Signs Of Progress Along El Cajon  Boulevard

LA MESA -- Six or seven years ago, La Mesa city development officials believed El Cajon Boulevard as it runs through West La Mesa was poised for a renaissance.
Several developers had acquired vacant or underused lots and the city had stepped in to do street improvements and establish zoning changes to encouraged mixed use residential development.
Then the Great Recession hit and virtually everything stopped. That is, until Tuesday night.
Amid an otherwise uneventful meeting, the council quietly approved a 56-unit apartment development, Touchstone Villas (artist drawings above and below), that will fill a long vacant lot just east of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church.
"I think you could say this is a sign the economy is improving,'' La Mesa's City Development chief Bill Chopyk said. "We hope this is a start again.''
The new development, located at the corner of El Cajon Boulevard and Woodyard Avenue, will include retail and residential units and is located in a stretch of El Cajon Boulevard with a number of lots and underused parcels the city development officials are hoping will also now start to fulfill the earlier hopes.

In addition to a lot directly across from the Touchstone Villas, Chopyk said developers continue to consider plans for lots next to the BMH Italian Deli on the church's west side and further up the street there are both trailer park owners who would consider redevelopment and two large vacant properties on the boulevard's south side where mixed use projects remain on the drawing board.

El Cajon Boulevard may have been down on its luck for some years, but it has some natural advantages, not the least of which is heavy daily traffic that can drive more commerce than other, sleepier parts of the city. It is also the home to a number of popular restaurants including Terra, Haritna and BMH Italian among others.

The Touchstone Villa project got no comment and virtually little notice at Tuesday night's council meeting, while the council and a familiar group of speakers continued to pore over the on-going debate about how the city will pay for maintenance of the new downtown streetscape being planned for La Mesa Boulevard in the city's Village section.

Bill Jaynes, a consistent critic of the long-discussed Property Based Improvement District, was charged at the council's last meeting with bringing back an alternative to the PBID and Jaynes did at least some of his homework. He returned Tuesday night with a simple and familiar plan: use the parking meter money.

City staffers confirmed for the council that the meters generate more than enough funds to cover the maintenance costs and a majority of the council appeared ready to put the whole issue to bed by simply allocating some of those funds to maintain the new street.

That, however, would not only be a defeat for Mayor Art Madrid and a variety of his supporters in the village, but it would also signal a retreat from council efforts to get downtown merchants and property owners to contribute to the city's investment in the downtown.

The idea for a Property Based Improvement District had been born to address a situation in which the Village merchants weren't contributing, in some views, to the success of their own business environment, while the city was seen as subsidizing events with police protection and other public services. At its worst point, the Village's Merchant's Association told the city it was unable to raise the funds to pay for maintenance of the downtown flowers and the city removed the planters.

But the PBID effort, now in at least its third year of hand-wringing effort and controversy seems to be dying as the council that originally funded it, voted at its last meeting to de-fund the effort even before a formal proposal made it to the council for consideration.

The streetscape project in the Village is slated to begin soon after the first of the year and all hope the new, polished sidewalks and streets will generate a revival with or without a public-private partnership to maintain and market the area.

In the meantime, new developments like Touchstone Villas continue elsewhere in the city.

 Vacant lot that will become Touchstone Villas next door to St. Martin of Tours Church.

 

 

 

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Tags: Government, La Mesa City Council, La Mesa business, Touchstone Villas

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Comment by chris shea on September 27, 2013 at 11:50am

Thank you, Michael.  Actually I did not define myself as a Socialist or anything.  I said, "Call me a ...."

Not unlike saying "Call me crazy but..."

At any rate, thanks for your comment.  I think that what tends to happen often is that when people are angry at something or frustrated by the opinions, or actions, I suppose, of others, they resort to finger pointing and name calling.  Then the debate gets personal.  And that just shuts down any hope of reasonable discussion or dialogue.

Today is a glorious day in the Neighborhood and I am happy, as I always am, just to be able to breathe.

Life is good.

Comment by Michael Cargill on September 26, 2013 at 9:03pm

Oh Chris, your story is so sweet. I just get goose bumps every time I read it. I can't imagine why these people see anything wrong with it.

Comment by David Stanley on September 25, 2013 at 10:10pm

Chris, in your post you said you dont think its "crap" for us to all get along. You also labelled yourself as Politically Correct, a Socialist and a Pollyanna. Do you actually feel that when one expresses frustration and opposition at the constant class warfare, class division, derision,  mockery and attack on Constitutionally guaranteed rights exhibited by those shouting to the press that they are your "Leaders" that person is a misanthrope? To get along is one of the greatest things for which to strive but when one portion of the population is constantly derided with these actions a few will stand up and shout, "Enough". Find one presidential speech, one speech from the Senate Majority Leader, practically any dialogue or monologue from almost any "news" outlet wherein these actions are NOT constant. Where then is this "Get Along" aspect? To "get along" does not mean one must "Go Along".

