Fielding Concerns Big And Small

LA MESA -- The City Council's second Town Hall meeting moved from the west to northeast La Mesa and found a large audience with many more concerns and a bit more vitriol than encountered recently in Rolando.

A two-hour meeting at Northmont Elementary School featured a large crowd and non-stop speakers with a long list of concerns big and small to enrich discussions at the Council's March all-day strategic planning workshop.
The issues politely but firmly delivered moved from extremely local -- speeders and stop-sign scofflaws at key intersections -- to general concerns that creeping urban developments may be threatening the city's core weltanschauung.

Some residents were borderline exasperated with neighbors who kept over-sized RV vehicles and boats clogging narrow city streets and blamed police for being too lax in their enforcement efforts.

Other residents raised more serious concerns about open drug dealing in Northmont Park and nearby streets. A speaker described open use of marijuana "bongs'' in the park on a Sunday afternoon while others talked of harder drugs with a presence in the neighborhood.
"My street is called Snortin' Horton,'' said one resident of Horton Drive. "I wouldn't have moved there if I had known they call it that.''

A series of residents chided the police for being, in their view, too passive when confronting challenges in the neighborhood, saying they need to get out of their cars more often and get to know the community better.

Police Chief Ed Aceves was in attendance and talked about efforts the police were routinely making throughout the area.
"But we really need to hear from you whenever you see something,'' Aceves said.
City Manager Dave Witt encouraged residents to join their local Neighborhood Watch to establish a closer link to the authorities.
"Neighborhood Watch is not a replacement for law enforcement,'' Witt said, but it can help.

The criticisms got strong enough for Councilwoman Ruth Sterling, who lives not far from the Northmont school, to list a series of city accomplishments in the area, including additional stop signs at dangerous corners and the removal of a notorious drug house.

Still, the complaints went on.

The trolley crossing at Severin and Amaya was particularly vexing for many in the neighborhood, particularly when the crossing gates remain down as eastbound trains sit waiting in the nearby station, causing particularly long delays for motorists attempting a left turn from Amaya to northbound Severin. Several residents shouted from their seats in the audience that this same complaint was made at a Town Hall meeting three years ago and nothing was done.

Councilman Ernie Ewin, who sits on the Metropolitan Transit Authority's board, informed the crowd he was texting the MTS leadership as this discussion was occurring Monday night to inform them of a need for immediate help.

Speaker David Smyle seemed to ride the crest to extract his own immediate action from council members that may have been feeling by now a bit surrounded by restless natives.

Smyle pointed out the the Helix Water Board appears to be poised to give its chief administrator what would amount to a 14 per cent pay increase over the past two years and asked why the city, as one of the district's biggest customers, was not taking a formal vote to protest the pay raise.

Mayor Art Madrid explained that the water district is run by its own elected officials and he encouraged residents to make their own protest, noting that official council action could not legally be taken on this night because legal notice had not been given.

But Smyle asked if individual council members would write letters of protest. Ewin and Councilwoman Kristine Alessio made clear pledges to do so.

More universal city concerns also got some airtime as residents noted a need to increase affordable housing throughout the city. Other residents, noting the proposal for the high-rise Park Station project along Baltimore Drive, expressed concerns that La Mesa's small town charms were giving way to the kind of urban developments seen in North Park, City Heights and other City of San Diego neighborhoods.

City officials, eventually facing a final judgment on Park Station, couldn't comment on that project, but council members may have noted they didn't hear from any citizens worrying aloud that the Park Station project wasn't big enough.

And perhaps as a paean to the city's agrarian past, animal concerns twice appeared at this town hall. One Village resident, plagued by a neighbor with barking and menacing pit bull dogs, suggested the city ban ownership of the controversial breed.

And an other resident asked for an update on past proposals to allow residents to keep live chickens in their city yards.

Chickens were an easy slam dunk for the council members and city staff. They pointed out that on Wednesday night, the city's Planning Commission would be working on the chicken issue. On this one, no one was crying fowl.

