City Told Big SANDAG Grant Is Won

LA MESA -- Word has come to city officials that La Mesa has successfully competed for a $2-million grant that represents the final piece of the financing for the La Mesa Village redevelopment project.

Mayor Art Madrid confirmed Wednesday night that the San Diego Association of Governments will give La Mesa $2-million to bring to $5-million the amount the city has to help redesign and rebuild La Mesa Boulevard through the city's historic Village area.

The SANDAG grant still needs to be formally approved by the full SANDAG board, but Madrid described that as a formality after the city prevailed in a rigorous grant process.

"It's a done deal,'' Madrid said.

With the financing in place, however, Madrid said there still remains some final negotiations with downtown merchants and property owners about their contribution to help maintain the new facilities once the city's investment in the area is complete.

"Contrary to what some have been saying, the PBID is not dead,'' Madrid said. "We won't be investing the full amount without some contributions to maintain it going forward.''

The "PBID" Madrid mentioned is the property-based improvement district that has been proposed for much of the downtown "Village" area. Petititons are still being circulated and collected in a process that could result in each property in the Village area being asked to contribute to a fund to maintain downtown improvements and to help with security and marketing for the area.

PBID opponents consider it to be too costly and have discussed but not formally pursued alternatives to the PBID.

Still, with the SANDAG financing, the question is no longer will the Village redevelopment project happen, but whether it will include all the "extras" that would come if the city uses the full $5-million it has amassed for this project. Augmented cross walks, extra landscaping and lighting elements could be dialed back, city officials have warned, unless some system is in place that would assure downtown property owners contribute to the upkeep of these so-called "betterments.''

The city has already used funds from the Downtown Parking District (parking meter funds) to do preliminary design of new streets and sidewalks and also to fund the consultant who has helped guide the PBID process.

Madrid has been open in his support for the PBID, but he has been consistently dealing with fellow council members who have clearly been more sympathetic to the cost concerns of some Village merchants and property owners.

City staff has been meeting with Village merchants to begin plotting out street and sidewalk reconstruction efforts that will be phased in, starting perhaps as early as late this year or early next, and will complicate operating a business during the construction.

The city has assured merchants that customers will have continuous access to their businesses throughout the reconstruction project.

Improvements to this traditional heart of La Mesa will come none too soon for efforts to improve the business environment. Small retail continues to struggle with several recent business closings, including Sugar & Spice and the Art & Light Gallery, two stores that had been seen as hopeful additions to the Village in recent years. The trend toward office space replacing more higher-traffic retail continues.

 

 

 

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Comment by Bill Jaynes on April 27, 2013 at 5:34pm

Hi Scott,

Apology accepted.

Petaluma does not have a PBID (Property Based Improvement District). It has a BID (Business Improvement District). They are two entirely different assessment mechanisms, although there can be considerable overlap in the services they fund.

Petaluma's population is approximately 58,000; La Mesa 57,000.

Petaluma's BID costs $65,000 per annum, and it's budget must be approved annually by the City Council. Perhaps not coincidentally, assessments have not risen in at least three years.

The proposed PBID runs $378,100 per annum, and contemplates increases of as much as 5% annually during it's initial 5 year run, with no Council approval required. One Team member claimed  is mandated by law, but has not responded in the eleven months since I asked him to prove it.

The only two local examples we have of PBIDs are El Cajon's San Diego's Downtowns. The one in El Cajon worked like a neutron bomb--lots of pretty buildings but no people. As for San Diego's, I quote:

"Executives at the Downtown San Diego Partnership have been busy making their rounds, appearing at community group meetings in search of support for the renewal of downtown's Property-Based Business Improvement District (PBID).

On Thursday August 9, executives will make their pitch to the Little Italy Residents Association, just one week after presenting a version of the plan to the East Village Residents Association.

By the looks of the itinerary, it would seem as if the Downtown Partnership is wasting no time, despite the fact that the current contract for the assessment district doesn't end until 2015 and that thousands of residents have not yet received refunds for overpayments made when the program was renewed in 2005 due to a flawed engineer's report." http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/news-ticker/2012/aug/08/downt...

Presumably you are aware of my concerns regarding our PBID's Engineer's Report, and the proposed assessments based on County provided numbers that the engineer himself calls "garbage".

"Betterments" has a specific meaning within the context of the Streetscape--those capital improvements over and above restoration to baseline, and thus is placed in quotes.

The Downtown Parking Fund is dedicated to "Fund(ing) Downtown Improvements." We ask whether it might do so in this case. If you can persuade the full Council to redirect these monies to fund our church's core missions, more power to you: it will help them to offset the PBID assessments they are currently targeted to bear.

