Love where you live!
LA MESA -- It is, they say, always darkest before the dawn.
As the dust starts rising on the most intrusive stages of La Mesa Boulevard's renovation, it is probably good to keep that in mind.
Despite what might appear as a full blood-letting between the Village Merchants Association and the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce over Oktoberfest, there is much to be optimistic about in the Jewel of the Hills these days.
The American taste for big, sprawling, often characterless shopping is gravitating back to the unique boutique just as the city is spending more than $5-million to upgrade what had become a pretty tawdry (okay I stand corrected "funky") downtown hardscape. A prediction: As the street is completed, rents will rise and the demand and quality of the Village retail sector will begin a quick improvement. Pierre Jeweler's eventual arrival already suggests this is true.
Mayor Mark Arapostathis is a collaborative sort of leader. He has spent much of his life leading an all-volunteer organization that has done for hundreds of La Mesa families through theater what sports used to do for the young. It would be surprising if Dr. A and his new team can't find a way to rationalize what has been a pretty haphazard way of stewarding La Mesa's charming downtown.
Housing prices continue to rise, fueling further what over time may be a major renovation boom in La Mesa's more modestly priced west side. Location, location, location is the real estate mantra and in many ways La Mesa is increasingly in the true crossroads of a growing county. Renovated homes bring property tax help to a municipality and better clients for local business.
Redevelopment of Grossmont Center and the continued development interest in the Park Station project area reflects the positive assessment of this crossroad's future and will further boost the city's ability to maintain services and shape the growth of the city.
At the heart of what everyone likes about La Mesa is its small town feel. Small towns, however, can be like big families - filled with tensions that rise from years of living so closely together and knowing each other so well.
The tensions over Oktoberfest can feel like a family struggling over an estate with competing senses of ownership of what the family has built. Some of the Village's current merchants can rightfully feel like all the work that goes into Oktoberfest, the car show, the antique faire and the Christmas in the Village events alone should assure their continued stewardship of these public/private events.
And the city, watching literally hundreds of thousands of dollars, pass through the streets it maintains, closes, and guards, should certainly not expect the rest of the city taxpayers to subsidize a largely commercial endeavor.
And so, as it is with big family fights, this is a time in which leadership is demonstrated. The scion's of the community -- perhaps some not currently deeply entrenched in this issue -- need to remind all of the greater good, the original reason and motivation and public purpose of deeds and efforts.
Oktoberfest is a great La Mesa tradition that could be better.
The La Mesa Village is a beacon of character in a San Diego landscape strewn with sunbelt retail mediocrity.
The street project will conclude.
The sun will rise and, hopefully, thoughtful leadership will lead.
Chris Lavin is the editor of La Mesa Today. He is the former senior editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune.