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La Mesa News Briefs – Jan. 25, 2019

La Mesa Courier launches new website

Online readers of La Mesa Courier may have noticed a few changes to the design of the paper’s website over the last few months. In an effort to update its online presence, La Mesa Courier parent company SDCNN set out at the end of 2018 to revamp all six of the community newspaper group’s websites.

In addition to cleaning up outdated categories and a layout that wouldn’t load correctly to smartphones and tablets, the update gave each paper an opportunity to offer more content for readers. For example, in the online News section under Politics, readers can find articles from city, county and state representatives that do not always make it into the print editions of the paper. A new Business section will have real estate and finance articles as well as house our “Expert Advice” articles, sponsored links and Best of La Mesa Courier winners. The Arts & Entertainment section of the website includes arts, theater, film and books articles from around the region. Under the Lifestyle section, travel, fashion, pets and fitness articles that appear in other SDCNN papers are now shared with La Mesa Courier readers.

The new site also provides the editorial staff at La Mesa Courier to add additional online content such as videos, podcasts and photo galleries. Look in the print edition for prompts about any additional online-only content. Visit to poke around and get familiar with the new website.

La Mesa town hall meetings

In an ongoing commitment to communicate with residents, the La Mesa City Council will host two town hall meetings. These open-forum sessions provide an opportunity for citizens to share concerns, ideas, and opinions on issues in their neighborhood and throughout the city.

The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at La Mesa Dale Elementary, 4370 Parks Ave. The second meeting will be held on Thursday, Jan. 31, at Murray Manor Elementary, 8305 El Paso St. Both meetings will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The town hall meetings are intended as a means for citizens to learn about city services, state what they like about La Mesa, how they envision the future of their city, and to express concerns. Members of the City Council and city staff will be present. Additionally, information will be available about crime prevention, emergency preparedness, and recreation classes.

Further information about these meetings is available by calling the City Manager’s office at 619-667-1105 or emailing

Chamber Homebound Project a huge success

La Mesa Chamber of Commerce’s Homebound Senior Project — a holiday drive to bring essentials to 24 homebound seniors — brought in a total of 3,804 items that were either donated or purchased.

Chamber by Sandra Small
Thousands of items were collected for holiday baskets delivered to seniors. (Photo by Sandra Small)

In addition to La Mesans’ generosity in supporting the project, the chamber received donations of food, toiletries, and other items to us from people in San Diego, Santee, El Cajon, Little Italy and Spring Valley. Besides the food and toiletries, a group of women participated by crocheting or quilting handmade blankets for the homebound seniors.

“The commitment of these ladies is a true testament to the power of community,” stated La Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Mary England in a press release. “It took weeks/months for these three ladies to hand make these blankets, truly a gift of love. I would like to add that these three charming ladies are seniors themselves, seniors helping seniors!”

The donated items included 1,750 non-perishable food items such as vegetables, pasta, cereals, soups, sauces, beans; 905 stationery items such as writing tablets, paper supplies and calendars; 711 toiletry items such as soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, lotions, etc.; 254 clothing and home items; 120 miscellaneous items; and 74 gift cards. In addition to these items, cash and gift cards were also donated by local businesses and community members.

The chamber assembled all of these donations into a total of 96 bags and baskets decorated with holiday flair.

On the delivery date, the seniors received a hot turkey meal, with all the trimmings and pumpkin pie, three big cloth bags filled with items and a holiday basket that held toiletries and the cash and gift cards. These items were transported to the La Mesa Police Department parking lot by Carl Burger Dodge Chrysler Jeep RAM World and their staff members, Pablo Tapia and David Benavidez. Once in the lot, the items were distributed to the La Mesa Police Department RSVP officers to make the deliveries.

Other sponsors of the project included Barona Resort & Casino, EDCO, Marie Callender’s, Pete’s Place, Silvermine Band, and Sycuan Casino.

Jacob named board chair

On Jan. 8, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors named longtime District 2 representative Dianne Jacob to serve as the board’s 2019 chair.

Jacob will deliver this year’s State of the County address at 10 a.m., Feb. 6, at the County Administration Center Downtown.

In the speech, she plans to outline proposals on a wide range of regional issues.

“With two new members now on the board, Jim Desmond and Nathan Fletcher, we have a great opportunity to take a fresh look at many of the county’s biggest challenges,” Jacob said in a press release.

The new supervisors were sworn in on Monday. They join Jacob, District 1 Supervisor Greg Cox and District 3 Supervisor Kristin Gaspar.

Jacob was first elected to the board in 1992 and will complete her seventh and final term in two years, when she will be termed out. This is also the seventh time she has served as chair.

District 2 spans 2,000 square miles and includes El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee and Lemon Grove, along with the communities of Campo, Lakeside, Alpine, Jamul and many others.