You are a latecomer to this issue, so I understand that your wholesale mischaracterization of my beliefs may be unintentional. In fact, I have since the beginning said that a pure Maintenance District to pay for the "betterments" and consideration of a BID to pay for all the other bells and whistles is a far superior alternative. So is the Parking meter money. You may have missed my repeated visits to the Council meetings wherein I sounded the alarm about PBID's grab for $60,000 (and upwards) of the General Fund--burdening the rest of our community. You may also be unaware of the fallacy of the excluded middle, one of the concepts I teach early on to my debate students.

We agree with regard to powerwashing. The La Mesa Village Merchant's Association, a volunteer based organization, pays for this each year after the Oktoberfest. Recently, the City also paid for a powerwash--out of the dedicated Downtown Parking Fund.

Bill Jaynes

ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BRITISH

8401 La Mesa Blvd.

619 464 2298

P.S. My offer to continue this discussion over a cup of tea stands. Please bring your paint, toolbox, and passion.

Comment by Scott Feldsher on April 26, 2013 at 1:29pm

Hi Bill,

Wow, you must have a lot of time on your hands to craft the overwrought, purply prose of your screed against me.  It was entertaining to read.  I admit, perhaps, my wording could have come across as offensive, and for that I apologize; however, I can now see why nobody in the city government or PBID committee would want to compromise with you if your response to my comment is any indication of your "negotiating" acumen.  Full of self-righteous hyperbole and ad hominem attacks, reason, it seems, is clearly not your strong suit.

As for being "content-free," while I would not/did not presume to have the kind of expertise you possess on the actual mechanics of the PBID -- and I actually do appreciate your in-depth explanation of some of the finer points which, frankly, I didn't completely understand -- I would argue that, perhaps, you should do some serious research into small towns and cities that have benefitted from a PBID.

Have you been to Petaluma recently?  You should go.  You might like it and even garner some ideas of how a downtown can be beautified in a charming, authentic manner -- rather than the corporate "faux" experience you dread (and, it is true, can happen.)  I have a relative quite in involved in their city politics and you might be shocked to know that although they used a PBID to upgrade their downtown area, theirs is not a "simulacra" of a small, charming downtown, but an actual living, breathing, bustling and largely prosperous downtown. Are there some larger, anchor businesses on the outskirts? Sure.  But not of the large box store-chain store ilk.  Most of those have been relegated to the other side of the river, much the equivalent to the other side of the 8 in La Mesa.  I'm sure there are other examples of PBIDs well-done -- probably as many or more than have failed.

Now, in your screed, I find it interesting that you decided to put "betterments" in quotation marks.  I assume this means you don't consider clean/repaired/repaved sidewalks, healthy trees, sitting areas, trash cans, lights and attractive signage "betterments" on what exists. If this is true, perhaps there is no way to converse further.  We'll have to agree to disagree.  However, assuming that you may even agree that some of these things would be "betterments" and that the downtown area should not only be improved but maintained, who is it is, precisely, who should pay for that maintenance?  Should I in my property taxes?  Should the parking meter monies that could fund other community activities be used so that your downtown businesses can profit?  You write heroically about soup kitchens functioning on less money every year -- I propose we use the meter funds for soup kitchens and have private businesses actually pay for the upkeep of their storefronts, sidewalks, and other infrastructure necessary to do business and profit...just like I pay for the upkeep of my front yard and the facade of my house.  Could I get parking meter funds for that?  Didn't think so.

As I mentioned above, "my petty fantasies" are actually realities is other places.  There is no accounting for taste, so if you think that our current downtown storefronts, sidewalks and general design is as beautiful as it can be, well, there is no help for you.  I have made A LOT of beautiful things in my life with a few buckets of paint, a tool box and some imagination.  Money, in this case, isn't even the main issue, it's a matter of having a passion for design and beauty.

My intention was not to denigrate small business owners, I used to run a small business myself, but I do find it strange that while some are willing to ask the city and all taxpayers to help support their businesses with our tax dollars or money taken from other means of civic income (like the meters), you don't seem very interested in supporting the rest of the community by paying an extra tax to upgrade the business district in which you make your living.  I'm not suggesting the the actual size of that tax shouldn't be hashed out, but it certainly does not seem an unreasonable request to pay what amounts to an HOA for creating a more hospitable and, I would argue, more profitable, business environment.

In conclusion, I'm not expert on this issue, but I am, sometimes to my detriment, possessed of good taste and keen eye for design.  So, the one suggestion I will make to BOTH private business owners and the city council: please invest in one or more power washers for the sidewalks.  They are cheap and worth every penny...it would be a good start on "beautifying" downtown.

