All Boxed In: La Jolla residents say design of Torrey Pines home creates blind spots, hazards

Owners of this home at 1620 Torrey Pines Road plan to cut a driveway entry into the curb along this busy stretch of roadway. Nearby residents fear it will create a traffic hazard, and are also concerned with blind spots created by a glass partition and electrical box (inset photo) on the property, which distributes power to the home and a storm water pump. Photos by Pat Sherman

Did you know?
La Jolla roadways with the most speeding citations, Sept. 1 2013-Feb. 28 2014
Torrey Pines Road: 26
La Jolla Scenic Drive: 23
Nautilus Street: 7
La Jolla Boulevard: 2
■ N. Torrey Pines Road: 2

La Jolla roadways with the most speeding citations, Jan. 1-June 30 2014
Torrey Pines Road: 98
La Jolla Scenic Drive: 34
Nautilus Street: 0
La Jolla Boulevard: 5
■ N. Torrey Pines Road: 14

By Pat Sherman

Residents on Coast Walk say a home development near the intersection of their street and Torrey Pines Road has for years obstructed their view of southbound traffic and pedestrians on Torrey Pines as they attempt to turn onto the busy thoroughfare.

This 5.5-foot tall electrical box may create a blind spot, blocking motorists’ view of vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists as they attempt to turn right or left onto Torrey Pines Road from Coast Walk.

Now, residents say those visual impediments — including a work fence that stood along Torrey Pines for three years, construction equipment and workers’ vehicles — have been replaced with permanent visual barriers: a 5.5-foot tall electrical box and a glass-topped wall, both located at the property line, just feet from Torrey Pines Road.

In an April 28 e-mail to property owners Michael and Robin Storfer, who declined to comment for this story, Coast Walk resident Tom Rushfeldt noted that the electrical box is just 4.5 feet from Torrey Pines Road.

“The location of the box is made much worse because traffic on Torrey Pines Road is coming uphill and around a curve, making it very difficult to see — and that’s without the electric box obstructing the view,” Rushfeldt wrote, urging the Storfers to have their contractor replace the box with a shorter one that would not block views.

“Any reputable architect or contractor should be able to see the current box will cause safety problems,” wrote Rushfeldt, who told La Jolla Light the “steep angle” of the glass partition to the roadway would block motorists’ view of traffic like an “opaque wall.”

Coast Walk residents say elements of this new home construction at 1620 Torrey Pines Rd. obstruct drivers’ view of vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists as they pull onto Torrey Pines Road from Coast Walk.

“You’ll have to basically drive into the bike lane and stick the nose of your car way out into Torrey Pines Road to see whether or not you can even pull out,” he said.

“You’ve got hundreds of pedestrians, dozens of bikes and probably at least 200 cars (pulling in and out of Coast Walk) every day. You’ve got all the tourists … and people who are just lost because they think (our street) is Coast Boulevard, so they turn. That intersection is often bolloxed up with at least five or six cars all jimmying around trying to get in or out.”

Paul Teirstein, chief of cardiology for Scripps Clinic and a Coast Walk resident also opposed to the utility box placement, concurred that Coast Walk at Torrey Pines Road is an intersection that requires “maximum visibility” for motorists.

A worker finishes installation of a glass partition at 1620 Torrey Pines Road last week.

“I think the new owners are going to be dealing with the same problems that we deal with every day,” Teirstein said. “It would be in their interest, as well as everybody’s interest, to minimize the view obstruction.”

The property, located at 1620 Torrey Pines Road, was once part of an adjacent property at 1590 Torrey Pines (at Coast Walk), later sold as a separate parcel, which was purchased by the Storfers.

Although the properties once shared a driveway exiting onto Coast Walk, that easement has since been vacated. The Storfers will now have to cut a driveway for their home into bustling Torrey Pines Road.

Seeking a remedy, Rushfeldt and wife Brenda Fake reached out to the builder, Raul Albanez of RLP Development, as well as Marengo Morton Architects, although the obstructing elements were nevertheless permitted and installed, with a variance granted by the city (calls and e-mails to both Albanez and Marengo Morton Architects were not returned by press time).

In a May 30 e-mail to Rushfeldt, William Barrañón, an inspection services manager with the city, said inspector David Dent visited the construction site on April 29 and issued a correction notice for the items, which were not included in original plans submitted to the city.

A construction supervisor at this Torrey Pines Road development told La Jolla Light the California Coastal Commission would not allow the offending electrical box to be situated beside this SDG&E box on the west side of the driveway, because it would block coastal views.

However, instead of requiring that the location of the utility box be adjusted, Dent “requested a plan change to show and approve all items not correctly identified on the (previously) approved plans; including the electrical main panel, gas meter, site walls (and) driveway layout.”

The architect has since updated plans to include all these city-approved “site improvements.”

“The electrical panel meets all zoning requirements,” Dent said, via e-mail, noting that he would inspect the glass partition the next time he visits the site.

Barrañón said SDG&E utility boxes are typically placed within the public right-of-way, “exempt from the city’s zoning requirements” and thus do not require city permits.

“In this instance, however, the electrical service panel is located on the property in the front yard setback,” he wrote.

SDG&E told the Light the box is “owned by the resident,” and its location was “mutually agreed upon to meet access and safety requirements.”

Lynda Pfeifer, a supervising public information officer with the city’s development services department, said the project complies with San Diego Municipal Code.

A “visibility triangle” with 25-foot sides normally required for properties at the intersection of streets (which requires that nothing blocking the view be placed within it), does not apply because the property is not technically at the intersection of two streets — only precariously close.

“Visibility should be taken care of on the adjoining property and not this property,” Pfeifer said, via e-mail.

Coast Walk resident Linda Fisler said the property owner, builder and city may be adhering to the letter of city’s municipal code and zoning requirements,  although its spirit and intent have been clearly thwarted.

“We gave them tons of heads-up when we saw what was going to happen, and they just simply overruled us,” she said. “We tried to work with them before it became permanent.”

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Jul 1, 2014. Filed under Featured Story, 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.

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