La Jolla Couple seeks two-story addition linking early 1900s cottages

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The city’s historical resources board has suggested that the rear of two Prospect Place cottages (at left) be rotated 90 degrees and pushed closer toward the neighbors’ property line to preserve a porch. The owners of the property in the background oppose the plans. Pat Sherman photos

By Pat Sherman

The new owners of two early 1900s beach cottages on Prospect Place (near Cave Street) are seeking to add a two-story, modern addition and two-story garage in between the cottages.

Having met with the city’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) staff, as well neighbors and the La Jolla Historical Society’s (LJHS) Preservation Committee, the owners, Kevin and Melissa Steel of Torrey Lane (who recently closed escrow on the property), and their architect, Tim Martin, came before La Jolla’s Development Permit Review committee (DPR) April 8 for a preliminary assessment.

“Historic staff seemed reasonably happy,” Martin said during the DPR meeting. “We think we’re at a point where we’re 90 percent or so able to satisfy (them).”

However, Martin said neighbors, including Roy Bell and Walter and Estelle Binder, are not pleased with the project, claiming the addition will block light and views, and lead to a loss of privacy.

The cottages are situated on a 5,400-square-foot lot with an easement providing access to a rear, two-story home owned by the Binders. According to HRB staff, both cottages at 7991-7993 Prospect Place are presumed eligible for an historic designation — something Martin said his clients would likely pursue as part of their application for a site development permit from the city.

Martin said he and his clients view the project as an example of balancing preservation with new development, similar to a project on Playa del Sur in WindanSea that received a historic designation from the city in February. After more than a year of wrangling with preservationists, the property owners decided to preserve and obtain an historic designation for the front (more historically significant) of their two beach cottages, while demolishing and redeveloping the rear one.

Melissa Steel said she is “thrilled the battle for the post office is being fought” and views her project as “a great opportunity to show how to preserve the history of La Jolla, (which is often) taken for granted.

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The owners of this cottage and another behind it on Prospect Place want to build a two-story, modern addition in between them. The owners would likely seek a historic designation for the cottages. Photos by Pat Sherman

“Why can’t we show people that with the help of community, we can preserve that past and still make what we feel is a very modest single-family home,” she said.

Martin said one issue HRB staff has with the Steel’s project is that it would affect the principal façade of the rear cottage, removing half of a porch.

Though it would be easier for the Steels to develop their property by removing the rear cottage entirely — something they initially considered — HRB staff didn’t like that proposal, Martin said.

HRB staff instead suggested the rear cottage be rotated 90 degrees to preserve the porch. To make room for the garage, the rear cottage would also have to be pushed into the rear yard setback, reducing the distance to their neighbors’ property line by five feet and requiring a variance from the city.

The rear cottage would become a master suite and closet, while the front cottage and entrance would include secondary bedrooms and a living room. The two-story addition would include a kitchen, dining room, family room, elevator and covered outdoor porch facing the ocean.

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