Despite a number of residents voicing their opposition to a proposed 7-Eleven store on Spring Street and Gateside Avenue, the La Mesa City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve a Design Review Board decision to move forward.
The proposed convenience store will inhabit a parcel of land that was once home to a Shell gas station, market and car wash. It has been a point of contention with neighbors for months, who are concerned that the convenience store will bring more crime to the area. The neighbors also spoke out that increased noise and lighting will devalue their homes and increase traffic congestion into the area, which is just north of the SR-94 interchange.
Judy Clark, who owns the property were the store will be, said that she and her husband have been looking for a tenant who will be a good neighbor on the property that has been vacant for a decade. She believes 7-Eleven is that tenant.
"We think they’ve done a good job and have been conscientious [of concerns]," she said.
La Mesa resident Jesus Calleros, who has long been one of the most outspoken opponents of the project, said that he has been impressed with the work the architects have been doing in terms of keeping with the city guidelines, and says that to their credit, 7-Eleven has been doing “whatever they have been asked.”
But he still has concerns with the overall look of the project, and what image it would bring to the neighbordhood.
"I believe that this one of the few properties in the city of La Mesa that is so visible," Calleros said. "There are many places where there are signs or monuments saying, welcome to the city, and we just want to make sure that 7-Eleven is going to be something that we can be proud of."
Councilmember Ruth Sterling was the lone “no” vote, and she spoke passionately that she agrees with the concerned neighbors.
"I am disappointed the Design Review Board approved this as is,'' Sterling said. "I would like to see some La Mesa charm as we enter the city. We could do much better.''
The design review board approved the project in February, saying that it met all of the zoning criteria. Designers and representatives from the corporation were onhand, and told the council that the project had much higher design standards than a typical 7-Eleven, and that they had worked hard to address concerns of neighbors and mitigate negative impacts on the area. The plan also includes a landscaping budget that is three times a normal store, which will feature the planting of more than 20 trees on the property.
“We feel that the site improvements and the building improvements are far from prototypical for a 7-Eleven,” said Tom Bergerson, property applicant for the store. “There are many things that have been added to this that have increased the construction budget quite a bit.”
The proposal includes a 2,940 square-foot building on the parcel, which Community Development Director Bill Chopyk said has been vacant for 10-12 years. It will feature 14 parking spaces, an exterior fence along Gateside Way on the backside of the property, and an additional structure that will house the store’s electrical and air conditioner systems, and dumpsters.
But Sterling disagreed.
“I’ve been around and I’ve looked at a lot of 7-Elevens, and it’s typical. It looks like all the other ones in East County.”
In the end, however, despite the opposition, the project will move forward. Construction at the site is slated to begin some time this year. Once completed, it will be the eighth 7-Eleven store within the La Mesa city limits.