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Neighbors concerned about 64-unit apartment complex planned for La Mesa Village

An apartment building proposed for Downtown La Mesa is drawing opposition from people who say it wouldn't fit in with the surrounding area.

LA MESA, Calif. — A five-story apartment building proposed for Downtown La Mesa is drawing opposition from people who say it wouldn't fit in with the surrounding area.

The 64-unit apartment complex would be built on the same property where the historic Randall Lamb building burnt down during the unrest in 2020 following the death of George Floyd and the controversial local arrest of Amaurie Johnson.

The apartment building, proposed by Palm Street Ventures, LLC, would include eight affordable units restricted to very low income and only 29 total parking spaces.

"It almost burnt to the ground, and now we're going to build five stories. Think about that. It's just not appropriate," said Kristine Alessio, a land use attorney who lives in the area.

"It just does not fit with the Village of La Mesa," said 40-year resident, James Colt. "It's a monstrosity."

And people, who knew nothing about this, feel blindsided.

"All of a sudden, there's this 5-story building coming right to the epicenter of the downtown La Mesa Village," said City Councilmember Laura Lothian. "And nothing, not a word, no one knows a damn thing."

The La Mesa Planning Commission approved the project in September, and it was set to be ratified last week at a contentious La Mesa city council meeting.

"It was a done deal," said Ray Abbott, who has lived in La Mesa for 30 years. "They were steamrolling this through."

At last week's city council meeting, Councilmember Lothian asked city planners why property owners in the area weren't notified about the project.

She asked, "How are we notified? How do we know? Where is it announced?"

The city council ended up not taking any action at last week's meeting but will revisit this proposal later.

"Citizen after citizen after citizen came up to talk about what the hell is going on," said Councilmember Lothian. "The city council was so rattled, it seemed, that they did not ratify it, and they kicked the can down the road, so we've delayed it for now."

CBS 8 reached out to the City of La Mesa and Kerry Kusiak, Director of Community Development, responded with this statement:

"The 64-unit mixed-use project at 4757 Palm Avenue (Project 2021-40) is proposed under the City's Affordable Homes Bonus Program, which implements State Density Bonus Law.

By providing at least 11% of the residential units, or eight units, for rent at affordable levels for households earning 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for San Diego County, the project is eligible for concessions and waivers, including reduced parking (one-half parking space per unit) and an allowance for increased building height. For a family of four, 50% of the AMI is $65,050.

Rents would be limited to 30% of 50% AMI based on the size of the household occupying the unit, or a little over $1,600 per month for a family of four.

In addition to the parking reduction provided by State Density Bonus Law, the project utilizes a La Mesa zoning regulation that allows users in the downtown area to provide less than the prescribed amount of parking if it can be shown that the reduction in parking does not increase traffic congestion due to overburden on on-street and off-street parking.

An analysis was conducted, which showed that over 100 parking spaces would be available in the nearby area at times of peak parking demand and that the nearby streets and parking would not be overburdened by the reduction of the required parking for the project from 40 to 29 parking spaces, a decrease of 11 parking spaces.

Beginning January 1, 2023, AB 2097 (recently signed by the Governor) effectively eliminates a local jurisdiction's ability to require parking spaces within one-half mile of a transit station.

This project is within one-half mile of transit and would not be required to provide parking under the new law.

The opportunity for this mixed-use project was provided by over 30 years of the City of La Mesa's trend to support sustainability:

  • The Downtown Village Specific Plan (1990) encourages and emphasizes residential use in the downtown area near transit and encourages decreased auto dependency and increased transit use. Additionally, residential development is encouraged to boost customers in the downtown area to, reinforce economic activities, and increase nighttime presence.
  • The Mixed-Use Overlay Zone was established in 2008 to provide for increased residential development opportunities in mixed-use developments near transit stations and along transit corridors.
  • The 2012 Centennial General Plan encourages increased intensity and density of compact mixed-use and residential transit-oriented development (TOD) near transit and along transit corridors and encourages reduced parking near transit and in the downtown area.
  • The City's Climate Action Plan (CAP), adopted in 2018, strongly supports mixed-use TOD near transit that supports low vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT). In addition, it encourages affordable housing near transit and reduced parking in transit-rich areas.

The project is aligned with all of these efforts of the past three decades by providing mixed-use TOD that includes eight affordable units approximately one block from a light-rail transit station and high-frequency-route bus stop."

WATCH RELATED: Clairemont neighbors say new apartments will make parking issues worse (Sep. 2022).

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