By Dave Schwab
In reconsidering the mixed-use, three-story Whitney project in La Jolla Shores, city Planning Commissioners voted 5-0 Thursday to approve Coastal and Site Development permits for the project.
They also declared that an environmental impact report is unnecessary because there would be no environmental consequences from the project that could not be compensated for.
The project, proposing retail space on the ground floor with condos on second and third stories, had been opposed on 14-1 vote by La Jolla Community Planning Association, the community’s advisory group to the city on land use.
The Whitney project had been sent back to the Planning Commission by the City Council, which questioned the commission’s previous conclusion that a project EIR was not required.
It has been the object of protest from an ad hoc group, La Jolla Shores Tomorrow led by Vaughn Woods, who said after the planning commission's first vote on the project; “I continue to believe this is a moment of crisis in La Jolla Shores. He added that he believes the Whitney building “is going to be derogatory to the look and feel of our community.”
At that time, Kim Whitney who is developing the project with her husband Bob, said, “I felt we were completely consistent with the Planned District Ordinance (PDO) and the La Jolla Shores Design Manual.”
Speaking against the project on Thursday, attorney Julie Hamilton argued commissioners were not being asked to weigh conflicting expert testimony on whether more environmental studies for the mixed-use project would be required.
“The reality is there is substantial evidence in the record to show there may be significant impacts,” she said. “The community plan, the Planned District Ordinance and design guidelines all say there would be a significant impact. If experts disagree that the proposed project may have a significant impact, the law requires you to prepare an (environmental report).”
“A dissenting opinion being brought by an expert or a group automatically triggering the threshold for an EIR, that has not been my history,” said planning commissioner Tim Golba, a La Jolla resident and architect.
Commissioner Robert Griswold made the motion to approve the permits for the project, and to certify a negative declaration for environmental impacts from the project. (See the La Jolla Light print edition on Jan. 27 for more details.)