Lots Of Ideas For Improving La Mesa Village

LA MESA -- More than 100 residents gathered at the Community Center Thursday evening to talk downtown.
Presented by the city's Planning Department with an overview of efforts to reassess the condition and needs of the La Mesa Village downtown area, residents were then sent out to visit with a series of substations where they could make specific comments or recommendations to staffers and urban planning consultants helping the city with updating the long-term plan for this heart of the city's business district.

Comments were then collected on flip charts and will help guide the planners as they modernize a plan for the area that hasn't been reassessed for decades. This so-called Downtown Specific Plan Update will guide the city's management of the public policy and development issues for this 200-acre area.

As one might expect when varying views of a downtown are put to paper, there was a range of citizen views, some of them contradictory.

"Keep downtown local -- stay with the mom-and-pop places,'' one comment read. And another nearby "Need more businesses that draw people to downtown'' along with "Better shopping and good restaurants.''

More than one merchant would have been disappointed to read a citizen asking for "a coffee house that serves as a gathering place with hip music and friendly staff." Some might suggest Cosmos fits that bill.

"More trees,'' another citizen implored. "Shuttles connecting the Village with Grossmont.'' "Free parking" and "A parking garage on Lemon so you could park free and walk to Village.'' "Public restrooms are a sign of a civilized community.''

Some ideas had massive ambition, including one suggestion to "underground" the trolley to allow more "connectivity" between the east and west sides of La Mesa Boulevard. Another suggested that better syncronization of the trolley crossings and traffic lights would achieve some improvement along those lines. 

There was widespread support for more dining along the streets, but less unanimity for sidewalk sales of other items. One citizen expressed "love of outdoor eating, but not with smoking!''

One interesting exercise was conducted by one of the planning consultants who presented citizens with hand-held electronic voting devices and then had them rate various types of urban, higher-density housing architecture. The buildings shown varied in height, amount of landscaping and architectural styles.

An informal survey of several people taking the survey revealed about what one might expect: La Mesans show a dislike for too much height or mass and prefer architectural styles that have more and better landscaping to soften the urban hardscape.

The city staff also presented a more detailed model of the city's Centennial Legacy Project which is to be constructed on an island at the corner of Allison, La Mesa Boulevard and Fourth Street. (See photo below).

Bill Chopyk said all the comments and surveys conducted through the evening will inform the planners as they update this planning document and, eventually, bring it back to the public and on to the City Council for consideration. Other workshops will be considered if planners feel they need more guidance before finalizing any proposed changes.

Council members Ernie Ewin and Kristine Alessio attended the meeting, as did La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid, though the council members played no official role at the event.




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Comment by La Mesa Today on May 31, 2013 at 6:42pm


Thanks for your comment and I will quickly follow up with Bill Chopyk. You are a good editor. I should have pursued this further last night. My understanding at this point is that the scale and scope of Park Station is so far outside the Village specific plan, it wouldn't be worth the time trying to reconcile the differences in a planning document. A landowner has the right to request any variance from the city and it is up to the Council to decide whether the benefits of a project warrant rezoning or any other deviations from the existing regulations. Had the Park Station property been left in the Village Specific Plan, the council would eventually face the same request for deviating from the city's current standards for height and density. So, in effect, as a project already underway, I'm not sure there is any more of an impediment to the developer had they been asking for a deviation from the Village Specific Plan and the city's overall height and density zoning regulations which still apply to the property. La Mesa finds itself, I believe, in a position where the economic and development trends are pushing communities (with the support of SANDAG regional planning goals) toward considering denser deverlopement on transit lines and less suburban sprawl. That puts a property like Park Station, which is right on the trolley lines, surrounded by bus lines and circled by Interstates, at a sort of ground zero for these issues. How La Mesans react to it all is at the heart of the issue.  All that said, I still acknowledge I'm not sure on the specifics on whether leaving Park Station land out of the Village specific plan can be seen as biasing the process in anyway. I will follow up on your good question with Mr. Chopyk. I apolgize for leaving it dangling out there.


Chris Lavin, Editor

Comment by Suda House on May 31, 2013 at 4:52pm

With all due respect, I find it interesting after 23 years with a Downtown Village Specific Plan that included the proposed Park Station development (old Bob Stall Chevrolet dealership), that the lines have suddenly been re-drawn to exclude the proposed development. When I inquired, I was informed that the scope of that project required its removal from the Downtown Village Specific Plan. I find it curious that now it does not have to meet requirements of that plan, although we were informed it must still comply with the mixed-use guidelines and the urban-residential and the Design Review Board. In reviewing my notes from the Park Station Draft provided at the scoping meeting of 12/9/2009, it stated that the City Council must approve an addendum to the Downtown Village Specific Plan. Can anyone tell if and when the City Council approved either the removal of the Park Station from the Downtown Village Specific Plan or if an addendum was approved?

Comment by Don Wood on May 31, 2013 at 2:41pm

"An informal survey of several people taking the survey revealed about what one might expect: La Mesans show a dislike for too much height or mass". Let's hope the planning department, the planning commission and the city council keep those survey results in mind when considering the outrageous Park Station redevelopment proposal that asks for a height limit exemption so the developer can build several out of scale high-rise buildings across the street from our new civic center.

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