By Margie M. Palmer
The long-awaited street light install on School Ridge Lane has finally been completed. The project, which was spearheaded in September 2015 by La Mesa resident Larry La Haye, has been more than a year in the making.
“School Ridge Lane had been, for years, a place that had crime and drugs, especially at night,” La Haye said. “Some of the property owners were not actively involved in managing their properties and the tenants were bringing down the neighborhood. There was one complex in particular that was the worst of them all. I contacted the owner, we made a deal and my wife and I bought it. He hadn’t been on that property for over a year. We evicted all the tenants and gutted and fixed up the building.”
That was just the beginning.
In August 2015, neighbors in the area participated in the National Night Out, an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. As it started to get dark, La Haye realized that School Ridge Lane did not have any lighting.
“I saw what happened at the end of the cul-de-sac, and at the park area that’s over there. People who don’t even live in that area were taking over that area. So the next month I went to the City Council meeting and made a proposal, and Mayor Mark Arapostathis agreed this was an ongoing problem and he promised we’d get lights.”
The process took over a year but, La Haye said, the end result was well worth the effort. Especially since the city decided to add not one, but two lights to the street.
City of La Mesa Associate Engineer Michael Kinnard said the timeframe of this project, from start to finish, is not entirely unusual.
He also said that in this particular case, there was no available electrical service in the street. La Haye’s original suggestion to the City Council was to use solar-powered lighting, but that ended up being unnecessary because the city and the utility company worked out a solution.
“San Diego Gas and Electric needed to obtain easements from private property owners to supply the necessary power to the street lights,” Kinnard said. “The logistics in laying out proper street light locations, negotiating easements, obtaining street light materials, and scheduling them to be installed can take months.”
He also said he believes the installation will benefit residents by promoting security as well as improving safety for drivers, riders, and pedestrians.
La Haye agrees.
“The lights benefit the community in a few ways. One, kids can play in the street after dark. It will also help reduce the crime that would be taking place during the night. Now, 94 families can hopefully regain their street back from the drug dealers and loiterers who work in the darkness,” he said.
“The tenants are very happy. I’m not surprised this took so long, but I’m not disappointed because I know it takes a while for wheels to get moving. I think the mayor and the City Council all did a great job; I’m proud of them.”
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines for over a decade. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.