The La Mesa City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to overturn a Dec. 2012 decision by the Planning Commission to grant a conditional use permit for a proposed preschool at 6199 Howell Avenue.
After two hours of public commenting, both from proponents of the school, and more so from neighboring residents concerned with public safety and increased noise issues that the preschool would bring, the council made a decision to go against city staff recommendation.
That means that BunnyBears Inhome Preschool, which currently operates inside the home of Anise and Egle Athari at 6111 Howell Avenue, and has about 20 part- and full-time students, cannot relocate to a larger facility down the street, adjacent to Northmont Elementary School.
According to a report in La Mesa Today, councilmembers Kristine Alessio and Ernie Ewin voted to uphold the Planning Commission's decision, but Mayor Art Madrid, and councilmembers Mark Arapostathis and Ruth Sterling, agreed with the appeals of local residents, and voted to not add to to traffic, public safety, and noise concerns voiced by the preschool's opponents at the meeting.
The council decision lies in stark contrast to a similar case brought to them in June 2012, when it voted to approve an appeal allowing for expanded enrollment at College Preparatory Middle School, 5150 Jackson Drive. In that case, neighbors adjacent to the school argued that increased enrollment would add to the already-frustrating noise level and traffic congestion.
On Tuesday, Councilmember Ewin argued that much of the complaints from residents in the neighborhood had to do with Northmont Elementary, and that a proposed increase of five students to BunnyBears wouldn't likely impact the neighborhood significantly.
But, according to La Mesa Today, Arapostathis said that he "couldn't see letting even a good school like BunnyBears add to the chaos on that particular corner."