Love where you live!
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.