Park Station Hits A Nebo Snag

LA MESA -- Developers working on the major downtown La Mesa development project, known as Park Station, have been struggling quietly for months with a key portion of the project -- problems that have already forced a cut back in the project's eventual scale and scope.

The developer's hopes of counting the land now used as a city street -- known as Nebo Drive -- as part of the project has hit a legal roadblock. According to city documents, title for Nebo Drive is entangled in complex legal restrictions that may make it impractical for the land to be acquired by the developers.  That would reduce the legal size of the Park Station project and would reduce the number of residential units and commercial space that could be located on the remaining 5 1/2 acres.

Michael Dunham, project manager for Urban Housing Partners, the project's developer, said in an interview today that the Nebo issues have forced the project to reduce the number of residential units from 500 to 443 and that the final application will "probably'' come in asking for less than the 190-foot tower height originally proposed.

"We can still make the project work at 443 units,'' Dunham said.

The project -- first announced more than three years ago by the Kitzman family -- caught a lot of attention with its initial estimate of having an 18-story residential (developer's artist rendition above) or hotel tower with lower commercial and office space filling the now-little-used land largely along Baltimore Drive and University Avenue.

Public relations personnel hired by the Kitzmans quickly began neighborhood meetings to promote the project and gauge community support or opposition while the developer worked with city officials on the application and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that would go a long way in determining the density of the final development.

That EIR report has gone through numerous drafts and revisions with the city repeatedly requiring the developer to recalculate its estimates of traffic impact. A study that was first submitted suggesting the project would have little traffic impact has been recalculated and has forced some reduction in the original proposed scale of the project.

The final draft EIR was about to be released in late 2012 for public inspection but that's when the troubles with Nebo Drive's use became clearer.

With the Nebo Drive property included (photo right of proposed Nebo park), the project would be about 6.5 acres and the amount of land heavily influences the density of residential development that can occur. Without Nebo, the project is about 5.5 acres and that required eliminating nearly 60 residential units.

But Dunham said the Kitzmans don't want to give up on redeveloping the Nebo property even if its title must stay in city ownership.

Lawyers working for the developer have apparently found legal precedent for land originally given to a city for street use being converted to allow development as an "urban pedestrian mall." Park Station would pay to redevelop the Nebo corridor and maintain it in perpetuity if the city agrees.

"We think we're there with the city, but we will be setting up meetings with the City Council members to inform them of the EIR process and its publication schedule,'' Dunham said.

With pretty strong opposition already heard to any high rise development in La Mesa, legal challenges about the use of the restricted Nebo land could also potentially loom over any final proposal and this new wrinkle in the project will necessitate more of a partnership with the city in this effort.

The Kitzman family of La Mesa -- owners of much of the Park Station site -- has already spent $2-million on this project, developing the EIR and doing traffic studies as well as early public relations. The EIR is expected to be published in the next six weeks.

The Park Station project comes at an interesting time for La Mesa. Struggling, as many cities are, with revenue challenges, the prospect of a significant commercial development holds out some hope for fiscal relief and revenues to support local services. And a project like Park Station, located close along trolley tracks and bus lines, squarely fits with the priorities of regional planners who are favoring more density and less suburban sprawl. Park Station could be a poster-child for this "city of villages'' trend toward transit-supported development.

However, La Mesans may not be as willing to move away from its "small town" self-image and support high-rises where low-rise has been a century-long rule.

Dunham said in community meetings, the developers found younger La Mesa residents open to a high rise, but its older residents more hesitant.

"At the end of the day, when we go to seek the formal approval, we'll probably have brought the height down,'' Dunham said. "There is community resistance.''

City officials are, of necessity, remaining largely mute on the Park Station project progress. Eventually, any formal proposal would go before the city's Planning Commission and, eventually to the City Council for final adjudication. It is a political process with many legal implications so council members will stay clear of pre-judging any proposal.

Still, the City Council may have to weigh in earlier on its willingness to consider transforming the Nebo Corridor to an "urban pedestrian mall" even before the project continues its way through the application process. La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid said he has had two general meetings with the developers to discuss an overview of their working relationship with the city, but he would be reluctant to meet and discuss details of the project before any application goes through the Communty Development process, which includes the Planning Commission.

"Meeting to discuss details or exchange views at this point would be putting the cart before the horse,'' Madrid said Tuesday.

Undoubtedly, Park Station will continue to be watched closely for its potential and its implications for life in the city. The Kitzmans, who no longer live in La Mesa but still have their business offices on Fletcher Parkway and other local land holdings, remain committed to finding the right development for the parcel and to remain engaged in the project, Dunham said.

City Council will have to weigh the clear benefits of added tax base and sales tax share with the community's stomach for change. 

 Nebo Drive Looking South With Park Station Property To The Right.

Views: 474

Tags: Art Madrid, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, Park Station, SANDAG, Urban Housing Partners


You need to be a member of La Mesa Today - Community Website & Online Newspaper to add comments!

Join La Mesa Today - Community Website & Online Newspaper

Comment by Kevin G George on March 19, 2013 at 11:34am

The Kitzman " already spent $2-million on this project".

That's if you don't count the $4.1 million spent on the land across the street in 2009. The lot between Baltimore, Spring, El Cajon Blvd and the off ramp of Hwy 8 to Spring just to the North of the illustration .

That was one of the last properties still owned by the City of LM and it was sold in 2009 for an amount coincidentally sufficient, and just in time to just flush out the Cities beleaguered budget in 2009.

Shrewd real estate move, feathering the nest, greasing the skids, whatever you want to call it I am sure it will pay off somehow, sooner or later.


Bank of America to Pay Record $16.65 Billion to Settle Mortgage Claims

Source: LA Times

In what amounts to the largest settlement by a single company in U.S. history, the Justice Department has announced that Bank of America Corp. will pay $16.65 billion to end federal and state investigations into the sale of toxic mortgage securities during the subprime housing boom. California will receive $300 million from the settlement to reimburse the CalPERS and CalSTRS pension funds. Read the full story:

3 Facts Crippling California's Housing Recovery

Source: HousingWire

While California’s job growth and economy continue to improve, major hurdles remain for housing’s recovery. Firstly, affordability is a huge concern as rapid home price increases, mixed with a lack of affordable inventory is leaving little room for first-time borrowers to jump into the market. Tight credit and stagnant incomes are another concern if prices remain high.

Read the full story:

Construction Surges in July

Source: The Hill

During July, housing construction hit its highest level in eight months as the sector shows signs of picking up pace in the second half of the year. After two months of drops, construction jumped 15.7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million homes, the fastest pace since the 1.11 million posted in November, according to the Commerce Department.

Read the full story:


More Real Estate News

La Mesa Weather

Latest La Mesa Activity

Gene Carpenter commented on La Mesa Today's blog post 'La Mesa Election 2014: Term Limits'
"A good example why "Term Limits" are wrong. I prefer a Mayor that is 100% engaged in…"
9 minutes ago
An event by Gina Garcia was featured

Kids Care Fest at Briercrest Park

September 20, 2014 from 9am to 2pm
47 minutes ago
Gina Garcia posted an event

Kids Care Fest at Briercrest Park

September 20, 2014 from 9am to 2pm
48 minutes ago
Gina Garcia commented on Gina Garcia's blog post 'La Mesa Development'
"Comment submitted by La Mesa Today member Phil Sluder: Very informative, thank you. I hope the…"
54 minutes ago
Kristin Kjaero commented on Gina Garcia's blog post 'La Mesa Development'
"Thanks, this is great info. If anyone at the city is reading this, please note that two of these…"
1 hour ago
Kristin Kjaero liked La Mesa Today's blog post La Mesa Election 2014: Term Limits
1 hour ago
william adams liked La Mesa Today's blog post La Mesa Election 2014: Term Limits
1 hour ago
Gene Carpenter liked La Mesa Today's blog post La Mesa Election 2014: Term Limits
1 hour ago
A blog post by La Mesa Today was featured
3 hours ago
La Mesa Today posted a blog post
3 hours ago
Andrew Jackson liked Gina Garcia's blog post La Mesa Development
13 hours ago
Andrew Jackson liked Gina Garcia's blog post La Mesa Development
13 hours ago
chris shea commented on Gina Garcia's blog post 'La Mesa Development'
"Nice, informative article. I appreciate the pictures illustrating the tree species too!"
15 hours ago
Peggy Junker liked chris shea's blog post On La Mesa: Chris Shea
17 hours ago
Peggy Junker liked Gina Garcia's blog post La Mesa Development
17 hours ago
helen t. givens liked Gina Garcia's blog post La Mesa Development
19 hours ago
A blog post by Gina Garcia was featured
21 hours ago
Gina Garcia posted a blog post
21 hours ago
Brooke Durham posted an event

SoCal Parrot's Picnic with the Parrots at SoCal Parrot Sanctuary & Garden

October 26, 2014 from 12pm to 4:30pm
Once-in-a-lifetime animal encounters, expert talks, live art, hands-on educational opportunities,…See More
An event by Brooke Durham was featured

SoCal Parrot's Picnic with the Parrots at SoCal Parrot Sanctuary & Garden

October 26, 2014 from 12pm to 4:30pm
Once-in-a-lifetime animal encounters, expert talks, live art, hands-on educational opportunities,…See More

© 2014   Created by La Mesa Today.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service