Giant, ugly storage facility okayed

It's zoned commercial, next to the freeway — what's the problem?

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.

Corner of Commercial Street and Center Drive

Corner of Commercial Street and Center Drive

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."

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What a bunch of yokels the La Mesa City Clowncil has become. If you want to micro-manage the use of real estate that is requesting to build and industrial building in an industrial zoned area, then buy the land from the private party and build whatever you want yourself.

God the leadership in La Mesa sucks. You cant' run a construction project in the Village that doesn't put several small businesses out of business. Spring Street is a freakin nightmare with traffic lights every 50 feet that are so poorly timed it takes 20 minutes to go 4 blocks on some days.

You have crime problems everywhere and the business quality is going downhill. 99 cent stores, payday loan centers, a Goodwill store where a fine furniture establishment once thrived. Why don't you just change your name to El Grande Cajon? The Big Box. Because that is all that you seem to want to have build anything in your big box city.

La Mesa leadership is like a big NIMBY club that ignores real world problems and dreams of "nice hotels" and "Sea Worlds." Get real, your city sucks now. It's too congested with too many high-density projects to pack people in by your stupid chain stores, big boxes and other crap. Now they have some fat ex-teacher they elected who they hope can make that perfect storm of declining quality of life return to its former glory. The Jewel of the Hills? More like Cubic Zirconia.

Mr. Ponzi...there is already a storage place a block away from this proposed site. There is also a storage facility just across the freeway. I guess you do not get to La Mesa too often, with your criticism. I am ot sure where all the big boxes are that you speak of...I have been thrilled by the developing nature of the Commercial Street area. The building that is part of that property is a classic example of mid-century architecture that won awards when it was built, and still looks great. YOu seem to have a rabid distaste of "big Boxes," so why does a big glob of a storage unit facility appeal to you so much? Where do you live? Can we assume you would welcome a similar jewel of a development next to your home? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Wabbitsd, I operated a computer business near La Mesa Transfer on Center Drive for a decade. I know that area of La Mesa better than most people know their birthmarks. That “church” in the shopping center across from where Handyman (now Dixieline) is was once called Akron. I used to eat at Mario’s Mexican restaurant before they moved to "the village” in La Mesa. When I worked at my office late at night the La Mesa Police would drop in for coffee. The subject building used to have a pool supply retailer in it. The building across the street used to sell sofas and custom furniture, it is now Caliber Collision. On top of all that I dated the daughter of Art Madrid. So I know La Mesa.

I know La Mesa and I know that area in particular because I ran a business a block away. I often go to La Mesa now to shop But I think the city leaders neglect what is important to people. Quality of life issues that need to be addressed. Traffic. Congestion. Trolley crime. Too many “projects” like the never ending construction in downtown La Mesa that is making the place look generic and putting small businesses under. The Spring Street congestion is insane. So I (never do any business around there anymore. All I want to do is get the hell out of La Mesa when I am driving on Spring Street. The city council needs to open their eyes and fix the little things that are driving people crazy and driving them out of the once quaint downtown. It is a major problem that people use Spring Street to travel from I-8 to I-94 because Caltrans was too cheap to build a fly-over that would allow people to go from I-125 to I-94 so they are cutting through La Mesa. The City leaders are myopic and insensitive to the problems the everyday people face in their city.

I appreciate your history, and note that you left out the old Radio Shack that used to be in that line of businesses facing Handyman turned Dixieline. I worked at that Handyman back in the day, and family friends owned that Radio Shack Franchise.

I use that Commercial Street area multiple times a day. I loved seeing it come to life with the little breweries and all. ANOTHER storage place? And a big block of concrete to boot? Nice way to stop the cute small people-friendly business that started adding to the area. Not liking the Spring Street Corridor thing is ok, I guess, but this is at the dead end of Spring Street, not a part of that problem at all.

Money talks, especially from out of towners

I got a kick out of Craig Ghio ""Businesses like Anthony's Fish Grotto rely on the workforce from our industrial base that dine out at lunch." I doubt that any workers from the entire industrial area can afford to eat at Anthony's. Except for some of the business owners the average pay for most of the employees in that area allows them to brown bag it or go to one of the local and nearby choke and pukes. The majority of the so called small businesses that would use the storage facility as a base of operations could ill afford to go to Anthony's. LMAO

I agree. One has to wonder about the motivation behind the comments of Craig Ghio. He wants people to rally to keep his harbor-front dump open so he can keep milking the tourists without improving the leasehold. Then on the other hand he wants t speak at a city clowncil meeting against a landowner wanting to improve their holding to its best and highest use. Anthony’s is a legacy business that nobody eats at anymore unless its taking your 90 year old mom or dad out to lunch. It’s too expensive for most people in La Mesa. Maybe he gives a discount to the city fathers.

I like the move by the city. The parking there is a joke and you want to put more jobs in there to create more traffic? Storage is perfect and will pay millions in taxes to the city. Storage buildings are also very useful to me as a local grocer. All of the storage facilities in the city are sold out by the way for what I need.

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