Park Station Project Continues Moving Slowly

LA MESA -- More than two years ago the Kitzman family of La Mesa proposed a major "smart-growth'' development that could transform a largely vacant area of downtown, but to date not a shovel of dirt has been turned.

And city and project officials agree it may not be until the end of 2012 before the project even makes it to the City Council for formal consideration.

Slowing the review process has been a traffic study which has been turned back by city officials as many as five times as project engineers and the consultant the city is using to evaluate the proposal have wrangled over its accuracy. The back-and-forth has resulted in the developer scaling back the project to meet city requirements, though the reductions have come in plans for commercial and business space, not the tall residential towers that were the focus of early critiques of the plan.

"The first traffic study they submitted asserted the project would have no impact on traffic,'' said Bill Chopyk, the city's Director of Community Development. "For a project of this size, that's hard to accept.''

Park Station would take a little-used parcel along Baltimore and Spring streets and fill it with 18-story residential towers and a mix of commercial and office space and would feature a large, underground parking structure. But its scale, a clear departure from La Mesa's "small town'' image of itself, has spurred debate.

The traffic study is a key early requirement for the project because the extra demands on local streets and highways will be a large part of the eventual Environmental Impact Report that will establish the eventual limits for the density of use on the property.

Jacob Schwartz, a consultant working for the Kitzman's on the project, said the process has been difficult, but no one involved on the project or city side of the equation are surrendering to the frustrations.

"The family is 100 percent committed to this project,'' Schwartz said. "We respect the role the city is playing and we are just hoping we can move ahead more quickly now.''

Schwartz said the project has been scaled back, largely in the commercial and office space planned, to assure the traffic study won't require major reconstruction of nearby city streets.

"We feel our original traffic studies followed the letter of state law,'' Schwartz said. "But there is a subjective element and the city's consultant didn't agree so we've adjusted it and are ready to move on.''

With the U.S. economy still struggling and the housing and credit markets still in shambles, one might wonder if this delay was useful for the Park Station endeavor. But Schwartz said this type of project is not having trouble finding financing.

"This is smart growth,'' he said, "Higher density and a walkable community with transit. This is the type of project banks fall in love with these days so every day of delay hurts us. Time is money.''

Chopyk said a draft Environmental Impact Report -- referred to as the EIR in building circles -- could be circulating by late Spring or early summer and the project could move through Planning and onto the City Council by late this year.




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Tags: Bill Chopyk, Jacob Schwartz, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, Park Station


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Comment by Don Wood on March 12, 2012 at 4:15pm


So far, we don't know if this proposal is for smart growth or dumb growth. The project promoters can't or won't reveal what percentage of the new residents and business visitors to the site will come and go via public transit vs individual cars. Without reliable information on that, this threatens to be simply more dumb growth, an effort to stuff more density into a neighborhood while ignoring traffic and air quality impacts on those living around the site. The City of La Mesa has an existing height limit on this neighborhood, which I believe this project should adhere to. I have seen zero justification for exempting this project from the city's existing height limit for the neighborhood.

Comment by Suda House on March 3, 2012 at 10:34am

Everyone interested in this development should attend the Review Draft Housing Element meeting this March 7 at 7 pm with the Planning Commission in City Hall chambers. Go to:

Park Station is addressed in future housing development plans and if you take the time to download and review the document you will gain additional insight into the development which does address Section 8 housing and other guidelines including Mixed Use and the Village Plan as well as others.

This report coupled with the EIR will further frame the Park Station project and demands those interested to remain active and involved because the ramifications of "smart" growth will certainly define our city for decades to come.

Comment by Aaron Seth on February 1, 2012 at 9:05am

2 points:

First, this project is out of keeping with the neighborhood and character of La Mesa (the high-rise portion at least).

Secondly - even if this was a good fit for the neighborhood, it's a terrible business decsion.

Who do they expect to purchase condos in the high rises?  The concept is right for young couples, and singles, however why would they purchase in la mesa when downtown condos remain vacant and affordable and a re a great long-term investment. And if they're looking for young families (which I am one) who want to move east from the city, (which is what we did) the whole reason we came to La Mesa was to get away from the high-rises. 

What will happen is the only way to fill up those towers is to turn it into low-income housing, and no one wants that,

I think the developers would be much better off adopting the Liberty Station model. Mixed use housing and retail with park space that became a destination for business and people. Instead they are just trying to pack as much real estate into  the space thay have.

The good news is I think any investor knows this and they will never get the financing to build what they want... 

Comment by Barbara Stevens on February 1, 2012 at 7:06am

"Smart Growth?" Says who? Says the family who wants to develop the property? I get that they want to make their money. But please don't try to fool the rest of us who actually live near this.

Comment by william adams on January 31, 2012 at 6:55pm

This project is not "smart growth." It is the opposite.  Plopping downtown size highrises in satellite communities is leap frog sprawl.  The term "smart growth" has become the much abused buzz word that developers now use to justify any outsize project. Its also spot zoning, which undermines the entire planning process.  The presently zoned four stories allows plenty of density.  The El Cajonization of La Mesa continues.

Comment by John C Schmitz on January 31, 2012 at 6:40pm

I have seen this debate before in Chula Vista.  Property owner "high rise" vs. community preferred "low-mid rise."   It won't be pretty and could create yet another rift in our community (see PBID).  This article refers to high rise "residential" but earlier publicity called it a hotel/conference center.  Not sure if that is an actual change in proposed use or not, but if there was really a demand for a high rise hotel in the City it probably would have been built years ago near Grossmont Center when the specific plan allowed for it.  Maybe the property owner figured that out and now wants condos. 

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