Scott

Comment by Bill Jaynes on April 21, 2013 at 6:21pm

Mr. Feldsher,

I can't tell if you are engaging in an inspired piece of performance art, in which case I congratulate you, or if you are seriously expressing what may be the most reprehensible and self-entitled utterances yet proffered in this whole sorry, sordid PBID debacle--in which case I must thank you for laying bare the base cynicism driving this 11th hour attempt to resurrect PBID from the unmarked, shallow grave it's own supporters laid it in when they dropped any pretense of public discussion and compromise almost a year ago.

And it is the depth of cynicism to ignore all that has come heretofore in utopian PBIDland--to pretend that the PBID is in any way tied to the long delayed repairs to our roads and sidewalks that we gutless mom-and-pop merchants in the Village have endured for almost a quarter century. What's more, it is despicable to slur us as showing no pride in the community we choose to live and work in--especially when our efforts to build a thriving, organic community were apparently sufficient to entice you to move here despite our horribly tasteless storefronts.

Let's clear a few things up, shall we?

1. There is no, repeat NO, connection between the Downtown Streetscape revitalization and the developer driven PBID scam, notwithstanding the abortive attempts in the beginning to pretend this was so. This "de-linking" of the two has been the official Council policy for more than a year, and reiterated on numerous occasions. Further, the Streetscape was NEVER predicated on PBID being the only suitable maintenance cost recovery mechanism.

2. The only issues before the Council at this point are:

a) Whether to invest $3 million dollars to bring the roads, sidewalks and utilities up to modern standards ("baseline"), or to spend an additional $2 million dollars in SANDAG grant money on so-called "betterments", such as extra benches, lighting, removable bollards for special events, etc.

Despite what you may have heard, no official decision has been taken by SANDAG, nor will one be before June. That said, from my conversations with SANDAG officials it appears likely that we will win the grant, so it is not premature to begin thinking again about how to pay for maintenance in the fairest, most efficient way possible.

b) The Council, having reasserted it's authority to direct this discussion as a whole body and not through any compromised sub-committee, will now begin to consider ALL options, including a straightforward--and far less controversial--maintenance district costing less than one-seventh of the bloated PBID assessments.

Another option is to look to the Downtown Parking Meter monies that have been collected for decades and are advertised on the meters themselves as going to "Fund Downtown Improvements." That would require revisiting language in the municipal code, and may be too time-consuming, although it would certainly be less so than reigniting a fight over PBID, reopening half-scarred-over wounds, inviting a court battle over irregularities in the process, possibly expose the City to liability for the actions of its contractor, and will never happen anyway.

3. Let me emphasize this point once more: THE FULL CITY COUNCIL WILL BE DIRECTING THE DISCUSSION FROM THIS POINT FORWARD. NOBODY SHOULD FEEL INTIMIDATED INTO SIGNING ANY PBID PETITIONS, NOR SHOULD YOU BELIEVE ANY ASSERTION THAT PBID IS A "DONE DEAL."

IF YOU SIGN A PBID PETITION YOU ARE SIGNING AWAY YOUR ABILITY TO HAVE ANY MEANINGFUL SAY, AND YOU ARE BURDENING YOURSELF, VILLAGE MOM-AND POPS, CHURCHES AND NON-PROFITS WITH BLOATED ASSESSMENTS, PAVING THE WAY FOR CORPORATE REDEVELOPMENT OF THE VILLAGE, AND INSTITUTING A DICTATORSHIP OF 6 OR 7 LARGE LANDHOLDERS OVER TWO HUNDRED MORE OF YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS--AND FOR NO REASON, AS WE CAN HAVE THE SAME BENEFITS MORE FAIRLY MANAGED AND FOR FAR LESS MONEY.

The best demonstration of the PBID Committee's willingness to "compromise" would be a clear and unambiguous statement suspending the current campaign, and a commitment to reopen the discussion at square one--this time giving all voices a chance to be heard. Alternatively, the Committee can press the Council to violate it's policy, upon which we have all relied, that the City will not use it's $60,000 dollar assessment to force PBID past the 50% support mark when the Committee has not been able to achieve that in almost two years of trying. We'll see what Tuesday brings.

You, Mr. Feldsher, are of course free to privilege the basic good taste of your desired "suburban aesthetic" over ours. Continue to spew your jingoistic content-free bromides dressed up as folksy wisdom. Let us know every way in which you might better spend our money better than we do. Engage in your petty fantasies just like every previous "boss" in history who is all too eager to burnish their glory with someone else's guts.

But recognize right now that while you may measure character by the font choice on someone's hard-paid-for store signage, to us, "character" is not some value free adornment: it shows up in John Vigil's giving up his Sunday to repair the banners damaged in the last Santa Ana winds, Gordon Austin and George Felix devoting years to rebuilding a viable downtown core after the freeway and Grossmont Center came in, Jim Wieboldt organizing a Village cleanup last year, our churches running soup kitchens on ever scarcer funds, the Sanfillippos donating their time (and banquet room) to the community for years, the volunteers who save the Flag Day Parade, the Merchants Association that hosts Christmas in the Village for no other reason than to give back to our friends who support us year round, the residents who make daily walkthroughs to pick up assorted bits of litter, and so much more.

