By JEFF CLEMETSON
A long-awaited amenity to La Mesa’s historic Downtown Village is now one step closer to fruition.
On Dec. 14, La Mesa City Council voted unanimously to approve the location for a district sign that will span over La Mesa Boulevard on it’s west side intersection with Palm Avenue.
The council also approved a fundraising partnership between La Mesa Village Association (LMVA), which cannot legally take in tax-deductible donations, and La Mesa Parks & Rec Foundation, which is a 501c3 and can.
The council vote followed a presentation of the proposed “district sign” by LMVA members Pam Rader and Tony Gaipa.
“Yes, I said ‘district sign.’ The reason we aren’t proposing a gateway sign is gateway signs are normally placed at an entrance or exit to a city,” Rader explained.
In the presentation, Rader shared the criteria for choosing the sign’s location:
- Access to utilities for the LED lights on the sign and the acorn lights on the posts;
- 145 square feet of clear space to support the column footings and ADA requirements;
- Potential impacts on businesses;
- Traffic safety;
- Added cost if need to acquire private property;
- Modifications to existing infrastructure, such as streets and gutters;
- Visible from Spring Street;
- Historical significance;
- Geographical center of the Village;
Popular location for events.
The location at Palm and La Mesa Boulevard checked all those requirements with the only disadvantage being that benches located on both sides of La Mesa Boulevard would need to be relocated four feet.
Initially, Spring Street was recommended by the city for a gateway sign, but after review it was “removed from consideration because we felt it wasn’t a viable location because of the challenges with utilities, roadways, narrow sidewalks and MTS as well as a need to acquire private property,” Rader said, again reiterating that this will be a “district sign not a gateway sign.”
Additional locations on La Mesa Boulevard that were considered — including six between Acacia Street and Nebo and five others between Palm and Fourth — all had various issues with ADA compliance, need to acquire private property, interference with existing infrastructure or conflicts with existing businesses, such as outdoor dining areas.
LMVA has been working on the design for the sign project since 2018, which included collaborating with two sign companies, La Mesa Historical Society and input from residents at a series of community forums.
The current design is the product of those forums and will include acorn lights upon fluted posts that are consistent with the design of the Village Streetscape project; LED lights in the sign itself; and artwork on the columns.
“The artwork is a key of the sign, meant to represent all of La Mesa, not just the Village,” Rader said.
The artwork will include 756 hand-painted, 4-by-4-inch tiles on the columns that “gives an opportunity for everyone to participate,” Rader said. There will also be four to 12 brass plaques on each column side, depending on size and location. The tiles and the plaques are currently being sold through reservation and are the sole fundraising source for the sign project. Interested residents or businesses can reserve a tile or plaque through the ‘Downtown District Sign’ page at www.lamesavillageassociation.org while supplies last.
Already, the LMVA has raised 63 percent of the needed funds to complete the sign through pledge sales of tiles and plaques. The cost of project is currently estimated to be $400,000 total, which includes design, construction, marketing and administration costs. The estimated earnings from selling tiles and plaques is $438,000.
“We feel we will be able to fundraise this project through fundraising efforts without the need of public funds,” Rader added.
In addition to Rader’s presentation, there were 17 comments from residents in support of the project and its location, many from people who have already pledged to purchase tiles and plaques.
In discussion on the matter to approve the location and partnership with the Parks Foundation, City Council members heaped praise on the project and the efforts of LMVA in getting the long-awaited amenity to the city so close to completion — and Council members Bill Baber, Laura Lothian and Colin Parent shared that they have also pledged to purchase tiles or plaques for the project.
“It’s a great idea,” Parent said. “And I would really express some particular appreciation for doing all the community outreach. To me this is like an obvious ‘of course we’re going to do this, it’s a great idea.’ But it’s also good to sort of check that — make sure everyone else feels the same way.”
Parent added that the sign will bring prominence to the city like similar signs do in neighboring cities.
“La Mesa, everyone knows, is the best neighborhood in the region so we should of course we should have a boss sign to remind everyone of those great qualities,” he said.
Lothian praised the LMVA members for their work and called the project “long overdue.”
“I’ve lived in La Mesa over 20 years and for 20 years I’ve been hearing people say ‘Why don’t we have a sign?’” she said. “I think this going to become the iconic symbol of La Mesa.”
Vice Mayor Jack Shu commended the work of the LMVA and added that he is looking forward to its construction.
Mayor Mark Arapostathis said that all his life he has lived in La Mesa and residents have discussed the need for a sign and is glad it is “finally moving forward.”
“The thing that it is is that it fits,” he said. “It fits the nature of the Village and that district and it’s going to look nice.”
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.