La Jolla has launched a new feasibility study to kick-start an incorporation drive seeking to detach from San Diego and become its own city.
There have been several unsuccessful attempts over the years to incorporate La Jolla. However, a movement continues to be spearheaded by a devoted contingent of residents who are convinced the jewel would be better off as its own municipality.
“We’ve changed our name back to Incorporate La Jolla,” said long-time cityhood proponent Melinda Merryweather. She added an anonymous, third-generation donor has agreed to fund a $40,000-plus feasibility study required as a first step in the long, involved incorporation process.
In a previous cityhood attempt, La Jolla commissioned a feasibility study by outside consultants, which determined La Jolla could afford to secede from San Diego and become its own incorporated entity providing its own public services.
“That study said more money comes out of La Jolla than goes back into it,” said Merryweather. “It said, without a doubt, you can go do it.”
There are 18 incorporated cities in the county of San Diego. The last community to successfully incorporate was Encinitas in 1986.
Robert Barry, chief analyst for the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which rules on special districts including creating incorporated cities, discussed the steps and hurdles to be cleared for cityhood to succeed.
Barry noted state legislation regarding incorporation has evolved.
“The bar is still the same in terms of prerequisites required,” he said. “What the difference is locally is what is required for fiscal studies to be done, which now require revenue neutrality [neither increases nor decreases in tax revenues].”
Barry said revenue neutrality is required to ensure “an existing city wouldn’t be subsidizing the new city.”
Added Barry of incorporation, “A real big hindrance has been achieving the fiscal tax base to be [economically] sustainable.”
A LAFCO incorporation is a complicated process, from submittal to commission hearing, taking “months to years” to expedite once a feasibility study confirms the community to be incorporated would be economically viable, said Barry.
Then comes the initial public vote required for incorporation after signatures from 500 registered voters within the boundaries to be incorporated are obtained.
“Like birdseed, you just have have to follow the process,” said Merryweather of incorporation, pointing out the goal is to “make La Jolla better for everyone that comes here, with no potholes, all the medians planted and no bad smells. Right now, it’s not beautiful, not historic. It’s pathetic.”
Added Merryweather, “When you’re your own city, you get to contract your own services, you’re not hiring the city’s.”
But there are pitfalls to incorporating.
“We have to divorce ourselves from the city of San Diego,” noted Merryweather. “And they [San Diego] are required to get alimony from us for seven or eight years. They get the same amount of money they lose from us leaving. And then they don’t have to put up with us anymore.”
Merryweather said it would take two successful public votes, one within the new city of La Jolla — whose boundaries would be the 92037 ZIP Code — and another citywide throughout San Diego, for incorporation to be successful.
For more information, visit cityoflajolla.org.