You defined yourself as a Socialist. Are you sure you know what this really means? "Socialism" is a political theory advocating  state ownership of industry and capital. Diametrically opposite of the foundation of our own Republic. Ownership of your store under your theory and supposed preference would then be by government and your only input would be that of a worker.

"Progressive" is a label happily applied to a group who apparently perceive willingness and ability to push through and around rules of society and laws as their right and their willingness to ignore the dreams, desires and needs of those who just do not agree. "Progressivism" is actually defined as those who favour progress toward better conditions in government and society. Nobel goals but how can this group proceed at the expense of rights and desires of others? Increased taxation, forced medical premiums three times current payments, forced loss of jobs, erosion of rights guaranteed in the Constitution, constant mocking and demeaning epithets by government officials and the press do not seem to be in line with the "Progressivism" you embrace.

And finally, "Pollyanna", an overly optimistic or cheerful person. This is a wonderful position and attitude. You are truly a Pollyanna and I celebrate this. We all attempt to embrace this attitude, to light up the room, to bring a smile. Its just rather difficult when events constantly shadow daily activities.

Derision, your word, is to deride, to condescend, to treat with contempt. When one reads and quotes the actual arrows of genuine derision from the political party in power, at federal, state and local levels, and  holds those words and actions up for others to either see or ignore is not "Derision". Rather, it is one person's or one group's attempt to respond to those injustices, as futile as it may be.

We all want to get along but at what price? When faced with a juggernaut bent upon the perceived destruction of everything one honors how does one react? Do we "Go along to get along" or stand up to be heard? Are our rights so insignificant, so meaningless that we must remain silent, acquiesce and just allow it to happen?

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on September 25, 2013 at 5:00pm

Quoting from this article: "The idea for a Property Based Improvement District had been born to address a situation in which the Village merchants weren't contributing, in some views, to the success of their own business environment." 

We merchants arrive early, stay late, work hard, spruce up our properties, advertise, encourage neighborhood business, pay property tax and collect sales tax.  How are we not contributing to the success of La Mesa Village?  There have been plenty of retailers and service businesses closing on La Mesa Blvd. and surrounding streets in the past few years.  I am sure their fate wasn't because they didn't try hard enough, but they were instead effected by the economy and competition from larger companies and online business. 

Parking meter money was initially earmarked for the improvement of downtown La Mesa.  Enhanced city streets and sidewalks might encourage more business, and hence more money to the meters.   Charging restaurants and retailers exorbitant PBID assessments would have been counter-productive, as businesses would have to cut back elsewhere to pay such fees.  Paying a bureaucrat around $75,000 a year to oversee a few blocks wouldn't seem like money well spent to me; however, that money would go a long way toward streetscape maintenance.

Comment by chris shea on September 25, 2013 at 11:43am

Yesterday when I got to my dear store at 8219 La Mesa Blvd with a new plant for my planter, I noted that the plant I was pondering replacing had apparently sprouted buds overnight.  As such, the older mum plant is now sharing its space with a new, young salvia plant.  The old rosemary is fairly ho-hum about the changes to its environment. I took the buds to be a sign of the virtue of patience. (I look for hidden meaning just about everywhere I can.  It makes life richer.  At least in my opinion.)  I added new sidewalk chalk to the outline around my cherished dog bowl.  Then I grabbed my broom for some honest merchant-style chores and swept the sidewalk and the gutter in front of my store and partly in front of my neighboring businesses.  Cigarette butts!  Wrappers of various goodies and two pieces of green gum, a few leaves and a bottle cap, each adding its own special touch to the free-form modern art collage against the curb.  One dust pan filled,  contents disposed of, and the street was fit to welcome cars for parking.

While I know my sweeping and tiny plant tending doesn't save the City any money, I do feel immensely blessed to be able to have a store in the Village.  And I will be grateful for any and all improvements that happen here.

In a recent post someone said, derisively, that there is a type of person who only wants everyone to get along. As if that's a bad thing!  Frankly I think that is a noble aspiration.  I hope that as the weeks turn into months and progress begins to show, that all of us, merchants as well as non-merchants begin to find a way to realize that we really all do have the exact same goal:  that our beloved La Mesa thrive.

So call me a politically correct, Socialist Democrat Progressive Pollyanna, who doesn't think that it's "crap" to wish we could all get along, I see good things coming...  And I really do think we could get along better if we tried.

Cheers!

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