Sycuan unveils The UnCommons

On Jan. 17, Sycuan unveiled The UnCommons, a San Diego fast-casual dining experience in its new hotel casino tower. The UnCommons market will feature five restaurants and a variety of cuisines.

A sample of new food offerings at Sycuan Casino (Courtesy Sycuan)

Sycuan partnered with several new restaurants to bring The UnCommons to life. The new restaurants that will be featured in the fast-casual market are Phil’s BBQ, Hodad’s, The Hangry Slice, Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop and Luna Grill.

“Sycuan chose top-tier, fast-casual brands that have original roots in San Diego; each offering their unique and iconic dishes that will appeal to a wide range of guests,” said John Dinius, general manager at Sycuan Casino. “These brands are well-known for consistent quality and a passion for giving back to the local community, and each seemed like a natural fit for The UnCommons. This collection of San Diego’s best will surely solidify Sycuan Casino as a place where guests can visit and enjoy a multitude of dining, gaming and entertainment options.”

Phil’s BBQ opened its doors in San Diego in 1998 with a menu that features barbecue classics ranging from baby back ribs to pulled pork sandwiches. Phil’s BBQ has received several awards including Best Restaurant, Best BBQ, Top 10 Restaurants in the Nation, #1 Restaurants in San Diego and more.

Since opening their doors in 1969, Hodad’s has become an icon in the San Diego community. Hodad’s was featured on an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” that garnered national attention and has been named one of the best burger joints in the nation. Though originally an Ocean Beach staple, Hodad’s has expanded over the years to include locations in Downtown San Diego, Petco Park and now, at Sycuan.

The Hangry Slice will offer pizzas, calzones and sandwiches with a theme of curing the emotion of anger and hungry called “hangry.”

“Our guests will quickly see that The Hangry Slice is not your average pizza place,” said Paul Schwab, executive chef at Sycuan Casino. “We are working hard to create unparalleled dining experiences at Sycuan by taking classic pizzas and adding our own twist.”

Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop was opened as a fast-casual Mexican restaurant in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego 2008 by the Rojano brothers and offers good quality Mexican food with never-before-seen menu items, incorporating quality ingredients from family recipes, as well as improving classic taco shop staples. Lucha Libre has been featured in several national TV networks including the Travel Channel, Food Network, Cooking Channel and more.

Luna Grill offers fresh Mediterranean cuisine such as signature kabob plates, gourmet salads, appetizers including hummus and falafel, wraps, desserts, craft beer and wine in a contemporary setting. The concept has now grown to 48 locations in Southern California, Inland Empire and the Dallas Fort Worth Area.

New county initiative encourages ‘granny flats’

Homeowners in the unincorporated areas of La Mesa will have a new option for expanding their properties. On Jan. 9, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors launched a program to encourage the development of granny flats and other small dwellings as part of a broader county effort to address the region’s housing shortage.

The board voted to waive county permit and development impact fees over the next five years for property owners wishing to build granny flats on lots with existing homes. The units can be used for family members or rented out as a source of income for the homeowner.

The program could result in thousands of additional homes within the county’s unincorporated areas, a region largely represented by District 2 Supervisor Dianne Jacob and District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond.

“This is a critical step in our ongoing efforts to address the region’s housing crisis, especially the serious need for affordable housing,” said board chair Jacob in a press release. “This new program is the quickest and easiest way for us to expedite the development of housing.”

To cover the loss of fees, the county will subsidize the program to the tune of $11 million over the five-year period.

“There is no single solution to the regional housing shortage, but an average savings of $14,000 for an accessory home will raise property values and offer more affordable places to live,” said Desmond. “We will continue to be creative and challenge the status quo to solve the region’s housing crisis.”

The additional homes are allowed under the county’s General Plan, which guides development in Alpine, Julian, Fallbrook, Lakeside, Valley Center and all other unincorporated communities.

Turner tapped for California School Boards Association

La Mesa Spring Valley School District (LMSVSD) board member Dr. Emma Turner is now also the president of the California School Boards Association (CSBA) following a vote by its members. CSBA represents more than 1,000 educational agencies across the state.

turner copy
(l to r) Superintendent David Feliciano and Dr. Emma Turner (Courtesy La Mesa Spring Valley School District)

Turner has served on the LMSVSD board for over 12 years and was appointed CSBA president at the association’s annual education conference held in San Francisco. Turner attended the 5,000-plus-person event with LMSVSD Superintendent David Feliciano.

Turner is known as a passionate and vocal advocate for children in the district and throughout the state, with a focus on the values of equity and educational access for all children, including access to early childhood education.

For more information about Dr. Turner and CSBA, visit

Sen. Jones holds grand opening of district office

Newly elected District 38 California state Senator Brian Jones organized a district office grand opening after being sworn in on Dec. 3 and invited all of his constituents to visit his East County office in El Cajon on Dec. 18. Jones shared that he wanted to host this event early in his term so that his constituents could “propose their ideas on how to make our state a better place and celebrate the holiday season with community leaders, friends, and neighbors.”

