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LA MESA -- The long-awaited draft Environmental Impact Report on the proposed Park Station project in downtown La Mesa has been released and shows a scaled-back but still substantial project could be approved for the 5.23 acre site.
The plan evaluates a mixed use project on the site that could have retail, office and residential space including a section that would rise 110 feet in the air, more than twice the current allowable height limit in the city of 46 feet.
That 110 feet is considerable lower than the 18 floor towers the land owner was originally discussing and that brought many of the challenging comments from local residents, however the height issue is still apt to remain a strong one as the project moves through the city's planning process.
The full report is more than 300 pages long, but contains an executive summary at the start. It is also clear that the limiting factor on the this project is its impact on traffic in the area. The traffic studies done as part of this study were particularly sensitive with the city requiring the study engineers to return on a number of occasions to recalculate current traffic flows.
In the end, this draft suggests the land could handle a project with a combination of up to
416-multi-family residential dwelling units, up to 61,000 square feet of commercial retail, up to 146,000 square feet of commercial office, and up to 146,000 square feet of hotel use (500 rooms).
Such a project would be among the largest developments in La Mesa since the Grossmont Center was built.
Early public hearings on this project ocurred over the last two years, but public reaction was cool when building heights of 18-stories were originally discussed. This draft EIR clearly describes a project that exceeds the city's current height limits, but the new height has been significantly reduced.
As originally proposed, the site location -- bordered by Baltimore, Spring, Nebo and University -- would concentrate four-story retail, office and residential buildings closest to the surrounding, more heavily trafficked streets. The high, 110-foot tower, which would require a zoning variance, would be located further off the streets looming above the lower retail, residential and office spaces.
The report also outlines an alternative use for the land that would include an "Office Mixed Use Alternative" that would eliminate the high-rise portion and keep the height limit at 46-feet.
This draft EIR will be circulated throughout the community for comment and could be amended over the next several months, but will eventually move, with the project proposal on to the city's Planning Commission and, eventually to the City Council, for consideration.
City Manager Dave Witt said Tuesday evening that the issue could make its way to the City Council in the next six to eight months, following hearings and a vote of the city's Planning Commission.
The project is significant for La Mesa in a number of ways. It would use land that currently is somewhat of an eyesore on one of the main entrances to the city from Interstate 8. It would clearly add land and tax revenues to the city as well. But its higher density and height proposals are clearly a challenge for many citizens who see La Mesa as a largely single-family home community.
Projects like Park Station, however, are finding support from regional planners who believe planned, higher density growth along public transportation lines is far preferable to more suburban sprawl into surrounding deserts in San Diego County. Park Station -- even its name -- highlights its location along the Green and Orange trolley lines and the project is crossed by numerous bus lines and in easy access to major highways. The current Park Station proposal includes one sheltered parking space per residential unit, a nod to the nearby public transportation.
The full draft EIR Report can be found by clicking here.