By JEFF CLEMETSON | La Mesa Courier
It’s no secret that events in La Mesa’s downtown Village have become controversial.
At its July 9 meeting, La Mesa City Council began exploring a plan that would create a process for funding and holding events that, in theory, would be fair and equitable to residents and businesses alike.
“Maybe we can’t reach total consensus on some of the things that are happening in the Village. Maybe we all can’t get what we want. But maybe we can all be sure we’re all winning in some way,” said Vice Mayor Colin Parent, who along with Council member Bill Baber proposed the plan.
Baber described the plan as a “BID [business improvement district] with training wheels.” Business improvement districts are where public monies are put into a fund run by businesses in a small area of a city.
“This isn’t exactly that because it is still managed by the city and there is basically an RFP [request for proposal] process, but it is the same intent, which is to allow the money from the Village to stay in the Village to enhance the Village,” he said.
Under the proposal, the city would create a new Village Enhancement Fund out of parking revenues generated in the Village — about half of parking meter revenues after expenses. That fund would allow applicants on an annual basis to propose uses for those funds — events, advertising, etc. — as long as they benefit the Village or the city as a whole and not just an individual or business. The Parking Commission would be in charge of reviewing the proposals, and all proposals would need ratification by City Council. For the first year, the city would create a $40,000 fund from reserves.
Parent said the plan would be needed to replace the La Mesa Village Association if the council voted to move the farmers market from the Village. The association is the funding organization that holds events in the Village and its main source of revenue is the Friday markets.
“If [the] market moves, I want to make sure we have an alternative revenue source to continue to put on some events in the Village,” Parent said. “And, also, if the market remains where it is, create a way to acknowledge businesses that say they are hurt by [the] market and mitigate some losses.
“It may not solve all problems in the Village, but [it’d] make a good gesture for making sure that more people feel like they’re winning and succeeding, either as business owners or as residents,” he continued.
The rest of the City Council members, as well as Lori Kern, a resident on the Parking Commission who was in attendance at the meeting, agreed that it was a good plan, although there were some issues brought up about how taking parking meter funds might affect other planned projects.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Council member Kristine Alessio. “My only reticence is the fact that we are not done with streetscape and we did use these funds in the past to do that, to match funds with SANDAG and get grants.”
City Manager Yvonne Garrett said that although phase 1 work on the streetscape project is completed, there are additional phases that are yet to be done.
“We have and are planning on doing some additional work on lighting and the Allison Avenue parking lot where we are using these funds but there are some additional phases that are to be done at a later time,” she said, adding that currently, extra funds from parking meters are designated toward reserves.
City Attorney Glen Sabine also commented that the council will also have to amend an ordinance to allow new uses for the parking funds.
Despite the concerns, the council voted unanimously to direct staff to present a formal plan to the city for consideration.
— Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.