LA MESA PREPARES TO CELEBRATE 100 YEARS AT THE CROSSROADS
ECM pauses to ask for your reflections
By Kristin Hobbs Kjaero
February 3, 2011 (La Mesa) -- On February 16, 2012, La Mesa will turn 100, and city leaders hope to celebrate throughout the year, from special commemorative events to putting a centennial spin on annual events such as Oktoberfest. The city has extended an invitation for civic organizations to collaborate with events of their own. All, it hopes, will be underwritten -as the Flag Day Parade is- by sponsorships and volunteer efforts.
Since the days of the Julian Gold Rush and probably earlier, La Mesa has found itself at the crossroads of activities, and remains so in a number of ways. There is, of course, the geographic crossroad of density and transit in the west and semi-rural beauty of the eastern part of the city, as well as the highways that traverse it.
Then there is a cultural crossroad of identity. While residents modestly refer to the city as “Mayberry” for its hometown coziness and Councilmembers who give out personal cell phone numbers, this belies an understated sophistication -- a 2008 city study showed one of the best educated populations and highest bank deposits in the county. Indeed, it is this mix of hometown charm and high quality of life which, together with strong community spirit, makes it such a desired place to move, while generations have stayed on to raise their own families.
Perhaps as a result of this mix of old and new, the city appears to be at a crossroad in time as well which leads ECM to ask: How does the community envision its future? We invite you to send us your thoughts to Kristin@eastcountymagazine.org for an upcoming compilation article.
Economically, the city has been fortunate in its timing. When Prop L Public Safety Bonds passed for new police and fire facilities, the Council raised its General Fund reserve target to 40%, and launched a new effort to attract new businesses to the city. A 2006 city sales tax increase has buffered the City from ever increasing revenue take-aways by the state as well as the economic downturn that began in 2008, and La Mesa was the first city in the county to begin renegotiating pensions. As a result, La Mesa has fared relatively better in a time when other jurisdictions were cutting services and laying off staff, and is relatively well positioned for the future.
Physically, the City is in the midst of determining what renewal in the city center will look like. It has undertaken a Village Revitalization project for which public meetings gathered public input, from which some changes are beginning to be seen along Alison Avenue to address walkability. A new Property Business Improvement District (PBID), a special taxation district used in areas like Little Italy and Kensington, is in the discussion stages and may eventually go to a vote among property owners in the Village. Perhaps the largest proposal currently on the table is the 6 ½ acre “Park Station” application for across the street from the Civic Center, in which the developer is requesting a density boost that would double current zoning to 80 units/acre, and a height exemption for a conceptual plan that would more than quadruple current height limits.
Last November three incumbents who have each lived 40 years or more in the city came up against four challengers who had lived in the city from only a few months to two years. While challengers tried to capitalize on a throw-everybody-out political mood that swept the country, the comparatively stable condition of the city in a difficult economy left voters content with the skills incumbents have demonstrated. But with the largest percent of population over 65 in the county, and the current fashion of high density development bringing in a younger, more mobile population, this may, in time, change. Or not.
Centennial Committee Volunteers meet on the third Monday of the month at 4:30 p.m. at Fire Administration Station 11, 8034 Allison Avenue. Meetings are open to the public. Please call the Centennial Committee Hotline at 619.667.1172 for more information.
La Mesa Centennial Celebration
c/o La Mesa Park and Recreation Foundation
4975 Memorial Drive
La Mesa, CA 91942