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Proposed 7-Eleven Not 'Heaven' for Residents at Council Meeting

Neighbors complained of rampant crime, traffic, and trash problems in the neighborhood, and that another "liquor store" would make things worse.

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.

Sara Kazemi October 11, 2012 at 01:25 PM
I'm confused. Wasn't that where a 7-11 was before up until earlier this year? It shut down seemingly without notice, which wasn't that surprising since it seemed to get robbed every week. I completely agree about the decline of this area though. I just moved from that exact area a few weeks ago because it has gotten so bad. Our apartment complex was right across the street from Palm Springs Liquor (just a short walk from where the 7-11 had been). Customers are inconsiderate and leave their car stereos blaring while they go in to make their purchases. Groups of dubious people hang out in the parking lot and fights break out regularly. The reason we finally decided to move is because there was an attempted stabbing in that parking lot and the crazy old lady that lived beneath us was harboring her injured grandson who was involved. There are also mentally unstable vagrants that camp around there, talking loudly among themselves or to their own selves. It's definitely gotten weird and I am so glad that I moved to a quieter part of La Mesa. i know moving isn't a solution to making the area better, but I did not see the place improving any time soon. I hope it does though.
Kevin George October 11, 2012 at 04:42 PM
That area is the "perfect storm" of urban blight. First, lovely Collier Park that is taken over daily by miscreants occupying the picnic tables making use by most sensible people impossible. Then at night the vagrants go back up on the surrounding hillsides where encampments serve as kitchen, bathroom and bedroom for the night. Add to that the proximity of the multiple " single serving" liquor stores, the trolley and multiple freeway access and what you have is the formula for urban blight being described by these unfortunate Citizens. I participated in the clean up of Collier Park last year and I was disgusted by the evidence of the transient population that inhabit that park. Liquor bottles and cans, discarded food cans, drug paraphernalia, fecal matter, shredded mattresses and condoms were everywhere on the surrounding hillsides. I realize the transient population is a problem these days but why are these Citizens forced to bear the brunt of this onslaught of crime filth and depravity? I think that if this was happening near Eastridge or Mt. Helix it would be dealt with in a different manner.
Beran Young October 11, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Yes, I am a little confused also, that 7-11 is closed, are they planning to reopen it or move it to where the abandoned gas station is?
F. Dunn October 13, 2012 at 05:13 PM
When my daughter was a toddler, I took her to that park one day. There was a guy practicing with a bull whip. It's been 20 years and I've never been back. I feel for people who live near there.
Deena While October 13, 2012 at 05:58 PM
The proposed 7-eleven location is across the street on the west side of Spring Street..where the abandoned car wash is. If you continue traveling west on Palm then turn left on Spring, the proposed location for the new 7-eleven will be on your right.
Deena While October 13, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Collier Park is a special place for my family. Many weddings took place there. It is near and dear to our hearts. Last year I partnered with the City of La Mesa for a Reading In The Park event. We cleaned the park for about an hour before children arrived. It was disgusting how much trash was there...cigerette butts, bottle caps, and drug paraphenalia. It was a great event. We need to have more community events at that park, and move the bad element out. It's up to us. My church is holding a community festival there on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Free hot dogs, volleyball, and other games are planned and a little acoustic music. I hope you all can stop by and say "Hi". Anyone else who wants to plan a community event there, I'm willing to help! We gotta take back our community one step at a time!

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