Park Station Project Seeks Approvals

LA MESA -- After years of study, probing of environmental issues and efforts to familiarize the community with its intentions, the promoters of the Park Station Project begin the process Wednesday night of trying to win city approval for what would be among the largest development projects of its kind in La Mesa history.

Park Station promoters will be appearing before the city's Planning Commission, asking that the panel agree that this project should be granted a special status that would allow it to deviate from the current height and density rules that currently apply to that area.

In asking the Planning Commissioners to approve a unique Park Station Specific Plan, the project promoters are asking that the city's zoning requirement be suspended for this project, allowing 110 foot towers in an area where the current height requirement is 46 feet. They are also asking for higher residential density of 416 units or 500 hotel rooms (not both) and reduced parking requirements that reflect its location along the MTS Trolley line.

Wednesday night's hearing, which occurs in the Allison Avenue council chambers, is the most significant public step since the Kitzman family, the owner of the development site along Baltimore Drive, first proposed redeveloping the underused lots in May of 2008. The project initially was proposing 190 foot residential or hotel towers, but the scope of the project was scaled back through a prolonged Environmental Impact Study, which is also a subject of Wednesday night's proceedings.

The project was initially met with some skepticism in a city that clearly sees itself as a largely single-family home community. Residents raised concerns about traffic and the eclipsing of sight-lines from homes located on surrounding highlands. 

But at the same time, the Kitzmans, a local family and business owners, have quietly bankrolled an effort to meet with local residents to hear their concerns and share with them the benefits of redeveloping what has largely been an eye-sore entrance to the city for decades. Public relations firms have arranged dinners at local restaurants to discuss the fiscal needs of the city as well as sharing with residents the potential impact a healthy, mixed-use project could have on the city.

The five-acre site also includes a structure that now houses a combined American Legion VFW organization and would require major reconstruction of the streets, sewers and other infrastructure around and underneath this land.

For a city that until just recently was projecting deficits in its general fund, the addition of a multi-million dollar project has some strong positives. Increased sales and property taxes could be key to the city's future. Such increased "density" projects along trolley and bus lines also have the general support of regional planners who want to discourage increased suburban, automotive-dependent sprawl.

But La Mesa remains a small city in many ways. Just 60,000 or so residents who have taken pride in keeping its nine square miles distinct from its more urban neighbors to the west and south.

The Planning Commission hears the property-owners petition and decides whether to approve, reject or send the project back for revisions. Ultimately, any deviation from current zoning laws is decided by the City Council.

That step could still be months away and there is always a possibility that litigation could occur if a property owner believes their property rights are being unduly restricted.

Once the property-owners and the city determine what type of development will be allowed, developers can be sought to propose specific building plans that would still be monitored reviewed by the city as the project moves forward.

The Planning Commission meeting begins at 7 p.m. CLICK HERE for links to the agenda. See the Park Station application by clicking here

CLICK HERE for past LaMesaToday.com stories on Park Station.

 

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Tags: Government, Kitzman, La Mesa Today, La Mesa business, Park Station, The Kitzman family

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Comment by Chandra George on June 18, 2014 at 12:59pm

Whether this project goes forward as 4 stories or taller, I believe it is critical that the developers be financially responsible for two traffic mitigaters:  1.  The "software" that would make the trolley and the adjacent cross-streets and parallel street run more efficiently.  Apparently, La Mesa agreed to the trolley coming through La Mesa without considering the cost of making it work well with traffic. This also would help the trolley-traffic problems at Amaya & Severin.  According to Councilman Ewin, it is an item that the City of La Mesa cannot afford.  (Why MTS doesn't pay for this is ridiculous, but I expect so little from government.)  2.  The location of this property begs that any development be tied to creating a roadway over or under the trolley tracks, so that we can have ONE road that moves traffic from one side of the trolley line to the other without having deal with the trolley.  Right now the trolley splits the city traffic-wise.   This is the time and place to solve this problem.  Once it's approved & built, the opportunity is gone.   The citizens of La Mesa deserve some concessions from the developers and the city hall cheerleaders on this one, and filling the city coffers just doesn't do it for me.  Also, I agree with Suda House that firefighting equipment will have to be upgraded...let the property owners pay for that, too.

Comment by Batman on June 18, 2014 at 10:35am

This stackable rat cage plan is all part of Agenda 21. The communists just consider us to be animals.

Comment by Barry Jantz on June 18, 2014 at 8:15am

American Legion and VFW are two different organizations. American Legion owns the property and is a co-applicant on the proposed development, as noted. In this instance, VFW has an agreement with the American Legion to use the facility for their post's operations, I believe.

Comment by Suda House on June 17, 2014 at 8:56pm

I urge all those interested in the Park Station Project to attend tomorrow's Planning Committee Meeting.The article above has several important links for you to review to understand fully the implications of a development this size. There is also a Facebook Page : Fight Park Station-No More than Four with commentary for you to consider as well. Below is a summary of what I believe are the issues:

Neighbors and Friends,

This Wednesday night (6/18) is an important meeting for all residents of La Mesa. 

