Love where you live!
LA MESA -- It looked, at the start, like an early Christmas party -- a Thursday night gathering of merchants, sharing wings and wine.
But this gathering at the McRea & Associates offices on La Mesa Boulevard quickly transitioned into a serious strategy session for supporters of establishing a Property Based Improvement District. And it began with good news for these advocates.
Jenna Zeledon, a property manager representing the owner of the La Mesa Springs (Vons) property on University Avenue, carried a message from that large property's owner: He would support the PBID.
In a letter shared by Zeledon, the Auerbach Realty Group, LLC said the "Owner of La Mesa Springs Shopping Center wishes to express their support of the impending implementation of a PBID for the City of La Mesa. We understand and appreciate the City of La Mesa’s concerns over investing a considerable amount of money into the Downtown Village and see the value that a PBID can bring in supporting such a sizeable investment.
"It is our hope that we can see the City of La Mesa modernize and thrive through the current economic hardship and we fully support the cost of the PBID for the added value it will bring to the Village.''
Auerbach's support is considered key to the effort to fund a professional management operation in La Mesa's traditional "downtown Village" because the size of the property, like the land owned by the City of La Mesa itself, carries significant influence in whether the PBID wins eventual approval.
This group of PBID supporters also received a strong letter of support from La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid.
But much of this meeting, which the merchants allowed LaMesaToday.com to witness, centered on a strategy discussion that will guide the merchants' effort to win eventual support for the PBID from more than 130 propery owners. "I think its time to kick this village up a notch,'' art dealer Shannon O'Dunn said in a statement typical of the PBID supporters.
The group has hired a professional pubic relations consultant, Casey DeLorme of Getspine Communication, and he led most of the meeting as the group of merchants discussed their motivations for pursuing the PBID and shared ideas for countering what they consider to be substantial inaccurate information being spread through the community on local websites.
The merchants were particularly critical of La Mesa Patch, an AOL-owned web operation that the merchants feel has allowed inaccurate and anonymous attacks on PBID supporters.
DeLorme, a former aide to then-U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini, gave the group a quick bootcamp in campaigning, which included creation and distribution of fact sheets and an organized speaker bureau and response team.
The group focused for a time on the upcoming Dec. 13 La Mesa City Council meeting, which they consider to be key to convincing a majority of Madrid's colleagues to approve the city's signing of the petition required to conduct a formal vote of property owners on the PBID proposal.
If the city were to join the La Mesa Springs property owner, the petition phase of the PBID process, would be well on its way to approval. Madrid said he believed the council would agree to the petition, but the merchants planned to attend the Dec. 13 meeting in large numbers.
If approved, the PBID would raise more than $350,000 per year through assessments against downtown properties. That money would fund maintenance and marketing efforts for the downtown after the city spends more than $5-milllion to rebuild La Mesa Boulevard.
A number of merchants have opposed the PBID, saying it would raise rents along the boulevard at a time when many businesses are struggling to make ends meet. The actual assessments that each downtown property would pay were released by the city's PBID consultant yesterday and posted here Thursday on the city's website.
To counter those concerns. DeLorme also recommended to the PBID supporters that they invite the federally funded Small Business Development Center to lend advice and assistance to struggling merchants as part of the PBID support effort.
Some merchants felt the PBID needed to focus less on the struggling businesses and more on the long-term neccesity of keeping the Village competitive.
"We have the city ready to rebuild the streets and we have the Park Station project and Grossmont Center ready for redevelopment,'' said O'Dunn. "We have a nice concatenation of things happening here and if we are prepared to be the best we can be. . .we will be well situated. But we have to invest now.''
PBID Boundary Map