The diving community, which uses La Jolla Shores as its training ground following classroom and pool instruction, has expressed concern that LJSA efforts to check beach commercialization might ultimately end up in a city-sponsored request-for-proposal (RFP) process for divers, which they fear would favor corporate operators over independents and thin out the number of operators. That scenario, they claim, has played out previously in the Shores with surf camps and kayak businesses.
Noting the beach is expensive to maintain and the city doesn’t have sufficient funding to do it, LJSA’s board maintains that user groups, like divers, ought to contribute financially to the upkeep of the park and beaches.
What is the purpose of this committee? What is the end result of the permitting?
Those two questions were leveled by wary divers skeptical of the intent of the association in seeking to curb their use of La Jolla Shores beach and Kellogg Park.
“I don’t exchange money down at La Jolla Shores,” said diver Alan Blake, noting the beach is public.
“You also don’t pay for park maintenance,” replied LJSA chair Audrey Keane. “It costs millions of dollars to staff that beach and clean it up.”
Blake answered that diving instructors pay business taxes and licensing fees to the city.
“So do the kayakers and the surf camps,” said Keane.
Board members were sympathetic to divers’ concerns, however.
“The last thing we want to see happen is to have an RFP for scuba divers,” said board member Mary Coakley Munk.
Keane maintained that the primary goal at the meeting was to set up a committee to address the situation, in order to keep control of how the area is managed under the auspices of the local group, instead of handing it over to someone from the city.
“If we don’t do something, somebody else is going to step in and do it for us,” said board member Janie Emerson.
Divers asked for a more precise definition of commercial activity.
“Commercial activity is when you’re making money in the park,” said Coakley Munk. “It’s a safety issue.”
Coakley Munk bridged the gap, saying the group has “been able to work with divers in the past. We can all work together to figure out what a good answer is.”
One possible solution, suggested a member of the diving community, was to issue wrist bands to scuba users and operators who pay a reasonable fee for park and beach use that would go into a fund specifically to maintain the beach and Kellogg Park.
Diver Rod Watkins, a critic of the city’s RFP process for kayaks and surf camps, cautioned that care should be taken to ensure that any fees charged to divers for park and beach use go to the Shores park and beach, and not the city’s general fund.
Blake said scuba operators take great care in keeping Kellogg Park clean, and that the beach activity also benefits local merchants by bringing them business, especially during the busy summer months.
At the end of the hour-long discussion, the LJSA board voted 9-to-1 — with Emerson opposed and Keane abstaining — to create a seven-member La Jolla Shores Commercial Use Policy Committee. On the new committee will be three LJSA board members, three diving representatives chosen from the dive community and one representative from the La Jolla Shores Merchants Association, whose goal will be to “develop consistent, fair policy and permit procedures for all unregulated commercial activities at La Jolla Shores.”
“Let’s not make up problems that don’t exist,” said Keane about the new committee. “Let’s solve problems that do.”
The next LJSA meeting will be Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. For more information visit www.ljsa.org.