By Dave Schwab
A city investigation has determined that the La Jolla Community Planning Association did nothing wrong in appealing the controversial mixed-use, La Shores proposal known as the Whitney project.
In a letter dated March 30 addressed to the law firm of Schwartz Heidel Sullivan representing Bob and Kim Whitney, the city Planning & Community Investment Department found that “a community planning group chair or trustee is allowed to unilaterally file an appeal of any project on behalf of the group, that group e-mails regarding the Whitney project did not address the LJCPA recommendation as alleged, and that the allegation of potential misconduct by trustee Phil Merten was unwarranted in that he did not receive monies for, and had no direct economic interest in, the project."
Kim Whitney and her husband Bob want to build 2,300 square feet of street-level retail space with parking underground and two condos above on their corner lot on Avenida de la Playa and Paseo Grande.
“We disagree; we think we have a valid case,” she said last week. “We weren’t given our due process — and should have been.”
Bernie Segal, a member of the La Jolla Shores Association and an oppponent of the project, countered her argument.
“The letter from the city addresses all of the allegations made by the Whitneys and refutes them," he said. "In so doing it confirms what I and others have said: that the allegations against the LJCPA are totally meritless. There’s no basis for them at all.”
Opponents contend the project’s Floor Area Ratio (FAR) — the percentage of the lot taken up by the building — is excessive, making it out of scale and out of character with surrounding development.
Approved in July 2010 by a city hearing officer, the project has since been subjected to multiple appeals. The Whitneys, who bought the property in 2007, are challenging the planning group’s right to appeal the project to the City Council.
Following the city Planning Commission’s 5-0 vote in January approving development permits and declaring that an environmental impact report was unnecessary, Joe LaCava — then president of the La Jolla planning group — appealed the decision to the City Council.
The Whitneys say he did it without action by the full board and thus violated of the Brown Act.
That appeal, originally scheduled for March 29, has been postponed until Tuesday, May 3 at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers in the City Administration Building downtown.