La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis makes an annual state-of-the-city speech at the first meeting of each year. Dr. A,  as he is called, focused on the completion of the Downtown Street Project as well as the city's finances. He also spoke of the future of the property near the civic center.

The full text of his speech is below:
MAYOR Mark Arapostathis
January 12, 2016

State of the City - 2015

Good afternoon and Happy New Year. Today I am happy to present on behalf of my fellow Council members to La Mesa’s residents the State of the City Address. 2015 was a very busy year with much to celebrate.

Last month the City completed the $5.8 million Downtown Streetscape Project which began during the summer of 2014. The entire city Council would like to thank the businesses, residents and visitors for their patience during construction.  Our new downtown village has been brightened, we have created a walkable, urban village with a fresh new look. As part of the Council’s direction to increase the visibility of the City, a marketing campaign was launched to encourage visitors and residents alike to shop, dine and explore La Mesa and visit its “Hidden Gems” during the holidays.

In support of downtown development, the Council last year adopted a zoning ordinance amendment to revise parking requirements and establish an optional parking in-lieu fee program in the downtown commercial zone. This initiative is intended to promote economic development and business growth in the village. 

La Mesa welcomed a new Police Chief in 2015. Chief Vasquez has hit the ground running and his leadership team has initiated several new efforts including an 

Abandoned Vehicle Abatement (AVA) program. The Police Department piloted this program last fall based on a large number of citizen complaints. Specific areas within the City with multiple abandoned vehicle complaints were targeted. Based on a successful launch, the program is continuing. 

Community outreach has been another area of focus for the Department. The Police Department introduced “Coffee with a Cop” to La Mesa this year.  Two of these events were held at a total of four local coffee shops.  Officers were on hand to meet with citizens in an informal setting to develop stronger community/police relationships over a cup of coffee.  

A new Mobile Command Center was purchased this year. The total cost for the vehicle was $109,117.   The new MCV is compact, yet large enough to house equipment which is needed for police events disaster response and critical incidents.  

With the advent of an El Nino rain year, Heartland Fire and Rescue assembled a collaborative multi-agency committee to develop El Niño preparedness, response, and recovery plan. You can visit cityoflamesa.com to find out how to prepare. 

The consolidated management organization for the Heartland Fire and Rescue Joint Powers Agreement is an ongoing success. The collaboration demonstrates how the inter-agency cooperation between La Mesa, Lemon Grove and El Cajon can save costs and improve local public safety services. In 2015 Heartland Fire & Rescue obtained an ISO Class 1 rating. This Class 1 rating is a direct result of the department’s ability to provide a high level of “initial attack” capabilities on fires to minimize property loss thanks to excellent training and the best equipment available. There are only 97 departments in the country rated as a Class 1 department.  

La Mesa is a service organization and during 2015 our Public Works Department completed six major public infrastructure projects with a total combined value of $8.3 million dollars.  This included sewer and storm drain improvements, reconstruction of concrete streets and on street and drainage improvements around the City. Community Development issued 1,721 permits, an increase of 39% from 2014.

Development activity remains steady in the City.  There were 117 single family and multi families units that were completed last year, currently there are 209 multi-family and single family dwellings underway in the City, and 96 apartments have been entitled.

Our City is secure due to our vigilant attention to the City’s finances.  Again this year we successfully completed our annual audits and were issued a “clean” audit opinion. The Council directed and authorized the establishment of a Trust Fund to pre-fund and help address the City’s unfunded pension liability. Our Biennial budget reflects improved revenues and maintains essential City services at current levels. 

Due to positive claims history, the City received a $193,782 general liability refund from insurance pool. The City updated its ADA Transition Plan in a continuous effort to improve accessibility for all residents and visitors. 

In 2015, La Mesa was awarded several grants for improvements or programs in the City. The City secured $992,500 in Smart Growth Incentive Program (SGIP) funding through SANDAG to enhance public infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists on North Spring Street and an additional $904,900 in grant funds from the Highway Safety Improvement Program to replace the traffic signal fiber optic cable throughout the city.  Grants were received to offer traffic safety programs, health and wellness programs, fire safety programs and develop our Climate Action Plan. Our staff continues to be very successful in leveraging outside funds to do our work.

The Community Services Department programs and various special events provide both youth and adults a positive, fun and educational experience. Some 545 classes and camps were offered to the community last year. Special events ranged from science learning for kids, the annual Flag Day Parade, summer concerts at the park and movies in the park and at the pool.  

Looking forward to 2016 we can expect a feasibility report on the completion of the Civic Center Master Plan and development of the old Police Station site. Council will take action on a senior housing development adjacent to Briercrest Park that will complete the Parks Master Plan. Work will begin on University Avenue improvements next year. The City hopes this to be a catalyst for improvement along this busy corridor.  Work on the North Spring Street underpass will also start in 2016. 

In our parks, phase 1 of Collier Park will occur in 2016 and work will begin on Vista La Mesa playground. The City will launch a new interactive website to keep residents connected to City business in the coming year and staff will continue with our marketing efforts. 

It promises to be another busy and productive year. Paul J. Meyer said,  “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” And on that note let me close by wishing you all a safe and prosperous new year.

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