The La Mesa City Council on June 10 unanimously approved a special-event permit that allows the La Mesa Village Merchants Association to stage a modified version of the annual Oktoberfest. Changes to the event (scheduled for October 3–5) include the return of carnival rides, the addition of a second police command post, new beer-sale rules, and advance notification so people don't bring pets.
The association and the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce will hire additional security to supplement police services, according to a city report. La Mesa has a cost-recovery policy, and the two organizations will pay an estimated $77,000 for costs, including police salaries, fire-department safety personnel, traffic-control coordination, and street-cleaning.
Changes to Oktoberfest grew out of efforts to resolve residents' safety concerns. Last November, police chief Ed Aceves reported to the council that 2013 was the third consecutive year that large groups of youths caused problems. Removing carnival rides from last year's Oktoberfest shifted the location where juveniles congregated, according to police reports. Disruptive youths gathered in an area near the Spring Street Metropolitan Transit System platform. They congregated around a fountain near a building with businesses on the ground floor and the La Mesa Village Plaza Condominiums on the upper four floors.
During meetings between city officials and members of the business groups, the city "offered recommendations to address safety issues," Aceves said at the June 10 meeting. That led to changes, including the return of the fun zone with rides for children under the age of ten.
A new police command post will be located at 4700 Spring Street, the site called the "fountain area." John Vigil, association executive director, said hired security and condo security officers will patrol the area. (Police will again operate another command post on Palm Avenue.)
Mayor Art Madrid praised the city team and merchants "for reflecting residents' concerns."
Another change is that beer will be sold only in cups with a limit of two cups per purchase. The chamber will again operate the large beer garden in the Allison Avenue municipal parking lot. The association will oversee the smaller Nebo Drive beer court and a street fair.
Furthermore, signs at entrances will announce the city ban on animals, other than service animals.
Councilman Ernie Ewin asked if signs could be displayed in advance because people tell him, "I didn't know" until they "got there with their dogs."
Vigil said signs will be posted beforehand.
Chamber president Mary England said that information is on her organization's website, "but it's very difficult. They get there with their dogs, so they have to take them home."
She asked if a notice could be posted on the city website to "please leave your dogs at home."
Ewin said the city wasn't "just picking on dogs”; reptiles were also an issue.
"Pythons aren't allowed," said England.
"They used to be allowed but aren't now," said Madrid.
After the meeting, Ewin said the sight of people with snakes around their necks disturbed some residents.