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What to expect for 2008?

By Cyril Jones-Kellet, Dave Schwab and Travis Hunter

Without a crystal ball, it’s impossible to gaze into the future. But prominent La Jollans from a number of disciplines offered their insight on what is likely to transpire over the next 12 months.

City’s ‘to do’ list a long one

Looking ahead, City Council President Scott Peters of District 1 predicts an extremely busy, likely tumultuous and hopefully fruitful year ahead.

“We’ll still be battling through the audits and expect to have those completed in January,” said Peters, who predicted “the city will be back in the bond market in the spring.”

Also in 2008, Peters noted the city will be updating its general plan guiding growth and development for the first time in 20 years, as well as grappling with negotiations with all five of the city’s labor unions.

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“Fire prevention and the water supply will be main topics of discussion,” predicted Peters about the council’s 2008 agenda.

Peters also foresees progress on parking issues and on eradicating unsightly oversize vehicles next year. “This parking issue has been kicking around since 1979,” he said. “I think we owe it to the community to do something. Unfortunately, the volunteers who’ve taken this on have really been called on to go beyond ... I’d like to see them finish their work. At some point ... you have to move forward for a decision.”

Big election year

As a presidential election year, 2008 portends more work for the Registrar of Voters as voter turnout is almost certain to improve in La Jolla and the rest of San Diego for next year’s three crucial election dates on Feb. 5, June 3 and Nov. 4.

“In the last gubernatorial election turnout was 57 percent in San Diego County,” said County Registrar Deborah Seiler. “In the last presidential general election in November 2004, turnout was 76 percent.”

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Seiler said, for the first time in 30 years, San Diego has a bifurcated primary, two primary elections in the same year. “It happened this time because the Legislature wanted to move up the date of the primary so we would have a louder voice in the selection process,” she said. “They also wanted to put their term limits measure on the ballot.”

Peters is termed out in 2008, meaning there will be a June primary, and likely a November runoff, for District 1 which includes La Jolla, Carmel Valley, Del Mar Mesa, Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines, Rancho Peñasquitos, Torrey Highlands and University City. There are three announced candidates, thus far, for Peters’ seat - Sherri Lightner of La Jolla, Phil Thalheimer, who lost to Peters in 2004 and Marshall Merrifield of Carmel Valley.

Seiler added the Registrar is continuing its successful effort so far to push to get more San Diego voters to cast ballots by mail. “Prior to this recent initiative campaign, 24 percent of registered voters in San Diego County had signed up to vote permanently by mail,” she said. “That is now up to 35 percent. It could go as high as 40 percent or higher.”

Seiler noted mail ballots are easier for the Registar to deal with. They also generally promote higher voter response.

Uncertain economy in 2008?

Financial advisor Cory Schmelzer, past president of Bird Rock Community Council, envisions an uncertain but nonetheless potentially profitable year ahead in 2008. The performance of the economy over the next 12 months, said Schmelzer, will largely be predicated on what happens with the housing market and the potential legislation to help people get loans, and how the subprime credit market plays out. “There is a lot of uncertainty right now on Wall Street,” said Schmelzer. “Not knowing where the bottom is to subprime credit worries investors. Once Wall Street understands where the bottom line is, they can rebuild. But right now everyone is still scared.”

But Schmelzer pointed out scary times, like those of the past year in the stock market with 200- or 300-point days up or down, often offer the greatest financial opportunities. “Going forward, we’re likely to continue to see dramatic swings on a daily basis in the market unless things like credit worries are resolved,” Schmelzer.

Asked what his crystal ball shows for sound investments in the new year, Schmelzer answered: large cap global companies. “The Wal-Marts and McDonalds of the world have a huge percentage of their revenue coming from overseas which, in this economy, is a good thing. Globally diversified, larger companies are more insulated and their ability to raise capital is greater than mid- or small-size companies, who typically are hurt more in a recessionary time.”

Jewel to hold its own in real estate

Patrick J. Park, president of La Jolla Real Estate Broker’s Association four times, predicts La Jolla and other coastal communities are likely to continue to be largely unaffected by the housing downturn which is plaguing lower price points in San Diego County’s housing market.
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“From La Jolla’s perspective, the number of (housing) transactions were down slightly this year from last,” said Park, “but nothing like the rest of the county. The coastal areas are still doing really well: It’s been kind of a blessing.”

Park said recent statistics reflect some price corrections in the housing market, and the average price of condos has come down. But the average housing price actually increased about 15.8 percent over last year. “That’s a real interesting dichotomy,” he said.

Park noted it’s important to look at the “big picture” in the cyclical real estate market, which he pointed out has been mostly up the past decade since the last real estate downturn in 1989-96.

“We’ve had almost an 11-year run of very good economic data,” he said. “Over the long run, we will once again see very good appreciation rates. The good news in coastal communities is we still have a great product to sell: It’s just taking a little bit longer per listing these days.”

New leadership in local arts

All eyes in the local arts world will be on Christopher Ashley, who arrived in La Jolla in October to start work as artistic director at La Jolla Playhouse, replacing the legendary Des McAnuff. Ashley’s first season as director will be announced in early 2008 and begin in June.

Ashley, who came to the Playhouse from the Manhattan Theatre Club, has already committed to three productions for the new season: “Xanadu,” a musical version of the 1980 film starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly; “The Third Story,” a Playhouse-commissioned comedy; and a revival of the 1930s drama “Tobacco Road.”

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will also be under new leadership. Dr. Robin Clark begins work as curator at the museum in the first week of the new year. Clark comes to San Diego from the Saint Louis Art Museum, where she won acclaim for curating the “Currents” series of exhibitions showcasing work of emerging and mid-career artists.

La Jolla Symphony and Chorus began its 53rd season in November under new music director Steven Schick with a sold-out performance of Philip Glass’ “Cello Concerto.” The season continues through June, concluding with "... And Ending In Light,” a program featuring works by Strauss, Haydn and Edgard Varese.

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La Jolla Music Society will celebrate its 40th Anniversary season, the third under artistic director Christopher Beach. The new season will be announced in spring. The lineup for the Music Society’s flagship SummerFest event will be announced in early 2008.

The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library will start 2008 off right, holding an opening reception Jan. 11 to celebrate recent acquisitions to its permanent collection. Works by artists including Marcos Ramirez, aka “ERRE,” and Mauro Staccioli will be on display through Feb. 9.