Long after you serve as the transmission vector infesting your next neighborhood with generic corporate crap and faux "experiences", we'll be right here in the game. Thanks for playing.

Bill Jaynes

ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BRITISH

(serving all La Mesa for 3 decades from the same location at the corner of 4th in the Heart of the Village)

619 464 2298

P.S. If you want to contribute to your community rather than insult us, come on by for a chat over a hot cuppa! Anyone can tell you I'm really just a big cuddly teddy bear (collectible Paddington teddy bears available at All Things Bright and British)

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on April 20, 2013 at 2:25pm

Mark Cavanaugh pretty much echoes the sentiment of those of us who aren't pleased with proposed PBID assessments.  Pretty trees and sidewalks won't make the difference in the way people spend their money in this economy.  A 50% increase on my property tax bill would not be money well spent for my business, especially since my parcel isn't even on La Mesa Blvd.; so someone telling me how to spend my hard earned money is going to meet with resistance.

Comment by Scott Feldsher on April 19, 2013 at 11:37pm

Here's the deal: you gotta spend money to make money.  Downtown La Mesa has the potential to take off -- particularly if all of the recent theories regarding the suburban aesthetic is correct (i.e. back to the suburbs connected via public transport to the city.)  I visit Petaluma often and it is gorgeous -- but that is because the business owners and citizens obviously have pride in their community and want it to be gorgeous.  No sidewalks desperately in need in of a power wash.  No inundation of real estate offices.  No horrible store fronts lacking either character or basic good taste.  Let's capitalize on the walkability and the potential charm of La Mesa Boulevard.  No guts, no glory.  I perceive a lot of gutless business owners in La Mesa.  If you don't have the stomach to play, get out of the game.

Comment by Mark Cavanaugh on April 18, 2013 at 6:29pm

It doesn't cost $380K to maintain the new improvements.  If the City (Madrid and Wieboldt) were smart, they would sit down with the opposing views of the PBID and have a negotiation of what is really needed versus the grand plan of the original PBID.  Problem here is it is either my way of the highway as is typical of bully politics and typical of the Mayor and his henchmen.  There are many landowners who will not benefit one dime from the street improvements and most of the non-retail businesses will not benefit either and they are destination oriented, not getting business from someone walking down a new street.  If you think a revitalization of the downtown is really going to end up better than El Cajon, you are kidding yourself.  This is not the Gaslamp.  This is not State Street in Santa Barbara.

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on April 18, 2013 at 4:43pm

Since the proposed PBID assessments would be included on our property tax bill, isn't it important that property owners not be delinquent?  Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears that at least one member of the PBID committee is not current on property taxes including a property in the PBID district.  You can find a lot of information online, including tax defaults.  Perhaps the mayor should ask the PBID committee to research it's members' property tax status to make sure they are setting the proper example.

Comment by David Stanley on April 18, 2013 at 4:24pm

I am not a business owner in the PBID zone. I am merely one of the teeny customers, a wee consumer. One who recognizes the bragadocious bombast presented by such people as Jim Wieboldt. I ask myself:. "If this is so good why then must people like Wieboldt steamroll any and all nay sayers?" Knowing that, despite the much vaunted grant, when the construction begins, machines are moving about, dust filling the air and noise is everywhere PRICES are going to suddenly inch upward because of the inevitable cost overruns. Upward and upward. Will the Village's Jolly Green Giant, Wieboldt, be there to ensure that we, the wee consumers and not the vaunted business owners wont catch the brunt and be forced to pay for HIS then boondoggle? I recall a small civic improvement in the CIty of Boston that promised exactly the same thing then, backed and bullied by another braggard and steamroller, Teddy Kennedy, ended up costing the citizens of Boston hundreds of millions of dollars above and beyound the promised initial quoted costs. Hmmmmm??

Comment by Deena on April 18, 2013 at 3:40pm

Hey Jimbo,

Long time no hear.

Bill Jaynes and I spent lots of time talking with concerned citizens regarding PBID.  We held a couple meetings that were well attended and discussed the pros and cons of this program. 

And yes, "WE", the majority of folks in the PBID zone, are against it because it covered way too many things and it cost way too much.  Times are tough, as you well know, having moved out of the Date Ave property.  We are supportive of a maintenance district, but nothing more.  Keep the rent-a-cops, administration and advertising out of it.

Comment by chris shea on April 18, 2013 at 3:36pm

Progress in our little village will be wonderful to behold.  We all have a city we love.  Let's hope the dialogue that resumes now is open-minded and, above all, without ill will or spite.  

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