A small group of La Mesa residents turned out to the La Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday to let their feelings be known about their opposition to a proposed 7-Eleven, which is being planned for the corner of Spring Street and Gateside Road and Palm Avenue.
The item was not on the agenda, however, three residents spoke harshly against the proposed project during public comments, claiming that the neighborhood already has lots of crime and traffic, and that the addition of a convenience store would being on more of the same.
“We feel like the City of La Mesa should spend their efforts on issues such crime and trash, and not trying to convince us that another 7-Eleven is a good idea,” said Jesus Calleros. “A lot of the streets in this neighborhood don’t even have sidewalks, and it’s not safe. So we feel that if a business is going to go here, especially one that sells alcohol, there are other issues that should be considered.”
The neighbors held a public meeting in the front yard Janice Kurtz in September to discuss the proposed business. Also at the meeting were police chief Ed Aceves and other officers, city staff including Community Development Director Bill Chopyk, and representatives from the convenience store giant, according to a blog post written by city council candidate Laura Lothian.
Kurtz said that letters and emails were sent to the city council to attend the meeting as well. She admonished the council for their perceived lack of interest in her mind.
“We were told by the police officer that you guys had read all of our letters,” said Kurtz. And it makes me sad that if that is true, you guys are not helping us here. It’s just all about, I’m thinking, you’re getting money from 7-Eleven.”
However, what Kurtz, and possibly other neighbors as well did not know is that the council was advised by City Attorney Glenn Sabine’s office not to attend, because the item was likely to come back to the council on appeal.
“It’s risky for council members to attend any meetings regarding the 7-Eleven because it may bias a decision that’s made later on, and they may have to recuse themselves in the future,” Sabine said after the public comments.
“I want to make it very clear to everyone that a commercial operation is a permitted use at the site. And it’s not a matter of the council being able to deny a commercial use at the site, because it’s within the rules of that particular use. The only thing that is at issue is the design of the structure and the operation related to that design, and the alcohol issue, which is ultimately regulated by the ABC.”
But it’s that same alcohol permit that has the residents up in arms.
“We will have four liquor stores right on the corner of Spring Street and Gateside,” Kurtz said in the public comments. “I moved to La Mesa thinking it was a quaint, lovely little town. Where we are right now, it is so far from that. I am so disappointed, discouraged, and I don’t know what else to do.”
Kurtz said that she frequently hears complaints from neighbors that of the rampant transient activity in the area, and how people are “defecating and urinating in people’s backyards.”
Calleros said that some in his neighborhood have given up the fight.
“Not [given up] in that they are ok with the 7-Eleven, but that they are actually moving,” he said. “I don’t blame them for this. With the real estate market, they feel like if they are trying to sell their house, with a 7-Eleven is going to be even more difficult.”
Diane Reed, who is a neighborhood watch captain for her street said that some parts are “ghetto,” and that there are a lot of crimes in the area that don’t even get reported, which makes the crime stats make it seem like there’s less of a problem.
“Over the past five years I’ve just seen things going downhill,” she said.” And now a 7-Eleven coming into our town, right in our backyard… there’s a place for it, but not in the neighborhood, where it’s surrounded by houses. I don’t think it’s appropriate at all.”
Sabine said that there is no timeline on the proposal right now, as the project still has to go through the design review portion of the process.
In other council news:
The council approved all of the candidates for the Youth Advisory Council, who had given oral presentations at the last council meeting.
City staffer Greg Humora detailed the data from the city’s first year after retrofitting more than 11,000 of the city’s old sodium street lights with induction fixtures. Humora said that in the first year, there were approximately $57,000 in energy savings costs, not including a rebate from SDG&E totaling $38,000.
It was announced that a plan to raise funds to build a new Boys & Girls Club facility near La Mesa Middle School could be spearheaded by one of La Mesa’s most famous sons: NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton. The efforts are in the preliminary stage and Patch will have more as details emerge.