After being embroiled in a second trip-and-fall lawsuit, Enhance La Jolla provided the City of San Diego with records of 1,270 trip hazards in The Village.
Enhance La Jolla is a not-for-profit organization that manages the La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District and is empowered to improve services provided by the city, including landscaping, street and sidewalk cleaning, trash and graffiti removal, and additional garbage collection in The Village.
MAD also occasionally privately funds and completes projects to improve public space, such as Such as upgrading trash cans, installing benches, and expanding signs.
The Nov. 14 document, which includes photos and addresses of pitfalls, was collected by Enhance La Jolla chairman Ed Witt, board member Steve Warfield and MAD manager Mary Montgomery after walking the village’s sidewalks for several days to identify them .
The effort was prompted by a lawsuit filed against the city in June for an undisclosed amount after a person walking down Silverado Street in The Village reportedly tripped over raised decorative pavers in September 2021.
The city referred the claim to Enhance La Jolla’s insurance carrier, arguing that Enhance La Jolla should have identified and “barricaded” the hazard with caution tape and/or traffic cones and notified the city.
Another lawsuit filed against the city in April said a resident was walking down Pearl Street in La Jolla in January 2020 when she tripped over an empty tree well, fell and slammed her face on the sidewalk. That case was settled for $40,000 and Enhance La Jolla’s insurance paid for it, Witt said.
“In 2019, Enhance La Jolla Inc. signed a four-year contract with the city to direct operations of the La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District,” said Leslie Wolf Branscomb, public information officer for the San Diego Attorney’s Office, in October. “In this contract, Enhance La Jolla Inc. has agreed to maintain all sidewalks on a regular basis [a] Council policy and any safety hazards barricaded on the sidewalk and notify the city.”
Witt said Nov. 16 that the “model contract,” which requires MAD to identify and barricade trip hazards, does not specify how they should be barricaded and does not consider what The Village would look like if all 1,270 danger spots were barricaded would be.
“I can tell you it would force most people to walk the streets,” Witt said. “Who would be responsible if they tripped over the hundreds of potholes…in the road or were hit by a car?”
He added that “it would look awful” and affect the holiday shopping season.
Witt said the trip hazard document was sent to Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, and the city’s Department of Economic Development, along with a question about how to barricade the hazards, but he said, neither office replied.
“There was radio silence,” Montgomery said. “It is very discouraging that MAD has made a good faith effort to proactively show the city where these issues lie and there has been no response. … It’s very frustrating.”
She added that she is fulfilling her responsibility to “notify the city of an issue when we see it.”
LaCava told that La Jolla light that his office received the material on the hazards and “appreciates the time they took to document it.”
LaCava said he is working to clarify whether and how the MAD should barricade the large number of threats identified.
“It’s a political decision what we expect from MADs when we get to this scale,” he said.
The documentation followed a similar inventory that MAD conducted in May with a representative from LaCava’s office, which referenced unfunded and funded sidewalk repairs, Montgomery said.
“None of these funded improvements have been achieved,” Montgomery said this week. “Where’s the answer?”
“Even if they told us they didn’t have the manpower or the finances, that would be something,” Witt said.
LaCava said no specific sidewalks in The Village have yet been funded.
He said the condition of The Village’s sidewalks mirrored conditions in other older communities across San Diego and he was working with Mayor Todd Gloria’s office to find funding for repairs.
“We want to encourage pedestrian activity,” LaCava said.
Witt said: “The bigger problem here [is that] Property owners who are now partially or maybe even fully liable … need to be aware of the sidewalks in front of their property because they could be involved in a lawsuit if someone trips and falls.”
Witt said he hopes the new hazard document will benefit owners “so they can proactively contact the city” as part of San Diego’s 50/50 cost-sharing program, which says owners and the city will share the cost of sidewalk repairs need to split due to deterioration.
Speaking to the MAD, he said: “The city feels free to settle for the contract easily [its repair] Responsibility with our insurance company or with us.”
Witt said MAD would run out of money if his insurance had to cover all the perils.
LaCava said resolving the liability issue is his “top priority” and he is working with Gloria and the prosecution to “see how people talk about it.”
“I am pleased with the progress we are making on this issue,” said LaCava.
Nevertheless, Witt said: “The city is not a team player.”
“MADs are formed to help communities be better than the city can make them,” he said. “Our Board of Directors works really hard to ensure that we are doing everything we can to improve La Jolla through lots of hard work, organization and creative thinking.
“We’re just trying to be partners and feel like we’re not being treated fairly.”
San Diego spokesman Jerry McCormick said city officials are reviewing the information provided by Enhance La Jolla.
“The City’s goal is to work in partnership with our maintenance assessment district contractors to ensure contract compliance, safety and the overall success of the commercial corridors with improved services,” said McCormick.
Witt emphasized: “We are not trying to start a dispute with the city. I’m just trying to make sure the La Jolla MAD is doing what it’s supposed to be doing and that we’re not being held liable for all those things that we really aren’t responsible for.” ◆