La Mesa considers opportunities for more transit-oriented housing – The San Diego Union-Tribune

La Mesa will consider allowing housing near two of its trolley stations as part of an overall vision to increase density around transit centers.

Doing so could also help the city move toward two of its goals — meeting state mandates for providing housing and reducing greenhouse gases.

The city’s community development department has been working since 2020 on a transit-oriented development feasibility study.

The study is part of possible plans to bring new homes to areas near two of La Mesa’s three San Diego Trolley stations — Amaya Drive and Spring Street. The city already has transit-oriented housing next to the Grossmont Center Trolley station.

La Mesa is partnering with the Metropolitan Transit System and others to gather information about the Amaya Drive and Spring Street sites related to zoning, legislation, housing, parking and economic factors.

The city is reaching out to residents, business owners and various stakeholders to discuss the possibilities for these “opportunity sites.” La Mesa’s latest effort for public participation will be a virtual community meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 10.

The meeting about shaping potential future transit-oriented development near the stations, will be held via Zoom, and can be accessed at https://zoom.us/j/96553962249 or at Zoom.us/join with the meeting ID of 96553962249. The meeting will have phone access by calling 1-346-248-7799.

Transit-oriented developments typically include a mix of uses, such as commercial and residential, and are located near bus routes, and trolley and train stops. In addition to creating housing units, they offer access to public transit with other travel options for commuters such as walking and bike riding. Transit-oriented housing also often adds neighborhood amenities to its mix.

La Mesa City Councilman Colin Parent is well versed in transit-oriented developments. Parent’s day job is executive director at Circulate San Diego, a nonprofit known as an advocate for public transportation, safe streets for pedestrians and sustainable communities.

Parent said the city doesn’t have any projects in mind and no developers have approached the city. But he also said the MTS parcels are important sites and that the city needs to make sure its zoning laws, ordinances and statutes are updated properly in case something does come up for possible development at the Amaya Drive or Spring Street locations.

“These are important sites and we have to make sure the rules make sense should (development) happen,” he said. “We have to make sure we’re not standing in the way with outdated rules.”

La Mesa’s study is being paid for through the California Department of Transportation’s Sustainable Communities Grant Program, in consultation and partnership with MTS, the San Diego Association of Governments and Caltrans. AECOM, a consulting firm, is helping the city with the study.

MTS is looking at other land it owns across San Diego County that can be potential housing sites, and has tapped the Grantville area off Interstate 8, Parent said. MTS has more than a dozen parcels around the county, including sparsely used parking lots, listed on the MTS website as real estate properties it owns.

La Mesa in February wrapped up an online survey to better understand community priorities and travel patterns. Local community-based organizations were also asked provide feedback. The city anticipates finishing the study early next year.