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Tags: City Council, Dave Witt, David Smyle, Ed Aceves, Ernie Ewin, Government, Kristine Alessio, La Mesa Today, Mark Arapostathis, Mayor Art Madrid, More…Ruth Sterling


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Comment by Noise Trolley on March 15, 2014 at 6:10pm

Read this:
Article with decibel levels over limits for night trolley trips.

Excessive? The trolley passes an approx. 280 times per 24 hours during the week. Trips appear excessive during the day and especially during sleeping hours to residents.

Residents want rules and guidelines already in place to protect them.
Save the County money by getting rid of unnecessary expenditures .

Environment has been impacted and quality of life suffers in this area. Why won't authorities abide by guidelines for Quality of Life? The public has given the authorities the information.

Screeching Trolley 280 times per 24 hours

Noise Trolley Web Site

Freight rail also travels during hours of 12am -4:30am. There are helicopters, freeways, and interstate. The area has a hospice, schools, parks, churches , and many owned homes valued at over $400,000 as well as low income housing near the Severin crossing.

Decibels appear over acceptable levels for nights. The La Mesa General Plan(link below) appears to misrepresent the area decibels if you compare the noise element on the general plan map and the letter from Public Utilites (Public Utilities letter is pictured and attached to this writing). *Please note that the Public Utilities ignored night hours of trolley and the rules for decibel levels during night hours in a residential area when they did their testing.: La Mesa General Plan Noise Element

Residents also think the Severin Dr. crossing is poor design and there is much congestion in the area. Residents plan to make a horn blowing video so you can watch the trolley go by with empty cars and very low amount of riders at night. The trips seem excessive. Horns are blowing blowing. San Diego County could possibly save money with fewer trips and a small shuttle to take the few riders in the night to El Cajon, Downtown San Diego, and Santee. Residents believe public transit is a value but this is an example of excessive waste of energy, money, and environment is a concern.

Residents spoke during a La Mesa Town Hall meeting in 2014 and contacted every authority they could in 2011.
Video date: 10/12/2011 Noise Video Trolley Example of the noise rail trolley element and environmental impact. Location: Tracks crossing Severin Dr. to Murray Dr. along Water St. and Loren Dr. Orange and Green Lines San Diego County, Residential community of La Mesa California near Amaya Station.

Comment by David Smyle on February 20, 2014 at 4:44pm


You sound somewhat like a kindred spirit on term limits although missing the point why our elected officials who supposedly represent us and spend our tax dollars should speak out against the outrageous personnel practices of the HWD which in good part leads to our high water rates.  This was the perfect forum to speak on it since the majority (99.5%)  of La Mesans do not ever attend or watch the Council meetings on TV to know what their duly elected representatives are doing to protect their tax dollars and run the City efficiently and effectively.  The Council got called out in front of maybe 100+ voters who saw the Mayor sidestep the issue and most of the other Council to sit by and make no commitment or even acknowledge there was a problem.  Credit to Councilwoman Alessio for speaking at the HWD Board meeting against and Councilman Ewin for sending the Board a letter opposing the increase.

Predictably, the HWD  voted 3-2 (Verbeke, Muse and Linden for, Scalzetti and Hedberg against) for the 8.5%-$15,000 increase to the second year GM stating we couldn't live without him or replace him and must be paid the same as his peers even though his peers have been GM much longer.  After all, they must have the best employees in all positions and must pay them to keep them.  Can't wait for the next employee MOU at HWD.  I can see the employee lips already licking to increase the $80K average salary by 8.5% since the GM just got his.  After all, it is the GM who negotiates on our behalf against the employees (yeah right). Time to vote out DeAna Verbeke in Nov, Keep Hedberg.

Lemon Grove Council has in unity sent opposition letters to the HWD on rate increases in the past.  Why not La Mesa?  Ask Hizzoner Madrid.  He has only had 24 years to think about it.  No wait, 33 years since he was on council in 1981.  Didn't see him stepping up to the plate at Town Hall.  His response.  Talk to the HWD Board.  Even though we are also one of the largest ratepayers, I don't give a damn since it is not coming directly out of my pocket.  It's only tax payer money paying the City water bills.

