Neighborhoods of La Mesa: The Village, aka Downtown

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This is a new series I'm starting, on the neighborhoods of the area I primarily work, which includes La Mesa, San Carlos, El Cajon and Santee.

La Mesa Village is the old downtown area of La Mesa. This was the central area when La Mesa was still a farming and ranching town before World War I. Most of the city offices are in this area, and some of the buildings date back back to the 1890s or further - quite old for California. In recent years, it has seen a renewal as the city made an effort to make into a destination and gathering place. Many of the civic buildings have been rebuilt completely very recently, and There's always been an Oktoberfest here, but in the last few years it has gotten much bigger than formerly, and many other activities have been added. For instance, on Thursday evenings there's a classic car show, centered on La Mesa Boulevard west of Spring Street. Studios and small personal businesses abound in the commercial areas. This area is bounded by University Avenue at the western intersection with La Mesa Boulevard (they intersect twice) to Memorial Park and the eastern intersection, up to Lemon Avenue to Fourth over to Pasadena across Spring Street (even though it doesn't actually cross Spring) , and up Date Avenue to Acacia Avenue and thence back down the hill, including Alta and more of Lemon Avenue.

Here's the new Library:
Library front

Here's the new Fire Station:
Fire Station pic 2

City Hall, one of the few buildings that hasn't been replaced
City Hall

The main commercial arteries serving the area are Spring Street running north--south, and University Avenue, La Mesa Boulevard, and Allison Avenue running East West. El Cajon Boulevard does not actually the enter the area although it's only a block or so away. There's a couple blocks of small businesses on Lemon and Palm Avenues as well.

Here's a view that probably represents the Village commercial area at least as well as any, looking West on La Mesa Boulevard from Fourth

LMB W from 4th

Here's the La Mesa Boulevard Trolley Stop, one of the big things the City of La Mesa has done right, enabling the Village to be a center for public activity without becoming a complete parking nightmare:
Trolley Stop 2
(The Spring Street stop, roughly a quarter mile away, has a good size public parking lot. A lot of La Mesans use it to commute to downtown San Diego)

The Railway Museum across the street (open from 1-4 on Saturdays):
Railway Museum
The Old San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway tracks support the Trolley for a good portion of its length. The original is well known in railroading circles for Carrizo Gorge Railway. I remember the trains coming through before the tracks were washed out there in the early 1970s.

One of the things that stand out about the area, however, is how quickly it changes from commercial to residential, and how quiet those residential areas are by comparison. It's a three minute walk from a lot of good residential areas to the commercial heart of the village. The whole area is very walkable. This is largely because it grew that way organically - this is a very difficult thing to plan, especially in today's urban landscapes. For instance, here's a picture of Palm Avenue itself, between Alison and University. One block over, Palm turns commercial, and University and Allison are both commercial, but this is a quiet residential street. I took this from the corner at University.

Palm, S from University

Several blocks to the south, this is the steeple of the Methodist Church, just south of Lemon, where Palm starts turning residential again:
Methodist Church 2.

The area south along Palm south of Lemon is probably the oldest and least expensive housing in the area. I prefer to avoid it with my clients, but even so there are some gems, like this place that sold about a month ago:

Picture 026

There are some decidedly pricier areas in the Village area as well. Here's a viewpoint from the middle of Date Avenue

Date view 2

And from the top of Date Avenue:
Date view 3
The Rock House slightly left of center behind the trees is historical, and I can remember when there were only a couple houses on this segment of Date

A small distance away, here's a view from near the top of Acacia:
Acacia view 2

And a little bit further down Acacia:
Acacia view 3

As you can see, lots of trees and good views. I used to have a wonderful old lady on my paper route growing up, who originally owned a lot of this area, and remembered when La Mesa ran that moving picture riff-raff out of town before World War I (briefly mentioned in Nickelodeon)

Physically, the houses are mostly three to four bedroom, one to two bathroom houses, built between 1910 and the early 1950s. More of them use piers than concrete foundations, and the architectural styles vary from Edwardian to modern. Hardwood floors are far more the rule than the exception. There is a lot of individual character to most of the houses, with only one small cookie cutter development I can think of. Most of the residents love it. There are some more modern dwellings built as fill-ins and replacements. Asking prices vary from around $350,000 to $700,000 as of this writing, with the higher value residences mostly being on and around Date and Acacia, and the lower end on Palm and the bottom of Nebo, and the rest of the area falling in-between, including the residential areas around the east end of University Avenue such as Pine and Colina, as well. Foundation and settling issues have always been rare in the area, and have mostly long since been dealt with.

There are comparatively few high density projects, with the area immediately adjacent to Spring Street south of Lemon being the exception. There is a high rise condominium project and senior housing on what's left of Orange Avenue behind the shopping center, between Acacia and Date, both 1980s vintage on the remaining land from the former site of La Mesa Elementary (I was a member of the last graduating class), which along with the former Helix Theater and quite a bit of other stuff, had previously been used for La Mesa Springs Shopping Center

La Mesa Springs

Here' the San Diego Culinary Institute on the south end of the shopping center, where they really do train a lot of high end cooks:
Culinary Institute

Henry's on Spring Street is for lovers of great fruits and vegetables

The neighborhood schools are Lemon Avenue, and La Mesa Dale, with Spring Street being the approximate dividing line. The Middle School is La Mesa Middle School (formerly La Mesa Junior High), and the high school is Helix Charter. Helix, in particular, has a long record of academic achievement. Here's the most recent account Helix Accountability Report Card

The closest community college is Grossmont, the closest four year college is San Diego State University, which is actually closer.

The Village is not the very best neighborhood of La Mesa, but most of it is pretty darned nice. It's a great place to be, and you don't have to go very far to find interesting things to do.

The Municipal pool at the end of Memorial Drive: (There's a nine hole golf course adjacent)
pool 2

Nan Couts Park, between Nan Couts Cottage and the Community Center (also on Memorial Drive):
Couts Park.

Memorial Field, where La Mesa National Little League plays, as well as various recreation leagues:
Memorial field

Transportation and the roads serving the area about as good as it gets. Spring Street runs between I-8 and the Junction of California 94 and 125. There are also other freeway entrances and exits close by. The Trolley runs along Spring Street, with previously mentioned stops, and several bus routes feed it as well. You can get to Mission Valley shopping and commercial zone in about ten minutes, Downtown San Diego in about fifteen. Even during rush hour, traffic is nothing as compared to what the commuters on I-15 and I-5 face constantly. Local major shopping includes Grossmort Center (Target, Wal-Mart, Macy's, Theaters), a five minute or less drive that's also served by the Trolley, or you can bike on over via several good routes. There's a Costco even closer on Fletcher Parkway. College Grove (Sam's Club and Penneys) is almost as easy, and Parkway Plaza in El Cajon is also a good option.

If you'd like to talk more about The Village or any other neighborhood of La Mesa, Contact me. I will be happy to discuss which neighborhoods might be right for you, or the marketing of your current property.


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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on July 27, 2008 2:40 PM.

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