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A Little Heat And Light On PBID Issue
LA MESA -- The First Big PBID Debate is over. The proponents were numerous, organized and civil. The opponents were less numerous but civil as well.
In the end the City Council Tuesday afternoon and evening got its first thorough explanation of the laborious process that proceeds creation of a special assessment district and they got a good feel for the fissures the proposal has caused among La Mesa Village merchants.
Lynn McRea (pictured right), the accountant who has headed the effort to create a Property Based Improvement District, led a contingent of more than a dozen sign-carrying speakers -- merchants, realtors, landlords -- who told the council members they wanted to invest in the Village and create a professionally managed organization to oversee downtown efforts.
"Do we want La Mesa to just to be the Jewel of the Hills, or do we want it to look like the jewel of the hills,'' asked Regal Bar owner Jonathan Baron.
Deena While, owner of Readers Inc., spoke first for the PBID opponents. While, a member of the PBID steering committee, said she joined the organizational efforts to try and convince the group to limit spending on the effort to a minimum.
"I was completely unsuccessful in convincing anyone and the spending just escalated,'' While said.
While, like merchants Bill Jaynes and Craig Maxwell, sketched a picture of a quaint downtown that is being threatened by redevelopment and PBID efforts that will rob it of its character. She accused proponents of conducting a "campaign of fear'' that a redeveloped Grossmont Center or the new Park Station project might threaten La Mesa Village's role as the heart of the community.
At one point, Maxwell (pictured right) asserted dramatically: "The PBID will destroy the Village as we know it'' before pointing his finger at Mayor Art Madrid and labeling Madrid "the instigator of this whole effort.''
But Madrid and virtually all the PBID supporters painted the picture of La Mesa Village that has languished since the 1970s and needs to be upgraded and polished if it hopes to keep attracting businesses.
David Woodson, a realtor and McRea's husband, accused the merchants opposing the PBID of spreading misinformation in an effort to "keep rents depressed so they can survive.''
In the end, city staffers said the PBID issue would return to the council early next year as the petition phase of a three step process continues. If a majority of downtown property owners sign petitions, the council would then vote to put the issue to a formal balloting process. If that effort again produced a majority of property owners supporting, the proposal would come before the council for a final vote.
Several opponents of the plan questioned whether the city, as one of the major downtown property owners, should exercise its property owner voting rights when the council would also play the role of final arbiter of the plan. Jaynes, of All Things Bright and British, suggested at one point that the city be left completely out of the PBID effort.
However, if the plan is approved, leaving the city out would also mean the remaining property owners would pick up a greater share of the overall assessments. Large property owners like Vons, Henry's, La Mesa Lumber and the city get a larger weighted vote, but they also pay a much larger share of the $378,100 the PBID is expected to raise to maintain and promote the Village.
In the end, the issue is likely to be determined by property owners who look at their assessment, judge the value of the promised services and cast their vote for or against.
Woodson, the realtor, calculated that his 3,000 square-foot building on La Mesa Boulevard, would pay a PBID assessment of only $79.70 per month. "I'll gladly pay it for all we will be getting.''