Coming before the Planning Commission in City Hall at 7 pm is a proposed project for Park Station at the Crossroads. This development of land in the heart of our city is at the crossroads of Spring, Baltimore and University Avenues. It is a huge, three phase project to build apartments, a hotel, office space and retail stores. It is projected as a “smart growth” development, with increased “walkability”, access to public transportation and a revolutionary approach to future living standards for today’s citizenry. 

These projections are highly debatable, because what is proposed seems counter to what might actually occur should Park Station become a reality. 

Many of us are past debating the hype of the project and though we still question so much, here’s what we need to understand is at stake on Wednesday night:

First, a Final Environmental Impact Report (as required by California Environmental Quality Act of 1970), was prepared by the Developer with the La Mesa City Staff. This FEIR is now before the Planning Commission for review, discussion and acceptance as a full disclosure of how Park Station will affect our current environment. This covers everything from air quality, aesthetics, sight lines, geology, greenhouse gas emissions, traffic and more. In the document are three suggested possibilities for the project from do nothing, to respect the office mixed-use urban overlay, to seeking greater density through increased heights of various structures. Although confusing to most of us, the FEIR is not the proposal for the development and/or the design for it. This document is information only for the Planning Commission and I assume it will be accepted because it meets and fulfills the requirements necessary by CEQA to receive approval for the proposed Park Station.

In other words, to debate the merits of this document might be off-task for what our focus should be at the meeting. Instead we should use the information provided in the document for our talking points.

Second, Park Station is seeking to be removed from the Village Specific Plan, an overlay that has distinct requirements for density, design, building heights and all things related to zoning. If successful in this separation, Park Station becomes its own specific plan--called the Park Station Specific Plan. This document is available for download and review on the City of La Mesa webpage: http://www.cityoflamesa.com/DocumentCenter/View/6569.

NOW...here is where it becomes problematic. Should the Planning Commission approve the creation of a separate building and zoning plan as stated in the Park Station Specific Plan without amending it, then the project goes forward as it is stated. 

So read the following very carefully:

Do you want the “smart growth” Park Station as outlined in their specific plan? 

Here’s what the Park Station proposes for the City of La Mesa:

Buildings can reach the height of 110 feet (approx 10 stories) with 46 feet heights (4 stories) all along the Baltimore corridor. 

These heights will then provide for greater density for both residents, office workers, retail employees and tourists--all creating greater physical congestion.

The aesthetics of our city will change dramatically as visual views of the city will become obstructed and for some nearby residents issues of privacy will be non-existent.

Police and Fire will need additional equipment to respond to higher density not to mention the rescue of those on the 10th floor.

Rush hour times will increase with gridlock through these corridors that connect many to the various freeways that already splinter our city and emergency vehicles will have extreme difficulty responding during these morning and evening commutes because of the congestion, not to mention the air quality could be compromised beyond those evaluations in the FEIR.

The following is my third point and a personal call to action:

Those of us who call La Mesa our home, we need to look past the ambitions of big developers, the politics of city officials, and our fears of the city’s financial future. 

What I see is an opportunity for those of us invested in our community to do the right thing, considering what we value the most, a city we can all live in and a development we can live with because we know that compromise is power, not failure.

Here’s what I believe we should do:

We must demand of those on the Planning Commission that for the Park Station Specific Plan to be removed from the Village Specific Plan and for it to move forward, it must be required to comply to the Office Mixed-Use Overlay Alternative for all planning, zoning and design components.

In defense of this demand, please note that this Office Mixed-Use zoning overlay was recommended in the FEIR within the Executive Summary as an “environmentally superior alternative since it would have reduced impacts related to aesthetics, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, noise and traffic. In addition, the Office Mixed-Use Alternative would also meet most of the basic project objectives.”

The Office Mixed-Use would limit the building height for all structures to 46 feet. 

Apartments, retail, hotel and offices would all have to be designed and constructed not to exceed 46 feet or approximately four stories. 

Therefore, The Park Station Specific Plan must be amended to comply with all aspects of the City of La Mesa’s Office Mixed-Use Overlay Alternative and as the developers so aptly propose, “The Park Station Specific Plan is intended to be a walkable Mixed-Use Urban Community Village.” 

Park Station at the Crossroads can become that village and so much more...just...

NO MORE THAN FOUR

Suda House

 
Comment by La Mesa Today on June 17, 2014 at 3:41pm

Seth,

At this time, the American Legion is a co-applicant with the Kitzmans to have the property re-zoned. That from the city's planning czar, Bill Chopyk. There may be other views within the organization's membership about how the project moves forward and what becomes of the American Legion property if it rezoned, but they are participating in the application for rezoning so far. We may hear more at the hearing Wednesday evening.

Comment by Aaron Seth on June 17, 2014 at 2:13pm

Can you tell us more about this statement "The five-acre site also includes a structure that now houses a combined American Legion VFW organization" Last I heard the VFW was not behind this project?

Comment by Aaron Seth on June 17, 2014 at 12:06pm

"At the same time, the Kitzmans, a local family and business owners, have quietly bankrolled an effort to meet with local residents to hear their concerns and share with them the benefits of redeveloping what has largely been an eye-sore entrance to the city for decades. Public relations firms have arranged dinners at local restaurants to discuss the fiscal needs of the city as well as sharing with residents the potential impact a healthy, mixed-use project could have on the city."

Those of us not "wined and dined" will also be there to tell the planning commission to stick to the zoning in place!

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