Sister Barbara said, "I came to Little Flower in 1965 and may have served your grandparents.”
  • Sister Barbara said, "I came to Little Flower in 1965 and may have served your grandparents.”
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

A La Mesa City Council 2-2 vote on August 8 stalled Silvergate Development’s plan to convert the now-closed Little Flower Haven Catholic retirement home at 8585 La Mesa Boulevard into the 130-unit Little Flower apartment complex. The council rejected ratification of the Design Review Board's March 13, 2017, approval of Silvergate’s plan to redevelop the 4.1-acre site. However, onsite parking, not design, was the focus of discussion. The plan was modified in June to include 13 low-income units, making it subject to California’s density-bonus law. It allows fewer parking spaces than La Mesa requires. City attorney Glenn Sabine cautioned that rejecting the board approval could lead to litigation.

The Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus opened the nonprofit home in 1938.

The Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus opened the nonprofit home in 1938.

The land is owned by the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, who opened the nonprofit home in 1938. When it closed in 2015, the sisters relocated to Texas. Silvergate hasn’t closed escrow to purchase the property for “around $6 million,” Silvergate principal Ian Gill said in a March interview.

Sister Mary Joseph Heisler turned to the audience and said, “Please don't boo me.”

Sister Mary Joseph Heisler turned to the audience and said, “Please don't boo me.”

Three Carmelites attended the August 8 meeting where people applauded residents protesting the project.

La Mesa requires two parking spaces per unit, and Silvergate applied for a permit to reduce parking by 10 percent. After residents in the Porter Hill neighborhood north of La Mesa Boulevard objected to tenants parking on their streets, the June 7 Planning Commission hearing on the permit was cancelled. The inclusion of 13 low-income housing units for households earning 80 percent of the county median income brings a state requirement for 186 spaces. Silvergate is proposing 195 spaces.

Leases would prohibit tenants from parking on Porter Hill Road and Randlett and Rosehedge drives, according to the presentation given by Gill and project manager Tommy Edmunds. In addition, there would be bike sharing and storage of bicycles in the basement.

Although no residents spoke during an earlier council discussion about neighborhood permit-parking programs, some scoffed about needing a permit to park in front of their homes when Silvegate’s project was discussed.

Lili Feingold said the developer “has razzle dazzle” and was “bloviating. I’m a school teacher; I could not afford that rent. This is not 1865; we don’t need carpetbaggers coming to our city.”

Some residents called for the developer to build an onsite parking garage. Others proposed that the city install parking meters or implement diagonal parking on La Mesa Boulevard.

Joe Bird, a project supporter and Porter Hill resident, said, “I’m the father of three and never felt threatened by a parked car. We're moving away from car ownership [with] ride sharing." He compared opponents’ reactions to turn-of-the century carriage drivers fretting about "having cars on the road.”

Sister Mary Joseph Heisler, Carmelite provincial administrator, turned to the audience and said, “Please don't boo me.” She spoke about the sadness related to closing the home and described infrastructure needing repair. “We couldn’t keep it up.”

Sister Barbara said, "I came to Little Flower in 1965" and may have served “your grandparents” and other relatives. She compared apartment use to the Carmelite’s mission to house people and said the city should build a parking structure.

During council discussion, Guy McWhirter chastised the audience. "In the two-and-a-half years I've been on the city council, I've never seen such a rude group of people." After decrying remarks made about Gill, he said “We [the city] can't afford to buy" the property. Why don't you buy it?" He said the density bonus was state law. "I don't like pot shops, but" the law approved by La Mesa voters in 2016 allows marijuana dispensaries.

Councilman Bill Baber brought up an issue raised by residents: the presence of city staffers on the design board. The board’s 3-2 vote on Little Flower Apartments included “yes” votes cast by community-development director Carol Dick and planner Chris Jacobs.

Mayor Mark Arapostathis asked Sabine what would happen if the council rejected the board decision. Sabine said he wasn’t sure what the developer would do. “If the developer brings suit and prevails, [Silvergate] gets attorney’s fees.”

Vice mayor Kristine Alessio said the council’s hands were tied. She and McWhirter cast “yes” votes. Colin Parent rescued himself from the matter because he lives within 500 feet of the property.

After the meeting, Gill said he had no comment other than, "It's a surprise and unfortunate that the facts of our parking study weren't considered."

La Mesa has not yet from Silvergate, city manager Yvonne Garrett said in an August 10 email.

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


Wabbitsd Aug. 14, 2017 @ 1:02 p.m.

Liz, were you actually at this meeting? this reads like a string of notes taken by someone who wasn't really paying attention.


Liz Swain Aug. 14, 2017 @ 4:55 p.m.

When Little Flower Haven closed in 2015, the Carmelites moved to Texas where the sisters operated Mount Carmel assisted-living home in Corpus Christi. The facility opened in 1953 and closed July 31, 2017, according to a June 9 Corpus Christi Caller-Times article. Reporter Julie Garcia interviewed Sister Mary Joseph Heisler about the decision based on a 2016 study. It indicated renovations would cost about $17 million for repairs such as mechanical systems that didn’t “tame the city's humid conditions any longer.” Garcia wrote that the building architecture was one of the “most one of the most unique in Corpus Christi,” and that it was “designed to look like a Spanish mission.” There are pictures of the building in her article and in Mary Cottingham’s June 6 South Texas Catholic piece about the closure. She wrote that Corpus Christi Bishop Michael Mulvey presided at an August 12 farewell Mass at Mount Carmel, and that the nuns would leave the property in mid-August. Heisler told Garcia that “the eight nuns will disperse throughout the order's North and Central provinces in the United States. Some could go overseas.”


