Seeking A PBID Cesarean

LA MESA -- It has been nine months since the supporters of the La Mesa Village Property Based Improvement District last formally appeared before the City Council. "Long enough to have produced a baby,'' as City Councilman Ernie Ewin put it.

But it became clear Tuesday that the gestation period for a PBID is longer than that of a human, and that the stretch marks and mood swings seem to be affecting the City Council members more than the members of PBID Committee.

Expressing "exasperation,'' "frustration'' and "confusion'' over the drawn out PBID process, council members expressed a desire to see the PBID issue settled so the city's downtown streetscape plan could go forward without unneeded complexities.

However, the council was reminded by the City Manager that, even though they had a hand in conception of the PBID process, its future rests with the PBID Steering Committee.

"Is there anything we can do to declare it over once and for all,'' City Councilwoman Ruth Sterling asked.

"No,'' was the simple answer from City Attorney Glenn Sabine. Sabine explained that the law does not put a time limit on the Steering Committee's efforts to garner support for the plan.

So the council voted 5-0 to direct the City Manager to talk with the Steering Committee leaders and encourage them to report back to the council within 45 days.

No member of the Steering Committee was present at the meeting, though a number of PBID opponents, many wearing "No PBID" signs, sat in the audience as a few addressed the council, including Brian Marshall, superintendent of the La Mesa/Spring Valley School District who reiterated his district's opposition to the plan. Merchant Bill Jaynes, a vocal opponent with a flair for props and the dramatic, held up a wooden stake and encouraged the council to drive it into the heart of the PBID.

Lynn McRea, the chairwoman of the Steering Committee, was not available for comment, but Jim Wieboldt, a local merchant and committee member, said the council needs to be reminded who is directing the effort.

"We are driving this ship,'' Wieboldt said. While the city owns property within the district and put up the funds for organizing the PBID effort, the Steering Committee is an entity with a life of its own now.

The Steering Committee could still come up with petitions from more than 50 percent of the landowners in the PBID District or it could come back with a revised plan that would take still more time to garner new petitions.

In the meantime, City Manager Dave Witt, told the council he was optimistic about having won the final $2-million of grant funding the city needs for the streetscape project and planning is moving ahead with regular staff meetings and a "break ground" target of Jan. 1, 2014, for the complete overhaul of La Mesa Boulevard.

And that is where the rub occurs. The City Council has repeatedly said that if the city is going to spend $5-million rehabbing the Village, it expects a "public-private" partnership with those who are benefitting from these taxpayer dollars to maintain the improvements.

The PBID, in which property owners would essentially agree to an annual assessment, was seen as the vehicle for that "public-private" partnership. Without a PBID, or something like it, the city could find itself back in the days when an anemic merchants association couldn't come up with enough money or volunteers to water the La Mesa Boulevard planters.

The PBID opponents have been vocal about what they don't want (a PBID), but efforts to discuss an alternative haven't gone much beyond the early talking stages.

The council, of course, could give up on the "public-private'' partnership and simply launch the streetscape improvements and pay for all the maintenance out of taxpayers' money. That, of course, would land the council back in the same position that left the quaint Village to slide down a razor blade of decline over the last 25 years.

Mayor Art Madrid, a strong supporter of the PBID, remained largely quiet on this issue at Tuesday's meeting, perhaps enjoying watching his fellow council members come up against the conflicting goals and forces in a local political contretemps he has spent decades fighting.  

So, it is still not clear if or when any Village baby will be delivered. However, it does look like, in any event, forceps will be involved.








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Tags: Bill Jaynes, Brian Marshall, City Attorney Glenn Sabine, City Councilman Ernie Ewin, City Councilwoman Ruth Sterling, City Manager Dave Witt, Jim Wieboldt, La Mesa, La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa City Council, More…La Mesa PBID, La Mesa Today, La Mesa Village, La Mesa Village Property Based Improvement District, La Mesa news, La Mesa newspaper, Lynn McRea, Mayor Art Madrid, Superintendent La Mesa/Spring Valley School District


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Comment by Bill Jaynes on April 25, 2013 at 6:40pm

I am no more surprised to hear that TeamPBID is meeting in secret than that they continue to exclude some of their own members from these meetings--particularly those who refused to sign the blood oath to impose this version of PBID on their neighbors just before the team went underground the first time.

