“The MAD is going forward as far as we know,” said Ed Witt, president of Enhance La Jolla, a nonprofit with a 13-member board guiding the special district. “The city has put us in their budget to be voted on in July. We expect to be up and running, actually doing maintenance, in the September/October time frame.”
A MAD is a legal mechanism by which property owners vote to assess themselves to pay and receive services above-and-beyond what the City normally provides.
Since its passage, the La Jolla MAD has been barred from being implemented by an ongoing court lawsuit filed by 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.
The initial judicial verdict on Nov. 30, 2017 sided with landlords, with San Diego Judge Randa Trapp ruling the 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 said.
However, the judicial tables were turned months later when Judge Trapp reversed her previous ruling on La Jolla’s MAD. The second time around, Trapp determined the benefits association “had no standing in the case.” Standing is a legal term for the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to, and harm from, the law or action challenged to support that party's participation in the case.
Trapp’s decision on standing in the La Jolla MAD case remains under appeal. Maria Severson of the law firm Aguirre & Severson, LLP, which is representing LJBA, said briefs are about to be filed by both sides in that appeal.
“Then the court will schedule oral arguments, which could happen by the end of this year,” Severson said noting “a special benefit cannot be received by any group over and above that received by the general public.”
Added Severson, “The case in it entirety will be argued in the appeal.”
Meanwhile, Severson conceded MAD monies are no longer embargoed. “There is no stay on the court decision, they (City) can collect it (assessment),” she said pointing out, “They (City) chose to give it all back when they lost the first time. They may lose again on appeal. Then they’d have to give it back again. We would hope the city does not collect the MAD money until the appeals process is concluded.”
If allowed, 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 La Jolla MAD assessments would be about $87 annually for most residents. Businesses would be assessed according to their size.
“The funds assessed for the MAD are only spent on maintenance which is spelled out very specifically in the contract with the city,” said Enhance’s Witt. “That maintenance is above and beyond what the city is, or could provide, and it is very specific. Enhance is the contractor and we will hire sub-contractors to do the work for us.”
Witt added La Jolla John Unbewust has been retained as a general manager to run the MAD maintenance, or to supervise the sub-contractors. Enhance La Jolla will also be asking residents to make tax-deductible donations to fund the special district.
“It's quite obvious to anyone visiting or living in La Jolla that the Village has really lost its glow,” Witt said. “Although one of the most beautiful places on the planet, it has not been properly cared for. The city doesn't have the resources to do much for us. The 501(c)3 along with the added work done by the MAD is our only way of improving our beloved La Jolla.”