As far as 8 years vs the 12, you start with a happy median to appease all voters.  I can tell you I have personally signed up anti term limit people once they knew their experienced person could serve a potential 24 of 28 years and taking four years off after 12 made it ok for them.  I predict a landslide at the voting booth on the petition.  Whether you want 8 or 12, if you believe in terms limits, either donate money to the cause www.La Mesa Term or collect signatures or SHUT UP.

Comment by Bill Jaynes on February 20, 2014 at 3:40pm
Hi, "Andrew Jackson"!

I see your opinion of the British hasn't softened over the centuries.

Nonetheless, I compliment you on your perceptive--some might say clairvoyant--knowledge of the participants at an event your busy schedule prevented you from attending. To be sure, you are correct that in the audience were several members of both the La Mesa Citizen Oversight Group ("Your local advocates promoting open, accountable, cost-effective, efficient government, and protecting citizens from unnecessary taxes, fees, regulations, and policies. ) and La Mesa Term Limits (

Regarding signature gathering and the appropriateness of discussing the unconscionable Helix Water executive pay raise, I am happy to inform you that not only did David Smyle singlehandedly collect almost thirty signatures, but that his time at the lectern received the only applause of the evening. Perhaps you don't know as much as you think you do, and you might consider demanding all the facts the next time you are tasked with surrogacy.

If you wish to become better informed, you are more than welcome to attend a meeting of the Citizen Oversight Group. Based upon your disjointed comments, you appear to have equal parts hate for all sides of all issues, which our opponents will tell you is the sole requirement for membership.

In closing, I thank you for advertising the new direction we have taken at All Things Bright and British, or what we jokingly refer to as "Bright, British, and Beyond!" Rest assured that while our antiques, collectibles and consignment items may on occasion be second-hand our extensive selection of the finest English chocolates and teas remains first rate!

Bill Jaynes
(located at the same corner in the heart of the Village--directly across the street from the future home of the Centennial Monument--for thirty years past, and thirty to come. Get used to us.)
619 808 7049

P.S. Sorry about that whole sword thing. Don't you think it's time to get past that, as I have the PBID?)
Comment by Kevin G George on February 20, 2014 at 10:33am

Interesting Mr. Jackson, the only non City employee/ Council member mentioned in the article is Dave Smyle. Perhaps your exceptional clairvoyant talent ( considering that you weren't there, yet know who attended) can provide the names of the other usual downtown suspects in attendance?

(And suspected of what exactly Captain Renault?)

 I am sorry that the current term limits petition being circulated does not meet your strict specifications. Perhaps you should expend some effort and money for a proposal more to your liking, there is still plenty of time and plenty of room on the ballot. 

Thanks for explaining what the meeting was about, but we know what Town Hall meetings are for. The point that escaped you was that those silly  things discussed at Council meetings are not what the people want their government to address. They  want the Council to take care of many problems effecting their daily lives, which was the point of that comment.

Also if what you were referring as the " centennial fundraising project" is the Centennial Legacy Project or "The Lookout" it was not the idea of the Merchants Assoc or the Chamber of Commerce, it was the City/ Centennial Committees idea.

Which incidentally was supposed to be paid for by donations from the community through a concerted effort by the Centennial Committee including " The Party of the Century".

BTW, the fund raising for that project is still going on, feel free to contribute as much as you wish.

And please, have a nice day.



Comment by Andrew Jackson on February 19, 2014 at 9:44pm

I wish I had attended last night’s town hall meeting. Unfortunately, I had another meeting to attend that pushed past 9 o’clock. One of the messages I gleaned from this LM Today piece was the citizen engagement. Evidently, a number of residents from the neighborhood went to the meeting and spoke their minds: from over-sized RVs to pot-smoking park-goers; from questionably-timed trolley crossing gates to speeding drivers, etc. Fellow readers, these are the very topics that council members should expect to hear at town hall meetings. This was not a meeting to take action on e-cigarettes, silly plastic bag regulations, or the Helix Water administrator’s pay increase. The point of the meeting was for the council members to listen to what residents have to say.

