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LA MESA -- On-going meetings between city staff and the organizers of La Mesa's annual Oktoberfest have included several proposals that would significantly change the annual celebration.
A report prepared in preparation of Tuesday's City Council meeting says a scenario favored by the city and Chamber of Commerce representatives would create a smaller event, limited to the streets east of Spring Street and eliminate the carnival rides that have been at the heart of confrontations between groups of teens in recent years.
City officials scheduled meetings with the Oktoberfest organizers after citizens raised concerns about the size of the event, questioned the ability of city officials to manage the crowds and expressed concerns about the gangs of teens that forced early closure of sections of the events the last two years.
After repeated meetings with city staff, including police department representatives, the city sketched out three scenarios with one leaving the event similar to past events. The scenario that was first favored by the Merchants and Chamber scaled the event back, limiting it to the streets east of Spring Street and eliminating the carnival rides that appeared to be the focus of security problems in the past.
However, Police Chief Ed Aceves, in his report to the council, said that scaled back scenario did not have the support of the La Mesa Village Merchants Association. Aceves said after reviewing the plan with their members, the merchants felt the scaled back event was unfair to stores located west of Spring Street.
Aceves said if the Merchants apply for an application that is similar to past events, extra security restrictions would undoubtedly be imposed on the event.
While Oktoberfest has ostensibly been a Merchants Association and Chamber of Commerce event for some years now, the city grants the permits and executes the road closures so can determine the scale and timing of the event based on public safety issues.
Oktoberfest has become a signature event for La Mesa and annually draws large crowds to the La Mesa Village streets. But some local residents have complained that the confrontations between teens and concerns that the number and quality of vendors has taken the event in a direction not intended when it was started years ago. Some residents told city officials the teen confrontations involved gang members from outside La Mesa and they feared escalating violence.
The Oktoberfest report is on the council agenda for Tuesday's 4 p.m. meeting, though the staff report does not ask the council to take specific action at this meeting. CLICK HERE to see the full meeting agenda. Oktoberfest is item 9.