La Jolla planners debate requiring more than one trustee to pull items from consent agenda

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La Jollan Katherine Kennedy is upset her rebuild plans were pulled from the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s consent agenda after receiving unanimous approval from the LJCPA’s Development Permit Review subcommittee. She said further delays pose a hardship. Pat Sherman

By Pat Sherman

During the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s (LJCPA) August meeting, a heated discussion ensued about the process of pulling items from its monthly consent agenda.

At meetings, LJCPA trustees ratify decisions on development projects previously approved or rejected by its subcommittees, such as Traffic and Transportation (T&T), Planned District Ordinance (PDO) or Development Permit Review (DPR). Once ratified by trustees, the LJCPA sends subcommittee decisions to the city as the official recommendation.

However, an item may be pulled by just one trustee or meeting attendee, requiring the applicant to return at a later LJCPA meeting and present their project again or answer more questions — often delaying construction start dates and increasing applicant costs.

During the Aug. 7 meeting, some audience members and trustees suggested that more than one person should agree to pull an item for further review.  The debate ensued after four items were pulled from LJCPA’s August consent agenda that its subcommittees had already approved unanimously, including: conversion of the former Jonathan’s Market space on Fay Avenue to a luxury cinema (approved by PDO); rebuilding a single dwelling unit at 604 Gravilla Place (approved by DPR); and street closures for the La Jolla Christmas Parade and extended weekend valet parking hours for Eddie V’s (both approved by T&T).

A representative for the Boffo Cinemas project on Fay noted that the project meets the city’s parking requirement and has already been approved for a process 1 (ministerial) building permit. The cinema developers were only presenting the project at PDO as a courtesy to the community; it was not required by the city, noted project spokesperson Janay Kruger.

PDO committee chair Jim Fitzgerald concurred that project plans “totally complied” with La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance, or blueprint for development.

“We’re in there removing asbestos from the building,” Kruger said. “We can go to the PDO committee and say, ‘We don’t need this. We’ve got our building permit, we’re moving forward,’ and then we don’t have to come back, right?”

LJCPA board president Joe LaCava conceded, “No, you don’t have to come back. … There’s nothing we can do to stop you,” noting that, in the future, process 1 project applicants might decline to offer a courtesy presentation to subcommittees if they know they risk significant delays and added expenses. The LJCPA is trying to assure all projects are vetted by subcommittees for conformance to established community standards.

Katherine Kennedy, who owns the home at 604 Gravilla Place, noted that each neighbor on her block expressed written support for her project to the DPR.

“How can you call yourself a community group when you reverse the (subcommittee) vote and it costs the homeowner and the residents thousands of dollars for every month of delay?,” Kennedy questioned.

LaCava agreed that the LJCPA should be conveying more confidence in its subcommittees’ deliberative processes.

“That’s the best place for projects to be reviewed in a more intimate setting between the committee members, the applicant and any neighbors,” he said. “I have to admit, even though anybody has a right to pull items — either trustees or members of the public — (pulling items indiscriminately) is disconcerting and it has shaken the confidence of people about what individual subcommittees are doing.”

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