Wabbitsd Aug. 15, 2017 @ 11:33 a.m.

So, I take it your post is saying you did not actually attend the meeting? And it is difficult to read your post. Do you review before posting? Is this just additional information?


Visduh Aug. 14, 2017 @ 7:49 p.m.

So, this religious order has shuttered two such facilities in about two years because it cannot "afford" to make the facilities meet current needs. Oh woe! But the order is on track to sell the La Mesa facility for $6 million. Can we assume the facility in Texas will sell for a nice price, too? Does anyone else out there see some inconsistency in all this? They can't afford the upkeep on properties that will sell for many millions. Religious orders have been dealing for decades with declining participation, i.e. recruitment. Some ran hospitals, and most taught in their schools. All of those activities are steadily shrinking. If the previous comment reflects the true situation, all of this involves eight nuns. Say what? Only eight women? So, we're talking about $ millions spread over a handful of members of the order.

There's much more to this story than has been reported. I'd really like to know the "rest of the story" here. It is much more intricate and involved than we have been told to date.


AlexClarke Aug. 15, 2017 @ 8:44 a.m.

The money would not go to the nuns. The money would go wherever the Church would deem it to go. It could go to the Order or not. Nuns take an oath of poverty. The own nothing and all property and assets are owned by the Church.


Wabbitsd Aug. 15, 2017 @ 11:36 a.m.

My thoughts, too, Visduh. These nuns have basically taken two care facilities and run them into the ground. We have a Council representative chiding people for being concerned about what happens in their neighborhood against their wishes.


jnojr Aug. 16, 2017 @ 7:56 a.m.

It's far more likely that government, with an unending flow of regulations and fees and paperwork and taxes and red tape, is what's responsible for the decline. And it's nuts to suggest that just because someone owns a property deemed to be "worth" a give amount that therefore they must have mountains of cash to spend on it.


Wabbitsd Aug. 17, 2017 @ 3:34 p.m.

I don't know, jnorjr. I suspect they just didn't have what it takes to really run such a facility, and just let it go for many years. I also assume the Catholic Church ultimately owns this property, right? They could have hired professional management, too. I imagine they also enjoyed some relief from those onerous regulations and red tape that you mention that would apply to other folks in the same line of business.


AlexClarke Aug. 15, 2017 @ 8:50 a.m.

Go to any apartment complex that was built before two parking spaces were required. Parking is a problem. Many streets in and around an apartment complex are adversely impacted by overflow parking from the apartments. "Low income" units refer to below market rate and has nothing to do with affordable but rather about having regulations cut so that the developer can speed up the process and make more money. As for Joe Bird his comment about moving away from car ownership shows that he knows nothing about transportation. He should move to New York City.


Dave Rice Aug. 15, 2017 @ 9:04 p.m.

San Diego's median income is currently $63,400. 80 percent of that is $50,720. La Mesa's minimum wage is $10/hour, meaning that two adults working a low income job, working full-time (40 hours per week, assuming such a position is available), taking not a single hour off over the course of the year, would still be making nearly $10,000 less than the state's definition of "low income."

Methinks the real discussion should center around these numbers - if a "low income" program is serving people with a $50,000 income, is it really reaching its target audience? Should we assume that 90% of the units will be reserved for people who couldn't afford to live in the complex if making just $50,000 a year?

Further, how likely is this population to have multiple cars per family? Lower parking density is granted on the assumption low income families will have no cars, or one at most.


jnojr Aug. 16, 2017 @ 8 a.m.

If I was only making $50K per year, I could start to list dozens of states and hundreds of cities that would be far more affordable for me to live in than California and San Diego.

I'm tired of hearing people moan that they can't afford to live at the beach and that's unfair so they should get some kind of handout. The continual subsidization of poverty is what leads to these extremes. More handouts, we hear! And when that flow of money drives prices up even higher, more, more, MORE! is the answer.


genecarp Aug. 15, 2017 @ 10:38 p.m.

There are indeed gaps in this poorly written story that go unmentioned. While our City Council says it's hands are tied or that the crowd was rude, they also admit that heavy and unsafe traffic flow through our narrow streets will be exacerbated with the, even more, increase of short cut traffic created by the new Development residents. Most of the streets that run adjacent to the Jackson St and La Mesa Blvd Corridors and the new Development are very narrow, requiring one car to pull over so the other can get through. Four of the streets have very little or zero sidewalks. Has there been a single solution proposed by City Staff or Council to address the Walkability impact on Porter Hill? Candidates are always touting Public Safety come Election time. Elected Officials here like to brag about how La Mesa is so walkable. If you can't give us Sidewalks, don your thinking cap's! Give us one single "Speed Limit Sign" in Porter Hill, a "Kids Playing" sign. Throw us a bone La Mesa City Council and then maybe we can meet Councilman McWhirters standards of civil public discourse and not feel all but forgotten or an annoyance as a neighborhood in La Mesa.


Wabbitsd Aug. 16, 2017 @ 5:34 a.m.

it's not just the parking that is an issue. The increased driving around the area is a concern, and there is another thing---this area is zoned mixed-use, not for just apartments. The "plan" was to continue some mix of retail/residential. Why do we have a plan for the community if only individual homeowners need to abide by it, and anyone coming in with a development will go ahead and get a pass on the requirements?


Dave Rice Aug. 16, 2017 @ 9:03 p.m.

Now the city council is going into a closed-session meeting with project lawyers tomorrow night to hear about his litigation threat...


Sign in to comment