The La Mesa City Council on October 27 voted 3-1 to reject resident Christina Martin's appeal of the planning commission's September 16 approval of a conditional-use permit for StorQuest La Mesa, a three-story self-storage facility.
Approximately 856 air-conditioned units would take up 79,908 square feet of the 110,346 square-foot building proposed for a 1.4-acre parcel on the southeast corner of Commercial Street and Center Drive. On the site are buildings at 8625 Commercial and 8200 and 8004 Center. The southern property boundary is Interstate 8, and land is zoned for industrial use.
According to the staff report on the appeal, Martin "contends…the commission erred in their determination the project is consistent the general plan." Her appeal stated commissioners' "overly broad interpretation" of the plan ignored the industrial-zoning requirement to create jobs. The project would "displace" 20-25 office workers; the storage facility would have 3 to 4 employees. StorQuest's larger employment projection includes construction workers and people maintaining the site.
Job creation was among the issues in some 21 opponents' August letters to the commission. Their correspondence is in the staff report and is quoted because Morgan was the only opponent who spoke at length at the council meeting. Six people stated their names and opposition.
Restaurant owner Craig Ghio wrote, "Businesses like Anthony's Fish Grotto rely on the workforce from our industrial base that dine out at lunch."
Resident Claudia Almaguer wrote, "You haven’t been able to figure out how to get a decent hotel built in La Mesa…but you're going to let a giant, ugly storage [sic] be built right on the freeway for all to see."
Applicant Bill Hobin wrote in an October 19 letter to the council that the project would "inject $14 million into the economy." Hobin is CEO of the William Warren Group, developer and operator of self-storage properties. The group's 112 storage facilities include one in Carlsbad.
He said self-storage has become an "incubator of small business, often serving as the home for start-ups, technology, e-commerce, and distribution-related businesses."
At the meeting, Hobin said the project is "basically an air-conditioned, three-story hotel with 800 rooms. These aren't the little garages" traditionally associated with self-storage. StorQuest will have an onsite bellman, free truck and driver service, a conference room, and Wi-Fi. StorQuest will also sell shipping and packing supplies.
Councilwoman Ruth Sterling asked acting community services director Chris Jacobs about the number of self-storage facilities in La Mesa. He said there's one in the industrial area and another on Fletcher Parkway. A third facility on Spring Street was processed "maybe 15 years ago. I've been here 16 years so I remember that," he said.
"I voted against it," said Sterling. She later voted against StorQuest's permit.
Martin urged the council to "look to the future" and a better use" for the land.
According to the staff report, adjacent buildings include one and two-story warehouses and commercial/light industrial uses such as auto repair and retail. The Public Works Department is in the area, and StorQuest opponents said newer businesses include San Pasqual Winery, Bolt Brewery, and Helix Brewing Company.
At the meeting, local property owner Dan Brophy said businesses formerly in the area included a "full-fledged junk yard" and Mario's de La Mesa restaurant (now on La Mesa Boulevard). "The area is better with each development. Wouldn't it be nice if we could put another SeaWorld there" or a microbrewery with an arena for concerts? Brophy called the StorQuest plan "a cool project."
Before voting, Sterling referred to the 2012 general plan. "We only have about 1 percent of industrial area left. Is this what we want? The building is eight times as large as our library."
After the vote, mayor Mark Arapostathis, said, "I think we delved all the way into this and deliberated in a thoughtful way."