What was the point of the original dog and pony show, the claims to transparency, and the stage-managed simulacrum of democracy when even the Team admits this time they will just rewrite a new plan in some back room if that's what it takes to jam this thing down our throats?

The good news, if any is to be had, is that they purport to be more amenable to compromise than we would have suspected based upon their previous steamroller tactics and refusal to answer Councilmembers' most basic questions nine months ago at the July 24, 2012 meeting, ostensibly upon the advice of the Team's legal counsel.

How unfortunate, then, that no Team members considered Tuesday's Council meeting important enough to attend. We might then know how many additional petitions have been dredged up in these last nine months, what representations were made to acquire them, whether the Project Engineer we paid for is still advising the cabal, etc.

Heck, I'd still like to hear him explain why one, and only one property in the proposed district is assessed on net rather than gross building area, burdening the Team's neighbors yet more. But I don't think I'm likely to.

The effort to seek out a maintenance mechanism for the long-delayed Streetscape Project simply must return to square one. The obstinate refusal to do so serves only to fuel suspicion and aggravate the barely scarred over wounds from the last fight a decade ago.

It is time to finally learn from these repeated mistakes: We will not be dictated to, but we will join, or lead, any credible, grassroots effort to improve our town.

Bill Jaynes


8401 La Mesa Boulevard

619 464 2298

Comment by Ernest Ewin on April 25, 2013 at 10:06am

I would like to thank Jim Wieboldt for contacting me regarding my comments below. Jim felt parts of my comments might have been different if I had his whole statement...and based upon how long we have known each other, I could/should have just called him. .Jim- noted!

As to notifications to the Formation Committee of when the Council wants updates; to correct the failure of our past representative to notify and update us, the Council recently took action 5-0 that the official liaison is thru the City Manager. Dave Witt was provided with instructions to provide and receive information regarding PBID Formation Committee matters directly. That ensures all "messages" come from/to one official source. Jim also noted that the Formation Committee has been meeting; considering the public comments mentioned at the 7/24/12 meeting and are reviewing/planning accordingly.

I look forward to the PBID Formation Committee's next public Council update within the next 45 days.

Thanks again Jim and good luck to both you and Kelly with Unique Travel Concepts' new location on La Mesa Blvd/in the Village. 

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on April 24, 2013 at 12:05pm

Very interesting and rather amusing article.  Unfortunately I did not attend to show support as a PBID opponent, as I do have some questions that should be addressed.  Since PBID assessments would be attached to our property tax bill, how are funds effected if taxes are delinquent?  Shouldn't property owners, and especially members of the PBID committee, be current on their property taxes in order to be allowed to make decisions effecting the rest of the community?  Shouldn't the steering committee, City Manager and City attorney take into consideration the voice of the people, rather than insist on force feeding property owners assessments that are excessive and likely to hurt businesses financially?  Of course revamped streets and sidewalks would be a welcome change, but not for me if it means contributing an average of $4000 annually toward assessments over 5 years (with the potential of increases and extensions).  A resultant 50% increase on my property tax bill is not something I can fathom.

Comment by Ernest Ewin on April 24, 2013 at 11:16am

"We are driving this ship," Wieboldt said.

Having read Chris Lavin's articles/blogs covering the PBID, I know his quotes are accurate. As with last evening's Council meeting to an extent, I hoped we were/ are not just picking up from last July 24ths Council meeting with the comment. However it brings to mind a story I heard a while back.

Years ago a ship noticed a light off in the distance that appeared to be coming towards them. The ship's bridge started to monitor the light but not much was changing except it was getting closer. The ship's captain ordered an effort to contact the "other" ship. In an exchange of requests to alter courses-as the light still drew closer- the final contact was as follows " this is Captain Jones captain of a battleship alter your course.!!" The reply came immediately. " This is Mr. Smith, keeper of this Lighthouse, suggest you alter Course... very quickly!".

