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LA MESA -- In the aftermath of the tumultuous last City Council meeting, it is clear the council is looking for a breather.
Tuesday's City Council agenda is the milquetoast of all council agendas. The action items couldn't be more routine.
But quietly out in the trenches, the combatants with strong views on some divisive issues in the community are quietly re-arming.
The constituency that supports efforts to create a new leadership mechanism for the downtown Village -- the pro-PBID forces -- have been meeting and are privately promising a renewed effort in the wake a council meeting that appeared to deal them a body blow.
The pro-PBID forces are keeping their cards uncharacteristically close to their vest, but meetings among their leadership and city officials are continuing. Expect some news and, perhaps, a strategic shift later next week.
The anti-PBID forces, too, have been a bit more low-key; having been handed what looked like a major victory at the last council meeting, it left them with little to do but keep doing what they have been doing. Signs are still rolling around town and the chief critics continue to chat back and forth with each other on local computer bulletin boards.
Meanwhile Village business leaders continue looking for the help to ready the downtown for the Flag Day Parade and the summer Thursday night car show series. Jonathan Baron, owner of The Regal, says he has raised $15,000 to support the car show, but has struggled to find a leadership team among the Village merchants to pull off the series of challenging Thursday nights.
Arlene Moore, president of the Village Merchants Association, said Saturday "there are three of us'' who will be leading the car show, but she said that leadership would be announced later.
At the same time, the ever evolving lineup of stores along La Mesa Boulevard continues to change. A new event planning and florist business -- L & S Event Design -- has opened where Jitters Coffee Shop was located, Windermere Real Estate is redoing a store front at Palm and Sugar & Spice has opened one of the most promising new stores in a long time along the boulevard. At the same time, Readers Inc, one of the quaintest stores along a quaint boulevard, has closed.
Reader' closing, in some ways, is a metaphor for some of the forces at work in local retail. Deena While, Readers, Inc.'s owner and also treasurer of the Village Merchants group, has transformed her business into a mobile book selling operation and plans to mix an Internet presence with appearances at schools, public markets and other local venues to keep her business going. (Photo at right shows While at La Mesa's Friday public market.)
Technically, that means the treasurer of the Village Merchants Association is no longer a Village merchant in the traditional definition of the term. But these are changing times in retail and perhaps a combination of Internet presence and frequent appearances is what "local retail'' will mean. The Food Truck Fridays started feeling that way too. While says she assumes the Merchants Association still values her help.
But the forces for a new leadership mechanism cast the same details in another light. As nice as it is to have a party planner and a real estate firm take up two empty storefronts, both represent the "service sector" and are another move away from higher-traffic retail stores that add life and sales tax revenue to a downtown. Sugar & Spice is purely traditional retail.
Putting personalities aside (it can be done), this downtown PBID debate seems to be pitting two views of the current business climate against one another. On one side are those who want to maintain what they see as a quaint downtown managed by a loose confederation of the merchants. On the other side are those who believe independent professional management -- the kind of structure found in regional malls like Grossmont Center -- is needed to assure full involvement and investment from all who benefit from a downtown business environment that requires creative efforts in these difficult times.
In ways, this debate will probably continue regardless of the final decision on the PBID proposal.