Beneath And Behind This PBID Interregnum

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.

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Tags: Government, La Mesa PBID, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, On La Mesa, downtown development

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Comment by william adams on May 7, 2012 at 9:35am

Well written Chris.  Thanks for keeping us up to date.  I haven't followed this item closely and don't know "the devil in the details," but as a former chair of the Gaslamp Quarter Association, and having seen the revitalization of many older business districts with BIDs, I can't help but think La Mesa Blvd would benefit from some type of BID. 

Comment by Bill Jaynes on May 6, 2012 at 11:07am

Hi Commissioner Levy!

Don't tell me, tell Parking Commissioner Wieboldt. He's the one who said it:

"You saw it,'' said local business owner Jim Wieboldt. "They heard from one business leader after another saying this was good for a community and instead they backed a bankrupt book store owner and a 2 percent margin chocolate bar salesman.''

I'm sorry that Commissioner Wieboldt was vexed to learn that the City Council might treat those he considers beneath him as equals, but I can't thank him enough for spreading the word about our exquisite English chocolate and infuriatingly low, low prices!

Jim Wieboldt and I don't often agree or even understand each other. For example, I can't find the section of the law that Commissioner Wieboldt referred to when he claimed in public session that PBID was required to allow assessments (including the City's $60,000 share that will come mostly from general fund money) to increase by up to 5% per year, at the whim of the proposed board of private landholders. If you can find it, please let me know:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=shc&group...

I've wondered why, if members of the Committee intend to keep costs down they didn't cap increases at, say, the 2% limitation of Prop 13, so that assessments don't quickly outpace the owners' full tax bill. I thought I had the answer when I discovered the October 10, 2011 email from Project Engineer Ed Henning (who was paid out of our Parking Meter monies) in which he stated:

"Many PBIDs have kept rates level over past few "lean" years but are now increasing them because contract prices are going up."

Since inflation is already here, I was very concerned that the Committee was building a pad in advance of the inevitable cost increases. But if Commissioner Wieboldt is correct that the PBID Committee had no choice, despite their intent to be wise and frugal stewards of our hard earned dollars, I will have to revise my opinion. Of course, if Commissioner Wieboldt is incorrect, and there is no legal requirement of any kind that up to 5% increases be included, I will have to revise it again.

And I still don't know whom he decries as a bankrupt book seller. Certainly not Deena While, owner of Readers Inc. Mobile, and a prominent and respected figure in our Village. Do you know who he was whining about?

As to whether Jim Wieboldt agrees with the sentiments of Ed Henning, who asked when some Councilmembers started nosing around:

"...why can't elected officials be wall flowers when you need them to be?",

I can't say. But I can say that when it comes to wonders of the authentic Cadbury confections we have sold as a Village fixture for more than 30 years at the same location,

"Preach it, Big Jim!"

Let's hope your PBINKY doesn't ruin the Village for the next generation.

Bill Jaynes

ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BRITISH

619 464 2298

Comment by DEXTER LEVY on May 5, 2012 at 4:23pm

Mr. Two Percent!

You are Talking About Profit Margin Right,  I think you will have to admit! That's a pretty small margin! That might be OK if you sold Candy by the Ton.  

Good Luck with that!

Dex

Comment by Bill Jaynes on May 5, 2012 at 2:20pm
Hi Chris,

Is there something about the PBID mechanism that ensures new Village businesses will be retail rather than service oriented? I've heard that assertion, but there doesn't appear to be anything in the Management Plan to effect such a change.

One of our fears is that PBID is really a de facto rezoning that has bypassed traditional public review. Do you know if the proposed PBID Board will officially add an extra layer of regulation and review to any business plan, or are we really inferentially adducing a chain of possible, but by no means guaranteed, events? That is, "if this (PBID), then this (magic shoppers), then that (shiny new generic corporate retail)".

Bill "Mr. Two Percent" Jaynes
ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BRITISH
619 464 2298

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