We still have roles to play. Let's drop the ego's. The City Manager has been directed by Council action to contact/update the PBID Formation Committee as to what the Council would like to see and some of its concerns, Street Scape timeline and other items( even a video copy of the Council meeting if requested).

Please note and recall, the Council previously  took action to eliminate its sub-committee as a go- between the Formation Committee and the City Council. We want timely- no delays or filtered -information on this project. Last night, by verbal poll, all members of city management and each council member individually indicated verbally they had not had any communications from/with any members of the Formation Committee.

Let's change that.... as staff moves forward with the downtown final planning and this significant project get's closer to starting.

The Formation Committee still has my attention.

Comment by Bill Jaynes on April 24, 2013 at 7:59am

Speaking quite literally as one of the Village "stakeholders", I must say that PBID itself is the prime impediment to any serious discussion of alternative funding mechanisms for the Streetscape betterments (those portions of the project that go beyond the simple return to baseline that would put us on a par with the rest of the City after 25 years of neglect).

It is hard to explore payment mechanisms, and especially to measure support for a simple, fair maintenance district, until PBID is dead once and for all, because people are rightly concerned about double--or even triple--taxing themselves. Two years of obfuscation (e.g., the repeated implication that the Streetscape was in any way dependent upon PBID's passage) and misdirection (such as the threat to remove anticipated public toilets from the project without PBID--even though toilets were never part of the project to begin with) have only added to the confusion and false starts. 

It took a year and a half of public nagging to get a list of maintenance costs for the betterments, which turned out to be around $50,000. This was not only less than the $65,000 unitemized figure bandied about in Committee meetings, but also far lower than the $378,000 behemoth that PBID eventually grew into.

Small wonder that the most common sentiment I hear is that maintenance should simply be paid out of the Downtown Parking Meter Fund, for years advertised as "Fund(ing) Downtown Improvements". Doing so would be quickly implementable, lower administrative costs, and avoid burdening the rest of La Mesa citizens, who may not even come to Downtown on a regular basis. It would certainly be fairer than asking them to pay $60,000 out of the General Fund, as PBID asks them to do.

To the objection that the Parking Meter monies are meant for capital improvements and not maintenance, I would answer that the rules governing the fund were considered sufficiently expansive to pay $30,000 to the project engineer tasked with exploring support for maintenance alternatives, so surely there is enough leeway to simply eliminate the middleman and get straight to the powerwashing and rustoleum.

Council has several times now asked if there is any way to stop PBID and move on. We read that the Committee, which has refused to answer basic questions "on the advice of counsel", now says it is "driving this ship". And it is--straight into the shoals.

The City Council wears several hats in this process, such as determining whether to sign the PBID petition in this phase, or voting during the election phase. One that is seldom mentioned is its power to certify PBID if and when the stumbling effort makes it past these elementary hurdles. Given the sentiments expressed last night by various Councilmembers, the fatal flaws in the process to date, the structural unfairness inherent to imposing a PBID on this particular heterogenous mix of properties (8 to 10 large landowners can control the fate of almost 200 more, at EVERY vote PBID ever holds), and the fact that we move ever closer to the Streetscape date,

when this issue comes back in 45 days, I would urge the Council to make it clear that it simply will not certify the current effort and that we must go back to square one:

1. A discussion of the size and scope of Streetscape, including the possibility of staging the construction of certain elements until times are better and steady maintenance funds are secured.

2. A meaningful discussion of ALL maintenance mechanisms is had, and ALL voices are afforded the chance to contribute to the dialogue.

3. Our churches, schools, non-profits and residents should be protected from forced assessments for what is, at the end of the day, a commercial district.

4. The full Council should maintain its reclaimed authority at the center of the discussion and decisionmaking process. This time the light of day must illuminate each step of the way.

Bill Jaynes


619 464 2298

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