Parking Changes Could Spur Development

LA MESA -- During the adult portion of Tuesday's City Council meeting, La Mesa's leadership made a couple of important moves for the city's future. But during a meeting-ending exchange of names and accusations, Mayor Art Madrid and City Councilman Ernie Ewin kept up their version of Family Feud.

First the news:

Reacting to a request from the City Manager, the council voted 5-0 to begin the process of allowing developers to make in-lieu payments to avoid parking requirements that may have been inhibiting new building projects in La Mesa's commercial district for the last 20 years. The payments would help fund the eventual construction of a central parking garage when the demand warrants it.

The move is potentially momentous for the Village portion of La Mesa where efforts to expand properties or to build new facilities have been restricted by zoning requirements that any expansion or major use change required significant additional parking spaces on the project site. Practically speaking, this greatly limited efforts to add a second story to an existing building or to rebuild on sites where land for parking was scarce.

In lieu payments, if finally approved, would allow a developer to contribute funds that the city would pool and, when parking demand exhausted the supply in the Village, the money would be used to build a parking garage that could efficiently serve the entire commercial district.

A parking feasibility study presented to the council showed that on average only about 75 percent of the available parking spaces were full in the city's Village area. That doesn't suggest a garage is feasible now, but if future development swells that demand, a garage centrally located in the shopping district could be an efficient answer to the area, the study suggested.

City staff suggested that the zoning changes needed to create the in-lieu program could be made after the city's downtown masterplan is completed in the next year.

The Council Tuesday also heard a measured, thorough and collaborative report that was the result of the La Mesa Village Merchants, the Chamber of Commerce and the city police analyzing Oktoberfest problems and suggesting changes. No final decisions have been penned yet, but it looks like Oktoberfest will eliminate the carnival rides that drew so many rambunctious teenagers to the event.

Arlene Moore, the president of the merchants group, said elimination of the rides seems inevitable, but that she and others were resisting limiting the event to the area east of Spring Street. Moore said it wasn't fair to merchants west of the trolley tracks to have the event moved from their front doors.

After two hours of dealing with substantive issues -- including giving thank you gifts to Centennial volunteers (see photo above) -- this meeting ended with Madrid and Ewin returning to a routine that has become common at the end of recent City Council meetings.

For the last few months, as Ewin has become increasingly public about his differences with Madrid, the last few items of every council meeting have been "council initiated" items that can be described as Ewin using parliamentary and legislative moves to challenge Madrid's positions and control the way the mayor uses his position. Ewin has challenged Madrid's committee appointments and his adherence to travel report procedures and even the mayor's votes while attending governmental advisory groups like the National League of Cities. One series of meetings, each ended with an almost Laurel & Hardy routine in which Ewin quizzed Madrid about a lost historic softball and plaque that had been given to Madrid years ago.

Tuesday night, Madrid had had enough and, during this latest late-night skirmish, lit into Ewin, calling him a "liar" and accusing Ewin of pursuing a self-serving personal vendetta at a time when the city is facing substantial challenges. Ewin denies the allegations, saying only he is holding the mayor to the requirements of the law.

At one point, Madrid formally proposed tabling Ewin's latest procedural moves against the mayor and to move on with important city business. That motion lost by a vote of 3-2 with new council member Kristine Alessio joining Ewin and Councilman Mark Arapostathis in denying Madrid's effort.

That left Madrid's efforts to move on with only the support of long-time council member Ruth Sterling who had not particularly distinguished herself on this civic outing either.

Sterling started the meeting publicly praising the Mission and Viejas Band of the "Kum-e-Kai" Indians (not their name)  and later praised the Community Development Department for setting "clear perimeters" when she meant "parameters."  She also went on a cringeful five-minute tirade criticizing City Manager Dave Witt for operating in secrecy and not giving her enough time to understand the in-lieu parking proposal, which she then voted for anyway.

Witt, ever the gentleman, apologized profusely to Sterling though it was pretty clear there wasn't another  soul in the room who felt he was guilty of anything. Perhaps, however, Witt's tact was a lesson to others in this tight-knit council family who can't seem to get beyond personal animus. Smile, apologize and move on.







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Comment by David Smyle on February 13, 2013 at 2:18pm

Interesting Jimbo you didn't comment on Art's pre-written statement or his un-professionalism calling a fellow Councilman a liar (lost count of the  times).  Shall we count the number of times the Mayor has lied about any number of things including his drunken stupor on the sidewalk near his home that got a City employee fired due to him!  Speaking of the Parking Commission, how come you didn't share the Feasibility study with the Council earlier?  Must be tough to be the Mayor's only friend and delegated mouthpiece.  The Mayor looked very un-Mayoral last night and his true personality came through in flying colors.  Not allowing discussion after his motion was made on item #11 which he conveniently placed on the agenda before Ernie's #13 and #14 was not  appropriate and probably not even legal but he gets away with that kind of thing or at least he used to.  Scoreboard 3-2, Mayor loses again.

Comment by Kevin G George on February 13, 2013 at 1:04pm

Mr. Lavin, I find it strange and troubling that you would follow a paragraph  belittling Ms. Sterling personally, and in a more direct manner than I have ever read here, with a paragraph extolling the virtue of Mr. Witts' exemplary behavior AND pointing out the personal animus of others.

God bless Ms. Sterling, but certainly those were not the first errors she has made, yet previously in a somewhat different political climate you never said a word.

Hmmmmm...the times they are a changin'.

Comment by Jim Wieboldt on February 13, 2013 at 11:27am


You must be kidding right? The Mayor shares the presentation duties with his council colleagues and allows others to present the tokens of a grateful city to its donors and you want to focus on the Mayor allegedly calling on Ms. Sterling with the hard names? Really?

Ms. Sterling, having lived in the region most of her life, knew or should have known how to pronounce "Barona" and "Kumeyaay". Basic Governance 101: Know The Players!

The Centennial Committee has been operational since 2009 and council members have received frequent updates to the committees progress and those organizations who contributed their time, talents and treasure to make it suceed.

I appreciate your trying to give Ms. Sterling a pass, and reminding us that this is the last term for our mayor. But perhaps writing a more factual account of what happened last evening would serve your purpose as a community watchdog, and not as some misguided uninformed pound puppy!

Just sayin'!

Comment by David Smyle on February 13, 2013 at 11:04am

Chris, interesting you continue to show Ms. Sterling's missteps in writing but failed to mentioned the Mayor's  written well prepared statement, something you wrote about Ms. Sterling doing with criticism.  Yes, we all heard the errors in pronunciation by Ms. Sterling but maybe the Mayor should have advised Ms. Sterling she would be presenting those particular awards well in advance of the meeting so she could have studied up on the proper pronunciation.  One would surmise he knew she might have difficulty with this on the spot and he was trying to publicly embarrass her, something he is not beneath and has done previously or maybe by giving her the top donors to announce he was trying to butter her up to vote for his motion to quash items 13 and 14 (which failed appropriately).  In any case, the Mayor publicly embarrassed himself and might as well have been talking in front of a mirror when calling out Mr. Ewin including calling him a liar.  Mayor Madrid is the person with a history of the politics of destruction and it is all coming home to roost in this, his last term as Mayor.

Comment by Joniene Swick on February 13, 2013 at 10:49am

Save the drama for your Mama. Parking garages are $$$. How about more Walk La Mesa programs? A "downtown" marked trail? 

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