La Jolla Town Council hears lecture on land use issues, elects officers

This nearly complete home rebuild at the corner of Draper Avenue and Nautilus Street (across from La Jolla High School) is an example of a project that did not require community input to obtain the required permits, though some La Jollans are now concerned with its bulk and scale.

‘Knickers in a Knot’ panel discussion
What: La Jolla Historical Society presentation on a once-thriving organization determined to “Ban Large Office Buildings” (BLOB), and how its efforts led to the creation of the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance (LJPDO), or development blueprint.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25
Where: St. James-by-the-Sea church (Van Schaick room), 743 Prospect St.
Panel members: LJPDO author Angeles Leira; current and former LJPDO advisory committee members James Alcorn, Bob Collins and Orrin Gabsch; architect Ione Stiegler

Online La Jolla Town Council:
La Jolla Community Planning Association (and subcommittees):

By Pat Sherman

The La Jolla Town Council (LJTC) held officer elections during its April 11 meeting, selecting trustee Nancy Gardner as its new first- vice president and Charles Hartford as its new secretary.

Re-elected to officer positions were President Cindy Greatrex, Steve Haskins (as second vice- president) and Treasurer Yolanda de Riquer.

La Jolla Land Use 101
La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) Vice-chair Joe LaCava offered a primer on land use issues to the council, which reviews a handful of community advisory group agendas each month, many of them dealing with land-use issues.

As an adjunct to San Diego’s general plan, the city created community plans to further define the wishes of individual communities such as La Jolla. There are currently 52 such documents, including the roughly 100-page La Jolla Community Plan.

Joe LaCava, vice-chair of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, offers a primer on land-use issues to the La Jolla Town Council.

“La Jolla is a very old community and it’s pretty much built-out, so a lot of what’s in there really codifies what we already know and love about our community,” LaCava said. “But when someone wants to come in and redevelop a parcel, this is the guide they need to go to. … If you don’t use your community plan, then you have generic citywide zoning.”

The La Jolla Community Plan also serves as La Jolla’s coastal blueprint, including the protection of coastal resources, from shoreline access and coastal views to land uses the community has deemed appropriate adjacent the ocean.

However, more than a hard-and- fast mandate, the community plan is more of a guide to the type of development encouraged by the community, LaCava said.

“There’s a lot of wiggle room,” he said. “You’ll hear a lot of arguments on controversial projects about what exactly the community plan is trying to tell us.”

While the majority of La Jolla is subject to the same citywide zoning as communities from San Ysidro to Rancho Peñasquitos (in terms of the specific development permissible on private property), La Jolla has two so-called planned districts — the La Jolla Planned District and La Jolla Shores Planned District. Each provides a greater level of planning specificity (see Knickers sidebar at right).

LaCava also explained the city’s five-level development permit process. A “process 1” permit application merely requires a person to submit architectural plans to the city to obtain a building permit — a route typically taken by those with routine projects in east La Jolla.

“There’s no notice to the neighbors, and groups like the town council or the planning association don’t get to review it,” LaCava said.

However, property owners within the coastal zone can only use process 1 if his or her project involves only minor additions or changes to a property.

Development of a more significant nature requires a level 2, 3, 4 or 5 permit process, which typically requires community input and review.

Purpose of the LJCPA

Unlike other community advisory groups in La Jolla, such as the town council, the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s only job is to review land-use applications.

“Under our bylaws, we’re required to have the applicant there to defend the project, which seems fair, but if they don’t want to show up we can hear the project without them and then make a recommendation,” LaCava said.

As an organization formed to “do good things for the community,” the town council decides what it does to further that goal, LaCava said.

“Sometimes the town council has been very engaged in land use,” he said. “It’s truly up to you.”

Two decades ago, community organizations in La Jolla “didn’t play so nice together,” LaCava noted, recalling disputes over which group should be the official voice to represent La Jolla at city hall.

The solution to that problem was the formation of subcommittees that help the LJCPA review projects. The subcommittees are comprised of members from various La Jolla parent organizations, such as the LJCPA, LJTC, Bird Rock Community Council and La Jolla Shores Association, “so we get that diversity of viewpoints and considerations,” LaCava said.

These subcommittees, including the La Jolla Traffic and Transportation Board and the Development Permit Review and Planned District Ordinance committees, make recommendations to the La Jolla Town Council and La Jolla Community Planning Association that appear on the organization’s consent agendas — to be approved, or pulled for further discussion and debate.

“Applicants don’t like that because it costs them time and money, but we think it’s important to give a voice to the community for a larger discussion,” LaCava said.

One workaround used by property owners is the city’s “50 percent rule,” which people often use to avoid the full approval process. The rule essentially states that as long as 50 percent of a building’s exterior walls are preserved, an applicant can apply for a building permit, sans community notification and review.

“There have been some creative ways of applying the 50 percent rule,” LaCava said, recalling a project in which the architect “kept 50 percent of the (exterior) walls, but didn’t use them for the new house.”

In light of such loopholes, the city has considerably expanded its definition of the 50 percent rule.

“Nobody cares more about a community than us,” LaCava concluded. “We’re really the ones that have to be diligent, while being fair and respectful of private property rights.”

La Jollan Ben McCue, conservation director for Wildcoast, gives a presentation on his non-profit organization’s efforts.

Preserving the coast
La Jolla resident Ben McCue, conservation director of the nonprofit group, Wildcoast, also led a presentation on his organization’s efforts.

Wildcoast, whose mission is to preserve coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife, is currently involved in an effort to define the boundaries of 10 marine protected areas (MPAs), basically “underwater parks” located off the San Diego County coastline.

McCue said La Jolla’s MPAs are subject to some of the strongest environmental protections.

“The goal of marine protected areas is to help restore a lot of our lost (marine) abundance,” said McCue, whose grandmother resided in WindanSea during World War II, trading meat rations in exchange for abalone and lobster caught in La Jolla’s tide pools. That abundance no longer exists, he said, largely due to overfishing.

“There are areas of La Jolla that are now closed that for generations were open to fishing,” McCue said, noting a newly formed “imple- mentation collaborative” that allows local communities such as La Jolla to offer input as to how their MPAs are managed and enforced.

“It’s been shown across the world that the most effective MPAs are those that are supported by their local communities — and the biggest values of those MPAs are going back to the local communities,” he said.

For more information about Wildcoast or to get involved in the MPA Implementation Collaborative, contact McCue via the Wildcoast website at

Dancing with La Jolla Stars: A date has been set for the LJTC’s new dance competition fundraiser, 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines hotel. Mary Murphy of TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” has been tapped to emcee.

The event committee is open to all interested in helping with the fundraiser. It meets the first Monday of the month, 5 p.m. at Hennessey’s Tavern, 7811 Herschel Ave.

Related posts:

  1. La Jolla Town Council signs new lease; Trustee Pourteymour helps fund ‘Seasons Greetings’ sign
  2. La Jolla’s Town Council, Planning Association discuss pending issues
  3. Oath of Office: town council’s newly elected trustees include a La Jolla High student
  4. La Jolla, Bird Rock groups seek donations for police storefront repairs
  5. Community works to protect La Jolla bike path from development

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Apr 18, 2013. Filed under La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Comments for “La Jolla Town Council hears lecture on land use issues, elects officers”

  1. Tom Galloway

    The truly baffling thing about that house is not the subterfuge to get around the community process.

    It’s that someone made a conscious choice to use that color.

    • Lady Cohen

      Agreed!! That house is the most hideous throw-up-colored eyesore I’ve ever seen on Nautilus. I cringe every time I go by. What were they thinking?!

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