Due to lawsuit, La Jolla MAD plan stays in legal limbo
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 01/26/19 - 03:00 PM | 2830 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It ain’t over till it’s over.

That famous Yogi Berra quote applies to the situation with the La Jolla maintenance assessment district, which has been tied up from being implemented for more than a year by an ongoing court lawsuit.

The initial judicial verdict sided with the plaintiffs, a landlord group known as the La Jolla Benefits Association. LJBA argued the MAD was unlawful because it essentially constitutes a second tax on services the city is already obligated by its charter to provide.

In a Nov. 30, 2017 judgment, San Diego Judge Randa Trapp ruled the La Jolla MAD was unconstitutional. “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,” Trapp stated.

However, a turnabout occurred months later on June 27, when Judge Trapp revisited her previous ruling on the MAD’s unconstitutionality. The second time around, Trapp determined the benefits association “had no standing in the case.”

In law, standing is the term for the ability of a party to demonstrate to court sufficient connection to, and harm from, the law or action challenged to support that party's participation in the case.

Defendants in the case are Enhance La Jolla, a group formed to manage the MAD should it survive legal challenge, and the City of San Diego.

In recent La Jolla public meetings, MAD proponents have been suggesting the battle is drawing to a close, and that tax monies might possibly be collected from residents and businesses within the special district in the near future.

“The news appears to be good, but I'd prefer to hold my public remarks until the city provides me in writing what the MAD needs to move forward,” said Ed Witt, Enhance La Jolla treasurer. “I'll be able to give (more) accurate information in about a week.”

Asked whether the MAD case is nearly over, La Jolla landlord Lincoln Foster replied, “Not true. We are filing an appeal, which will take several months to be heard.”

Added Foster: “The judge erred in her determination, which reversed her earlier ruling in our favor.  There is a case precedent in Golden Hills from the appellate court, which sustains our position.”

Maria Severson of the law firm Aguirre & Severson, LLP, which is representing LJBA, said an appeal of the MAD lawsuit was filed Jan. 4.

Severson doubts the city will allow funding for the MAD to be collected any time soon.

“After the judge initially found it unlawful, the city stopped collecting (MAD assessments),” Severson said.“They said they were not going to do that. They then returned the funds that had been collected.

“I would be surprised if the funds would be collected until the appeal is over. To collect the funds, while the case is on appeal, would be like a yo-yo.”

Severson added the appeal could take up to 18 months to complete.

“We’re hoping it will be heard within the year — but it could be longer,” she added. “It probably will be heard in 2020, more likely.”

Enhance La Jolla has said the new MAD would privately fund and construct projects in public spaces, ensure ongoing maintenance services and enhance the Village's beauty and quality of life. Enhancement projects could include sidewalk power washing, replacement of city-owned trash cans, weed abatement, landscaping improvements, graffiti removal and gutter sweeping.

The City of San Diego could not be reached for further comment.

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