City Council rejects La Jolla’s Whitney project, wants more environmental review

By Dave Schwab
Staff Writer

City council members on Tuesday voted 6-1 to grant an appeal brought by La Jolla’s planning group that will require an environmental impact report for the three-story mixed-use Whitney project in La Jolla Shores.

Image shows the proposed south elevation of the Whitney project. Courtesy: Bob Whitney

The motion to grant the community advisory group’s appeal denying that environmental studies done on the project were sufficient was made by First District City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner. She is a past chair of the La Jolla Shores Association.

 Councilman Kevin Faulconer cast the lone dissenting vote and Councilman Tony Young was absent.

“The applicants knew, very early on, that community groups were strongly opposed to the project,” said Lightner. “They opted not to work with these groups or to make any changes to their project to try to reach a compromise.”

Bob and Kim Whitney, who’ve owned the property since 2007, want to demolish a one-story residence at Avenida de la Playa and Paseo Grande and replace it with 2,300 square feet of street-level retail space with parking underground and two condos above.

Opponents contend the project’s Floor Area Ratio (FAR) — the total building square footage compared to the square footage of the lot — is excessive and makes it out of scale and character with surrounding commericial development.

Approved in July 2010 by a city hearing officer, the project has since been subjected to multiple appeals.

Lightner cited, for the record, several ways in which she felt the project’s environmental studies fell short of the threshold required to grant a Mitigated Negative Declaration, a determination that there are no environmental impacts from the project that can not be compensated for.

“There is fear the project will erode the charm, character and neighborhood feel of the Shores business community,” she said. “Any archaeologically significant remains, artifacts or fossils will be drilled to dust by foundation piers needed for this project.”

Lightner added she believed subterranean parking proposed by the project would not provide adequate visibility, imperiling vehicles, pedestrians and bicycylists.

Attorney Lynne Heidel, representing the Whitneys, argued the project is too small to be required to do a full-blown environmental impact report.

“This project is smaller than many single-family homes in the area,” she noted. “There is no sensitive habitat, no real traffic issues in terms of volume. What we have here is community-character issues based on misinformation. Misinformation does not constitute substantial evidence.”

Heidel contested architectural renderings being circulated by project opponents, arguing they do not accurately depict the proper scale of the building, how it would be adequately setback from the street and landscaped to complement the surrounding community. She contended the floor area ratio rules do not apply as they are not contained in the La Jolla Shores PDO, the community’s blueprint for development.

Heidel also characterized surrounding development in La Jolla Shores’ commercial core as “eclectic,” noting there are numerous examples of existing developments three stories or higher.

Related posts:

  1. Planning commissioners OK permits for Whitney’s La Jolla Shores project
  2. La Jolla Shores lifeguard, parking projects get underway
  3. Sides react to city’s ruling on allegations surrounding La Jolla Shores project
  4. La Jolla’s councilwoman digging into pothole issue
  5. More valet not ok, say LJCPA planners

Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=40443

Posted by Dave Schwab on May 3, 2011. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “City Council rejects La Jolla’s Whitney project, wants more environmental review”

  1. Sad in La Jolla

    It is sad day for La Jolla when groups like the LJCPA think they have the right to interfere with a well planned development. Shame on the LJCPA and the San Diego City Council for wasting people's time and money to promote their self-righteous behavior.

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