City of La Jolla? City Council Holds Forum on Reviving Effort
Should La Jolla become an independent city from San Diego? The La Jolla City Council addressed the issue in an online community forum and at the La Jolla Recreation Center on May 12, reigniting discussions from previous years.
Previous efforts as Independent La Jolla (later Incorporate La Jolla) went so far as to contract Sacramento-based Economic & Planning Systems in 2019 for early tax analysis of the proposed La Jolla incorporation. But Incorporate La Jolla disappeared and the study never took place.
Moderating the forum, former city council president Ann Kerr Bache said a 2005 study indicated that “economically, La Jolla could survive” by seceding from San Diego.
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A group from La Jollans have come together to explore continuing the process, local architect Trace Wilson said.
“We can do a lot better for the San Diego area if we’re on our own,” he said. “We want to make the coast and our village the best it can be.”
La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson, who is part of this group, said, “We are really excited about what this can do for all of us, but also for everyone in the city of San Diego. and also in California.
City Council Government Liaison Cody Petterson said the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 contains the laws governing secession and that it is “easier to incorporate from an unincorporated county than to break away from an existing town”.
The main challenge to secession, Petterson said, is the “double majority voting rule,” which means a majority in La Jollans and then a majority in the rest of San Diego would have to approve the detachment.
Furthermore, said Petterson, if the analyzes of the San Diego Local Agency Training Board find that there will be a negative budget impact, “you will have to pay mitigation payments”.
The 2005 study estimated that La Jolla would owe San Diego $4.6 million in annual mitigation payments.
LAFCO chief executive Keene Simonds said it would take about three years of those payments to neutralize the impact of secession.
Still, Simonds encouraged La Jollans to look into independence. “I’m a big proponent of self-government in terms of synchronizing local decision-making with the needs of the local community,” he said.
He said La Jollans should ask himself, “Is incorporation desired and why? If it’s desired because you want to have self-control for the quality of life as you see it – roads, parks, level of public safety, community planning – well, then I say go for it.
“What we’re trying to do is make La Jolla better for everyone and everyone who comes here.”
— Melinda Merryweather
Simonds said LAFCO would help La Jolla if it goes ahead, although “there is no guarantee it will be successful.”
He estimated the process would take two to four years, involving more in-depth budget analysis and convincing the rest of San Diego that it would be beneficial.
“I think you could make a point,” Simonds said.
“As an outsider to this community, I see that there are unique social and economic interests in this community that are distinct from the rest of the city of San Diego,” he said. “I guess a lot of people in the city of San Diego probably already think that [La Jolla is independent] because of these unique distinctions. I think that’s what I would focus on.
Simonds said one challenge would be helping San Diegans believe that mitigation payments would be fair to the rest of the city.
Local resident Melinda Merryweather, who worked for La Jolla independence for decades, said, “I think we’re not trying to get La Jolla out of here by helicopter. What we’re trying to do is make La Jolla better for everyone and everyone who comes here.
With the current state of La Jolla, from potholes to deteriorating sidewalks and more, “we’re losing a lot of our history,” she said. “So all we’re trying to do is preserve what we have for the rest of San Diego.”
Merryweather said the mitigation payments “would be a benefit to the City of San Diego [for] … other communities that have less.
Kerr Bache said: “Ultimately, it’s going to become a checkbook problem. It’s the organization, it’s the people, but it’s going to take money to do petitions and ballot initiatives.
The La Jolla City Council will meet next at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 9, online and at the Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St. Learn more about lajollatowncouncil.org. ◆