During a special meeting held Jan. 8 at La Jolla Rec Center, the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) rejected a controversial mixed-use project proposed for .27 acres on Girard Avenue (next to the Von’s grocery store) that would place a three-story building in Zone 1 of the La Jolla Planned District (within the La Jolla Community Plan), which limits commercial structures to two stories.
LJCPA’s Planned District Ordinance (PDO) and Development Permit Review (DPR) subcommittees both voted that findings can not be made to approve a coastal development permit and waive tentative map requirements for the 5,125-square-foot project.
The DPR committee rejected the most recent revision of the plans because members felt the “proposed design is not consistent with either the intent nor the letter of the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance (the community’s blueprint for development), which clearly is intended to promote pedestrian-friendly, accessible commercial environments.”
It also found the “placement of commercial use is five to seven feet below the sidewalk level (and) not consistent with the PDO requirement that commercial use be placed at the ground floor.”
Project architect Phillip Quatrino of PQ Design Studio said the project was approved as a three-story building by the city’s Development Services Department in 2011 (and initially by the DPR), though in 2012 the LJCPA returned the item to DPR for further oversight.
Since then, Quatrino said his firm has been working with the city’s development services to “craft a structure which meets their definition of basement, ground level commercial (space).”
At the suggestion of city staff, PQ Design continued through the discretionary process with La Jolla’s community advisory groups.
The privately owned project site was sold to a developer after Vons — which currently uses it as a parking lot — decided not to purchase it.
LJCPA board member and DPR chair Paul Benton offered a lengthy presentation outlining his objections to the project.
Namely, the applicants are defining the partially submerged first-floor commercial space as a basement (and not a first-story), which would make the project conform with height limits in the municipal code and PDO.
For it to be considered a basement, Benton argued, the amount of vertical space below proposed or existing grade (sidewalk level) must be greater than that of the basement level above the existing or proposed grade. The proposed commercial basement space is seven feet below the existing, sloped grade in some areas, Benton said.
Trustee Jim Fitzgerald said the project does not conform to the definition of a first story defined in the municipal code.
LJCPA Vice-chair Joe LaCava said Proposition D — which placed a height restriction of 30 feet on development in a coastal zone — could be massaged to define the space as a first story. However, he said, La Jolla’s PDO is clear on the matter.
A motion rejecting the project, including findings of the DPR and PDO committees, was approved 16-0-1. Another successful motion (15-0-5), made by trustee Gail Forbes, rejected the project based on its dark stain and color palette, which does not conform to pastel shades required of commercial buildings in the PDO.