By Leon Thompson
February 18, 20016 (La Mesa) -- The first La Mesa Town Hall event of 2016 exposed tensions brewing in the relationship between citizens of La Mesa and the City Council. These open forum sessions aim to give citizens a forum to share “ideas, comments and opinions on issues in their neighborhood and throughout the City,” according to the City’s website.
On Tuesday, residents gave the Council an earful. Six out of nine citizen speakers complained about the Depot Springs Beer Company that was, as one local said “already too far along to stop.” Locals have been complaining long and loud about the proposed 900-seat music and beer venue that has no cover charge in a residential neighborhood near schools and churches, directly across the street from Parkway Middle School, site of the community forum, as well as a park and a YMCA.
With its proximity to SDSU and Grossmont College students, residents asked pointed questions: Where will patrons park? What about the noise? What sort of neighborhood changes comes with a rock and roll venue in a brewery?
La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis gingerly deferred questions about the Depot Springs Beer Company to City Manager David Witt and his staff, who failed to provide answers.
Mr. Witt explained that the Depot Springs Beer Company has a conditional use permit and if agreed upon limitations are not met the place will be closed down. So the question was asked “How many parking spaces will be provided and where will they be located?” Mr. Witt dodged the question stating that, “property owners have rights and neighbors have rights.” When pressed for a number, neither Mayor Arapostathis nor City Manager Witt had an answer, except “The owner is working on it.”
According to an article in the Reader, owner Aaron Dean said, “We are 100 percent fully funded. We got approved for all the space we wanted and permission for everything we wanted to do.”
Dean is building the 7000-square-foot Depot Springs Beer Company and the adjacent Platform 1888, a 25,000-square-foot full-service restaurant and outdoor venue on Fletcher Parkway near Dallas Street. He said the venue will hold approximately 900, based on a 300-capacity restaurant and 600 for the amphitheater.
Dean said rock, jazz, country, acoustic, and comedy artists will perform, even though there is no cover charge. “We would probably be cautious about heavy metal and punk. But if Metallica wanted to come here and play their acoustic album, we’d be happy to have them.”
City Manager Witt said that it would not be a “little Woodstock” and that the owner had exaggerated the extent of the project and was “scaling back,” but would not elaborate.
Vice Mayor Bill Baber pressed the City Manager on the parking issue. Still no parking space number was provided. City Manager staff answered that a traffic study had been done as part of the Environmental Impact Report and that compliance was “in progress.” Pressed further, the City Manager stated plainly that if the parking provisions were not met, “The permit would be rescinded.”
Council Member Ruth Sterling suggested that the citizens of La Mesa were unaware of the appeals process recently put in place which would have put the proposed project on the City Council Meeting Agenda for public discussion and an up or down vote. Council Member Sterling’s remarks drew loud applause from the 115 Town Hall attenders. The Appeals Process requires an application and a $50.00 dollar fee.
In other business, citizen Brad Broswell asked, “In light of the attack in San Bernardino, did the La Mesa Police have a means to detect and identify threats within our region?”
Newly sworn-in Police Chief Walter Vasquez, in his first time speaking at a town hall, said, “La Mesa Police have a ‘crimes studies unit’ that coordinates with the San Diego County Sherriff, California State law enforcement and Federal Law Agencies.” He pointed out that Sherriff Gore is a former head of the FBI. Chief Vasquez meets monthly with the chiefs of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies for assessments and coordination.
In a related question, Mr. Broswell added, “Does La Mesa have the law enforcement resources to enforce the recently passed Proposition 47?”
Broswell told ECM that Prop 47 would increase the workload of the police department because it created a revolving door for repeat criminals now that the ‘three strikes’ provisions of the law have been modified. Chief Vasquez’ acknowledged the challenge and said the La Mesa police were prepared.
Pauli Cable said that she likes to walk her dog on Mount Helix. “Lately the pot smokers have gotten very ‘comfortable’ on Mount Helix. Even to the point that they are openly selling drugs.”
Chief Vasquez addressed her concerns by noting that Mount Helix is in unincorporated territory and is the jurisdiction of the County’s Sherriff, adding that for a non-emergency the incident would be prioritized by the Sherriff. The City of La Mesa holds at least two Town Hall meetings every year.
There will be another town hall tonight at the Maryland Avenue Elementary School auditorium, located at 5400 Maryland Ave., at 6:30 p.m.