I was also thrilled (but not too thrilled) to read that the usual downtown suspects were also in attendance. Maybe they were able to gather a few more signatures for their term limits ballot measure. Yes, the one that would limit La Mesa council members to twelve years in office. Twelve years, ha! If they had real spines they would have called for eight year limits like the slightly more grownup city of San Diego has for their city council members. But what can you expect from a city that can’t finish its centennial fundraising project on time. Oh wait, how much money can a small city realistically raise from a bunch of downtown antique shops and second-hand British stores? But I digress.

Comment by Chandra George on February 19, 2014 at 4:21pm

I watch City Council meetings in person occasionally, but mostly on TV.  When I do, I hear about banning plastic bags, regulating e-cigarettes, global issues like climate change & fair trade.  It is a rare meeting where the mayor isn't asking for funds to travel to some distant seminar or government trade show.  

I attended the Northmont event last night.  If I were to summarize what I heard from residents in attendance, I would say people are concerned about crime & traffic issues -both safety-related & ease-of-travel-related in their neighborhoods, and the overall character of La Mesa (changing from quiet & suburban to something more crowded & urban.)  Not one citizen rose to speak about the virtues of non-plastic shopping bags or the need for more fair trade products, or any of the other typical council discussion topics.

Quite a disconnect, I think,  between the concerns of the City Council with its agenda-setting mayor and those of the people they're elected to serve.   With last night's unvarnished feedback (and that of the Rolando meeting I did not attend), I'll be waiting to see what shows up on the next C.C. agenda.

Comment by Mark Cavanaugh on February 19, 2014 at 11:51am

Thanks for just reporting the facts Chris and leaving out the subjective editorial stuff.  I appreciate this type of information from the media much better.

Comment by Kevin G George on February 19, 2014 at 10:22am

I attended last nights meeting and I was struck by one unmistakable fact: The public is woefully uninformed on why the City is deteriorating.

There were  many many examples of the deterioration brought forward, but most think it is just a matter of the City not paying attention or not being aware of a particular problem. That is not the case.

There is only one underlying reason why the City of La Mesa is in decline: La Mesa is B-R-O-K-E.

Citizen after Citizen stood up to complain about the sidewalk in front of their house, a stop sign that needed to be put up, the lack of  response when they call about drug dealers in their park or traffic/code enforcement.

They spoke as if these problems exist because the resources were just not in the right place, or that no one seems to care, but that is not the case. The resources available have been shrunk to the point where we are seeing obvious examples of deterioration all over LM.

It was a nice exercise but the people who were up there with their requests are not going to get anything they were asking for, EVER.
The Mayor may very well go over and walk the park as he promised, but he is not going to stop what is going on there. The police need to be there to put pressure on the bad guys but the PD budget is cut to the bone as are all others.
The City is in dire straights because of bad past decisions and now the ONLY way out is to sell our quaint little town down the river to bolster the tax base.
The upcoming negotiations re Park Station will be a good example of the City's stance on the balance of its tax base and the quality of life in our little corner of the World.
Comment by Esteban Camisado on February 19, 2014 at 10:15am
Hi Stephanie-the first step for the chickens is a hearing before the Planning Commission. They are hearing the matter tonight at 7 pm at City Hall.
Comment by La Mesa Today on February 19, 2014 at 6:59am

This message was originally placed by this La Mesa Today member on the calendar entry for this Town Hall meeting:

Comment by Connie Govier, Glass Artist 15 hours ago

Unfortunately I cannot attend this evenings meeting, but I would like to share a safety concern I have for La Mesa.  The people who "set up shop" at intersection median turn lanes are creating a hazard as some people stop to donate things to them when the turn light is active.  Also I think there is a concern for pedestrians who must sometimes stop at the median before crossing, knowing there is someone there who wants their money.  I would not cross at intersection that has someone camped there.  There is one man who traditionally sets up on Fletcher Parkway by Costco with his dog.  Seems like this might be an SPCA issue as well since I don't think it is good for the dog to be out in the sun, smelling gas fumes all day long.  And to have a baby there is definitely a child protective system problem.

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