designed along the lines of prestigious European events.

But there’s a hitch: The organizers want to close the streets.

In their presentation, they said they want the race to start in La Jolla on a Saturday morning this April. And they want the cars to line up on Girard Avenue from Prospect to Kline and they want the sponsors to set up their displays on Wall Street between Girard and Herschel. The closures would go into effect overnight on Friday and remain that way until midday on Saturday.

For a group that has tried hard to protect the interests of merchants, restaurateurs and hoteliers, and previously has balked at events that closed the streets, we were surprised at the support that was voiced. Yes, they asked questions about when the streets would be closed, asked them to consider adding a pre-event party that would bring more people to town and pressed the sponsors to find ways to have drivers stay in La Jolla on the nights before the event.

What about the residents who want to shop in the Village on Saturday morning or make their weekly visit to the post office (which closes about the same time the streets would reopen.)

The rally is an interesting concept that might bring some great free PR to the Village in a luxury magazine - what Promote La Jolla calls “earned media” - but will it help in our current economy to close down the streets, even for a part of a day?

Promote La Jolla - and the Town Council, which has yet to have a formal presentation - should move cautiously on this one. Think through the ramifications before signing off on the event just because the organizers said they want to capitalize on the “panache” of our community. Is this opening a Pandora’s box?

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