City Brews Up A Zoning Change

LA MESA -- The remnants of Prohibition officially ended in the Jewel of the Hills Tuesday night.

The City Council voted 5-0 to eliminate restrictions from zoning laws that kept micro-breweries and wine making operations from opening in La Mesa.

Mayor Art Madrid pointed to development and spurred economic develoment that has occurred around the new micro-brewery in El Cajon and said it was time La Mesa acknowledged the trend.

"We are joining the 21st Century,'' Madrid said.

The new zoning changes will allow wine-making and beer-making establishments to open without special local permits in the city's industrial zone -- a large area around Center Street -- and with special conditional use permits in the city's commercial districts. All alcohol-based businesses also undergo extensive reviews from the state licensing authority and are reviewed by local police for safety and security issues.

Quietly sitting in the audience during the zoning change deliberations Tuesday night were Mike and Linda McWilliams, owners of the San Pasqual Winery tasing room located on La Mesa Boulevard.

The McWilliams are in the process of acquiring a site within the city's industrial zone to re-locate their wine-making operation. La Mesa residents, the McWilliams have been making their wine in a Pacific Beach location and would like to bring their operation fully to La Mesa. The couple said they intend to keep the tasting room on La Mesa Boulevard and have their wine-making only at the new location if they can obtain the location.

The soonest they could see wine-making starting here would be next summer, they said.

In an otherwise quiet, uneventful meeting, the council members received an update on planning for the rebuilding of La Mesa Boulevard.

City staff said the project is moving ahead and that funding is falling in place for the estimated $5-million dollar project, but it was clear the political tensions around questions of how the newly redesigned street would be maintained are still at play.

The staff reviewed those"betterments'' that would need to be eliminated from the project if a public-private funding mechanism isn't in place to help fund on-going maintenance. City Manager Dave Witt said, in response to questions from Council members Ernie Ewin and Ruth Sterling, that the staff would be able to develop a specific cost for maintaining the elements that would require maintenance above and beyond the city's normal street maintainance in the city.

Mayor Art Madrid and critics of the proposed Property Based Improvement District have been jousting about whether the full street scape project can go forward even without approval of the PBID, which critics have charged is too expensive for the merchants and property owners.

Madrid wasn't backing down, however, and said last night that state and federal financial problems or continued unwillingness of Village property owners and merchants to contribute to maintaining the city's potential investment could still be speed bumps in this project's way.

"If the people in the rest of La Mesa think we're just subsidizing improvements for a four and a half block area in one part of town, they're going to go ballistic,'' Madrid said.

City Council candidate Patrick Dean addressed the council briefly, encouraging the panel to develop a "Plan B'' for that public-private partnership because the PBID doesn't appear likely to pass in time if at all.






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Tags: Ernie Ewin, Government, La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, La Mesa newspaper, Linda McWilliams, MCWilliams, Madrid, Mayor Art Madrid, More…Mike McWilliams, PBID, Patrick Dean, Ruth Sterling, San Pasqual Winery


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Comment by Bill Jaynes on October 24, 2012 at 12:14pm

I want to correct the record in this regard:

It has been pointed out to me that at least some of these travel expenses may be reimbursed via the League of California Cities rather than City funds. Also, that the travel expenses for San Diego only reflect that City's mayoral excursions, not the entire Council.

I will attempt to verify this, and will retract any f my statements that are in error or misleading.

Bill Jaynes


619 464 2298

Comment by Bill Jaynes on October 24, 2012 at 9:08am

I have to give Mayor Madrid credit for tenacity. It's pretty clear from the tenor of last night's meeting that the PBID fight, and his drive to bend the Village to his will, is far from being over. As you indicate, Chris, the newest ploy seems to be to paint Village property owners (and the Mom and Pop businesses that give the district it's charm) as a bunch of revenue sucking pigs lined up at the City's teat.

It really is the height of gall for a man who last year positively bragged about doing nothing in the Village for 18 years (and yes, I have the tape)--while improperly planted trees uproot building foundations, claim after claim is filed against the City for personal injuries suffered on the broken concrete sidewalks, he holds hostage the meter money that is supposedly dedicated to fixing these problems, and his stooges fight his proxy war on the Village Merchants Association that keep this area running on a shoestring--to turn around and express such deep concern for city coffers.

As I said last night, if the Mayor's newly expressed concerns are at all heartfelt, then these four and a half blocks must lie somewhere on the road to Damascus. For when you strip the layers of PBID, you find--after the de facto rezoning of the Village into "another Gaslamp Quarter", the bleeding of private capital from longtime "stakeholders" to speed our demise, the concentration of power in one easy to control organization responsive only to the 8 largest properties (virtually all prime redevelopment targets) that could have controlled the fates of the remaining 200--at this scheme's core was a $65,000 a year developer giveaway from the City's general fund.

Let's put that $65,000 a year in perspective:

Last year, Lemon Grove had Council travel reimbursements of about $600 (($150 of which was reimbursed).

El Cajon: $2500.

Santee: $0 (This is not a typo. ZERO)

San Diego (23 times our size): $4,700

La Mesa?


Mostly for two Council members.

The Mayor's jet-setting was responsible for three-quarters of that--over $9,000 in a single year while the rest of us tighten our belts and then tighten them again. At that rate, every seven years we could pay the annual maintenance on the "betterments" out of one man's travel bill.

Remind me, how many years has Art Madrid ruled this town, again? And, while we're at it, who gets the accumulated air miles we paid for?

Bill Jaynes


619 464 2298

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