The Hills Local Pub staff and Sen. Brian Jones (Photo by Joel Ortiz)

The grand opening was catered with sliders from The Hills Local Pub and popcorn was made by clients of Partnerships With Industry, a nonprofit organization that provides supported employment opportunities to adults with developmental disabilities. In Jones’ new office, each room was filled with more food donated by local businesses including Denny’s, Fifty-Two East Neighborhood Eatery, On the Border, The Coffee Corner, Cooking 4 Life, and Eccentric International Chefs & Bakery.

Jones greeted visitors at a designated area for those that wanted to meet him in person and take a photo with him. Some people caught up with their neighbors around a Christmas tree, and others met with the Senator and his staff to voice their opinions about a variety of issues.

One of the constituents in attendance was Mark Bruno of Poway. When asked why he came to the event, Bruno stated, “I came to wish Senator Jones good luck and congratulate him on his new position in the Senate.” He also shared with Jones that, “Reaching across the aisle is important where you can, but I think you have to hold firm on a lot of issues like spending. We don’t want the state to go back into a deficit.”

Jones encourages anyone that was not able to attend the event to still contact him with any questions or issues by emailing or calling his El Cajon district office at 619-596-3136.

Grossmont Healthcare District board elects officers

The Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD) board of directors has elected its 2019 board officers.

Randy Lenac, who recently won re-election to his second four-year term, was elected as 2019 board president. Virginia Hall was elected as vice president and Robert “Bob” Ayres was elected as secretary. Lenac selected Gloria Chadwick to serve as treasurer. Also serving on the five-member board is Michael Emerson, who served as board president in 2017 and 2018.

“I’ve served on this board since 2014 and I’m continually impressed with the collective wisdom and selfless dedication of my board colleagues to serve the taxpayers in our district,” Lenac said. “Every constituent can feel confident that this board is committed to our role of addressing unmet health care needs and supporting the community to the greatest extent possible.”

Lenac, a resident of Campo, was appointed to the GHD board in July 2014 and elected to a four-year term in November of the same year. In November 2018, he was re-elected. Since 2011, Lenac has served on the board of the Grossmont Hospital Corporation (GHC), the operator of Sharp Grossmont Hospital. He also represents GHD on the Association of California Healthcare Districts board, a statewide organization representing health care districts.

Hall, a retired registered nurse, was elected to the GHD board in November 2016. She worked in health care from 1973 to 2004, including at several hospital emergency rooms, clinics and research facilities.

Ayres, a retired banking executive with more than 50 years of experience in both public and private-sector banking and construction financing and management, joined the GHD board in 2010. The El Cajon resident has been twice elected to four-year terms, in 2012 and 2016.

Chadwick, a retired psychiatric nurse, has served on the GHD board since 1998, when she became the first woman elected to the board in 22 years. In 2000, she became the first woman in GHD history to serve as board president. The Dehesa Valley resident has been re-elected to the GHD board five times, including most recently in November 2018.

Emerson, a registered dispensing optician (RDO) who joined the GHD board in 2008, also serves on the Grossmont Hospital Corporation. The La Mesa resident was re-elected to four-year terms on the GHD board in 2012 and 2016. Prior to joining the GHD board, he served on the Grossmont Hospital Corporate Board beginning in March 2007.

The Grossmont Healthcare District is a public agency that supports various health-related community programs and services in the East County region. For more information about GHD, visit

East County Chamber of Commerce announces interim CEO

On Jan. 22, the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce announced the appointment of former board chairman Joe Mackey as interim CEO, while the organization continues its search for a permanent CEO following the departure of Eric J. Lund.

Mackey, a longtime community leader and owner of XL Staffing Services, will lead the Chamber on an interim basis during the transition period. Mackey also was recently announced as the El Cajon Citizen of the Year.

“We are delighted to have the leadership and talent of Joe Mackey at such an important time,” said board chairman Cameron Stewart in a press release. “His abilities provide us great confidence we have an effective process in place to continue a smooth transition as he ensures the Chamber’s programs and projects continue successfully in support of the business community.”

“The East County Chamber of Commerce is a vital piece in the business puzzle that makes up the East County way of life,” said Mackey. “It has always been a feeling of deep responsibility for me, that the business community thrives for all businesses. Owning a temporary staffing agency, it is only natural that I accept this temporary assignment. The Chamber is strong financially and the staff is the best in the chamber business.”

The Chamber board previously established a Search Committee to identify the next CEO, following the Jan. 11, 2019, resignation of Lund, who accepted an opportunity with another organization. The Search Committee is in the process of reviewing the several applications received thus far, while encouraging interested individuals to continue to submit their resumés.

For more information about the job, visit

Source: La Mesa Currier

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