Love where you live!
LA MESA -- After last month's City Council meeting, supporters of creating a Property Based Improvement District for the La Mesa Village left stunned by the council's decision not to sign the pro-PBID petition.
At the heart of their ire was City Councilman Ernie Ewin, whose statements and body language throughout the debate had convinced many he had decided to oppose the proposal the council itself had already funded to the tune of $337,000.
On Monday night, Ewin agreed to meet with the PBID supporters in the accounting offices of PBID Steering Committee leader Lynn McRae and cut through the rumors and tea leaf reading about where he stands.
Ewin said he is not opposed to the PBID.
"Do I think the PBID will work? Yes,'' Ewin said. "Is the PBID needed? Yes. Do I think it will benefit the village? Yes. But I need to see more movement among other property owners. I don't want the city to be the big stick behind this and then having people come back at us and say we shoved it down their throats.''
McRae and other PBID supporters, however, were obviously not happy with the city officials taking a neutral, wait-and-see attitude on the PBID process. In their view, the council started this process by funding a street scape redesign and paying for a consultant to organize the effort to form a new method of funding Village maintenance, safety and promotion.
"Based on that we went out there and put our own funds and our own reputations into this,'' said Village merchant Jim Wieboldt. "The way I see it, when I say I have your back and we're out there, I have your back. Now we want you to have our backs.''
Other merchants said the supporters represent the civil leadership of the Village and it appeared the council was siding with a vocal minority.
"We want the city to take a leadership position on this,'' art shop owner Shannon O'Dunn said, comparing this situation to the time a few years back when the council led the debate which eventually approved Proposition L, which raised the sales tax and has helped keep city services intact through the recession.
But Ewin was mostly sticking to his guns, saying he needed to see a stronger demonstration of support for the PBID from property owners before he would recommend the city express its official support.
Ewin did say he would propose that the council remove the end of July deadline it had imposed for completing the petition phase of the PBID process. That was seen as a big concession by PBID supporters who have struggled to efficiently identify and contact many of the Village property owners. A number of properties are owned by trusts and out-of-town absentee landlords.
Ewin also said he would see if city staff could assist with better contact numbers for property owners and would work to clarify the city's position on plans to rebuild La Mesa Boulevard as it passes through the Village.
The PBID supporters said they have toiled for the past two years believing that if the PBID effort did not succeed, much of the city's plan for redeveloping the boulevard would be abandoned.
Ewin said he knew of no vote of the council that linked the streetscape plan to the PBID success.
PBID supporters said city staff had repeatedly said the scale and scope of the redesign was linked to whether a PBID would eventually be in place to care for some of the more elaborate design changes that a full-blown redevelopment effort would include.
What exactly a down-sized La Mesa Boulevard project would look like, was never elaborated in detail during the PBID process.
Opponents of the PBID were not present at Ewin's meeting with the PBID supporters, but Bill Jaynes, owner of All Things Bright & British and a PBID opponent, said he would oppose any effort to end the July deadline the council has endorsed.
"We'd like to see them make a decision and stick with it for 30 days instead of changing it,'' Jaynes said.
The opponents felt like they had been handed a significant victory when council voted for a July deadline for either producing enough petitions to support the PBID or abandoning the effort. State law does not set deadlines and the effort's proponents had been struggling to contact property owners and getting quick decisions on the petition question.
In order to go forward, a majority of the Village property owners -- a vote weighted according to property values -- would be needed to move the PBID process on to a formal ballot. During the formal ballot phase, only a majority of property owners who vote would be needed to impose assessments that would raise about $370,000 annually to fund improved security, maintenance and marketing of the Village.