LA MESA -- A review of the year 2011, believe it or not, reveals as much good or hopeful news as bad for the Jewel of the Hills.
While the U.S. economy continued a slow mend, new business and investment were quietly occurring even while some long-standing, more high profile businesses closed their doors.
The state's budget problems led to significant challenges for the La Mesa/Spring Valley School District and other local public schools and the damage being done by suddenly booming class size remains unmeasurable but real.
Local merchants struggled to regain their footing but were still able to engage in long-term planning with city officials and fellow merchants in pursuit of a more aggressive future. Meanwhile new business investment continued rehabilitating structures along La Mesa Boulevard with most notably a new high-end restaurant and Goodwill's rehabilitation of the Clock Tower building.
Here's our list of the most notable events of 2011:
ROBBERIES -- While overall crime rates continued at record lows throughout the San Diego region, a spate of armed robberies at La Mesa gas stations, motels and convenience stores had La Mesa's rate spiking and eyebrows raising among those who like to see La Mesa as a small town. Police conducted seminars and are taking special steps to combat this trend.
MERCHANTS -- Challenges to the financial practices of the La Mesa Village Merchants Association and the proposed establishment of a Property Based Improvement District in La Mesa Village stirred debate at meetings throughout the year. As 2011 ended, signs were popping up across town as proponents and opponents began taking this debate on the future to a wider audience.
ALLAN RETIRES - AGAIN -- Though it is never quite certain with City Councilman Dave Allan, who has changed his mind before, his announcement that he won't seek re-election opens the field for the 2012 local elections.
CENTENNIAL -- Though La Mesa's Centennial year begins in 2012, organizing for a year of celebration made regular news in 2011, attracting a community-wide investment from civic, business and community leaders in the kind of cohesive effort that could energize community efforts well into the next century.
SANDAG BUYS TOLLWAY -- Though the 125 Tollway is not in La Mesa, it is directly linked to the highway SANDAG hopes to finally bring to its full potential. That could mean more traffic for arteries in the Jewel of the Hills.
ACEVES NAMED CHIEF -- In a town with long-serving police officers, a change at the helm is always big news. City Manager Dave Witt stayed inside again as local native and long-serving officer Ed Aceves replaced retiring Alan Lanning.
POLICE SHOOTING -- Another reminder of the creeping urbanism of La Mesa was the Aug. 20th confrontation between an angry, armed local man and the city police officers called to a domestic disturbance. The result was bullets flying throughout a downtown neighborhood and the death of a man who had pointed a rifle at a group of officers.
ELEVATING LA MESA -- Completion, with federal stimulus money, of the grand elevators at the Grossmont Trolley Center finally made it possible for the elderly and disabled to access shopping and medical facilities by rail.
SCHOOLS STRUGGLE -- Teachers throughout La Mesa received layoff notices that weren't rescinded this time by last minute Sacramento dealing. The result were class sizes, even in elementary schools, that hadn't been seen in decades. Local Community Colleges struggled as well with limited class schedules and students struggling to meet requirements.
CHANGING BUSINESS -- Even as some long-standing businesses closed -- Sign DeSign and Jitters Coffee Shop, for example -- there were plenty of signs of others coming into town, including new restaurants Vine Cottage, Gingham and Terra and the elegant Art & Light Studio brought a whole new type of art studio/public meeting establishment. Rehabilitation of buildings in The Village area continued with some notable examples.
THE YEAR OF THE EGG -- Though keeping fowl in La Mesa is technically a foul, quietly more than a few locals have begun gathering eggs from their own backyards. One home was seen with a duck operation in its side yard and no one seems to be complaining.
The 52 COMPLETE -- Though it is not technically located in La Mesa, completion of the 52 through Santee opened up new and faster ways to move between neighboring communities and seems to have reduced traffic on the often-clogged I-8 in the mornings and evenings.
CITY STABLE -- Even as municipalities across the county were forced to layoff workers and reduce services, La Mesa, thanks in large part to a voter-approved sales tax initiative, remained stable, combining positions wherever possible, but avoiding layoffs to key police, fire and municipal service workers while continuing plans to renovate downtown streets. The city got a clean annual audit though critics continue to point to millions in looming unfunded pension liabilities.