Ken Leighton 4:17 p.m., July 23
La Jolla's Kayak Lobby Facing Epic Battle
The great war of the La Jolla Shores kayak vendors is about to enter its next major round, and in light of its colorful history of political fireworks along with well-timed campaign contributions, as chronicled by Moss Gropen on our cover in May of last year, the latest battle stands to be well worth watching.
On Friday the city of San Diego issued a request for proposal from "qualified firms or individuals...to operate kayak concessions at [the] La Jolla Shores public boat launch ramp."
Replies are due back October 28.
Commercial kayaking at the Shores has become a big business, highly popular with visitors, not so much so with some La Jolla regulars.
In fact, the issue has become so politically charged, would-be vendors have turned to expensive lobbyists, including Jack Monger, who happens to be a big backer of Mayor Jerry Sanders, as Gropen recounted in his 2010 piece, "Influence Paddling."
"The Monger Group’s curious interest in kayaks began in late 2008 when San Diego Bike & Kayak Tours approached them, seeking a strategy to best position themselves in a nascent licensing process for kayak tour operators."
"As it happens, San Diego Bike & Kayak donated $2500 to the strong-mayor campaign in 2009. Was the modest contribution an attempt to grease the skids?
"[Co-owner Marcella] Di Michieli, although admitting that her company had never contributed to a political campaign before, denies the connection. She maintains that 'We’ve always been interested in politics.'
"When I asked Jack Monger whether his firm had recommended that his client throw a few kayak bucks to the strong-mayor campaign, he said, 'I don’t remember whose idea it was.'
"When I asked Monger why San Diego Bike & Kayak chose to make this their first — and only, to date — monetary contribution to a political cause, he snapped, 'My client just likes good government.'"
According to a July 11 lobbyist filing, the Kwiatkowski Firm, run by Adrian Kwiatkowski, Monger's longtime friend and past associate, and another Sanders backer, now represents San Diego Bike & Kayak regarding "issuance of next three year concession."
The Monger Company, which Kwiatkowski left as a lobbyist in July, also remains registered to lobby for the kayak firm as of September 13, according to city records.
During the second quarter of this year, the filings say, Kwiatkowski lobbied Victoria Joes of the mayor's office on behalf of San Diego Bike & Kayak, a service for which the Monger firm was paid $1500.
Another big lobbying outfit whose members have backed Sanders, Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, is registered to lobby on behalf of another vendor, La Jolla Kayak.
All the prospective vendors and their lobbyists will have plenty to keep them busy.
According to last week's request for proposals, the city's current short term kayak concession permits issued in 2009 run out on March 31 of next year:
"The purpose of this RFP is to reasonably ensure water safety during kayak operations, preserve and maintain to the extent reasonably possible the marine natural environment, and to mitigate and relieve congestion at the boat launch ramp as well as vehicle and pedestrian congestion on Avenida de la Playa."
The mayor's latest plan, according to the document, calls for limiting the "size and number" of kayak operations "during the peak summer season defined as the period from June 13th through September 1st of each year and Labor Day."
A "tour schedule" has been developed "that identifies fifty-four total tours per day to be distributed amongst selected Proposer(s). Each tour shall launch and return to the beach at the respective designated times as set forth in the tour schedule. No kayak operations of any kind are allowed on July 4th."
It gets even more complicated:
"The number of slots awarded to each of the selected Proposer(s) will be based upon a number of factors including but not limited to: (1) the rank order of the Proposer(s)’ response to the RFP; (2) the number of slots requested in the Proposer(s)’ operating plan; and (3) Proposer(s)’ past kayak tour operations (if any). The selected Proposer(s) will meet or exceed minimum criteria in the RFP to be considered eligible."
If the city doesn't choose to hand out the dates, the document says, a lottery will be used.
And of course, the city will also get a cut of the financial action:
"Consideration paid to the CITY by each of the selected Proposer(s) shall be the greater of a percentage of gross income of Ten Percent 10% (“Percentage Fee”) or a guaranteed minimum annual fee (“Minimum Fee”).
"The Minimum Fee will be established by the CITY based on historical use (if any) and proposals from each of the selected Proposer(s)."