By Miriam Raftery
Note: Due to a family emergency, our reporter missed this event, so we interviewed Colin Parent with La Mesa Conversations for highlights.
February 4, 2016 (La Mesa) – An estimated 117 people turned out at a “Future of La Mesa” forum held January 26th at the Masonic Lodge.
“It surpassed our expectations,” said Colin Parent with La Mesa Conversations, organizer of the event moderated by Barry Jantz, CEO of Grossmont Healthcare District and former La Mesa Councilmember. Parent provided the following highlights from the event:
- City Manager Dave Witt talked about new policies the city has put in place to increase investment and interest in downtown La Mesa. Those include the recently finished downtown streetscape improvements to make downtown more walkable and pedestrian friendly, as well as setting up a parking in lieu fee that allows property owners to make upgrades and instead of building onsite parking, pay into a fund that supports new parking in the future.
- Chris D’Avignon, owner of Land and Design and the Quarry Apartments, put forth the argument that for small businesses to succeed downtown, what’s really needed is to get more people to live downtown so there will be more customers to patronize the businesses. Many in the audience nodded agreement.
- Library supporters turned out for the event, asking what the city’s plans are to invest in a new library. Witt said that’s a project under study and that residents should stay tuned for more information from the city as it evaluates whether that will be part of the civic center update.
- The audience also voiced strong interest in knowing how downtown can be made more vibrant with improved bicycle access and pedestrian-friendly features. Some asked whether more density in housing should be part of the city’s future. “I think it’s a really important question,” Parent observed. D’Avignon contends density is important, but Witt took a “prudent, modest approach,” Parent noted. “He said the answer to that is really up to the people of La Mesa.”
- La Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Mary England spoke on the need to have a downtown that works for business and continues to be attractive to small business owners.
The next event to be hosted by La Mesa Conversations will be a mixer on February 18th, asking whether La Mesa will be the next “hip” neighborhood in San Diego. The location is to be announced. For more information visit http://www.lamesaconversations.org/