La Jolla MAD challenge upheld by Superior Court Judge
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 12/05/17 - 07:17 PM | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A legal challenge to a Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) passed by La Jollans in 2016 has been upheld by a Superior Court Judge, who ruled proponents failed to demonstrate “special benefits” for it, that tax assessments funding it were disproportional, and that there were irregularities in the voting process that passed it.

On Nov. 30, San Diego Judge Randa Trapp ruled the new La Jolla MAD passed by La Jollans in 2016, that would have taken effect in January 2018, had failed to pass legal muster.

A group known as La Jolla Benefits Association, LLC, filed a lawsuit against the La Jolla MAD on Dec. 28, 2016 in San Diego Superior Court. Former San Diego city attorney Michael J. Aguirre is representing the Association.

The Association's suit challenges the MAD, which passed by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin by mail ballot within La Jolla's downtown Village in November 2016. The Association maintained, and Judge Trapp concurred, that an assessed property under the MAD would have to receive a special benefit “over and above that” received by the general public. An excerpt from the Trapp's Nov. 30 ruling states, “The general public should not be required to pay for special benefits for the few, and the few specially benefited should not be subsidized by the general public.”

Reacting to the outcome of the lawsuit, Aguirre said, “What's sad is the good people behind this ill-fated MAD need to give up on the idea of the city being financially responsible. You can't do it this way. If you live in the city of San Diego, you should be getting all the services that you need, that you paid for.”

Aguirre likened a MADs passing, on top of normal services provided by the city, to “taking whipped cream and putting an extra layer of whipped cream on top of it.”

The Association's attorney said there is an appeals process La Jolla MAD proponents can go through to challenge Judge Trapp's ruling, but added that is likely to take at least a year.

Aguirre said the Association invites La Jolla MAD proponents to “work with us to bring about change, to bring about a different approach.”

Aguirre previously said MAD detractors questioned the voting process that sanctioned it.

“When they (Enhance) mailed ballots out, they didn't say when they had to be returned,” he said. “Also, they didn't disclose that the governance by Enhance La Jolla's board has several people on it from different civic groups who are not assessment payers.”

Nonprofit Enhance La Jolla was formed to lobby for the proposed MAD, and was sanctioned by La Jolla voters to administer the new MAD should it become operative. Half of the approximately 1,300 parcels within the Village voted on the MAD. Besides voting yes or no on the district's creation, voters were asked who they wanted to run it: the City or Enhance La Jolla. The vote was 85 percent for nonprofit management versus 15 percent to allow city management.

Enhance La Jolla has said the new MAD would privately fund and construct projects in public spaces. Its purpose would be to ensure ongoing maintenance services, help to create and maintain inviting public spaces and enhance the Village's beauty and quality of life. Enhancement projects that would be sanctioned by the new La Jolla MAD, should it come to fruition, would include sidewalk power washing, replacement of city-owned trash cans, weed abatement, landscaping improvements, graffiti removal and gutter sweeping.

If enacted, the La Jolla MAD would have two zones, one for businesses, and another for residents, with the business zone receiving more frequent services, while paying more for the increased services.

"Enhance La Jolla and our partners at the City of San Diego were very surprised with the news," said Mark Dibella, managing director of La Valencia Hotel. Our collaboration with the City of SD team throughout the process has been exemplary. Currently, the vested parties are reviewing our options."
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