Neighbor offers applicant money to abandon Hillside Drive project

Hillside Drive came alive with the sound of opposition at the Development Permit Review committee meeting, Nov. 14. The focus was a single-family house build proposed by Hamid Liaghat on a lot north and adjacent to 7520 Hillside Drive. In fact, Liaghat — a structural engineer who plans to reside in the house was offered money during the meeting to walk away before digging in. It was the first time anyone currently on the DPR committee could recall this happening.

“Hamid, you’re nice, you’ve been very nice to me,” said Judy Benson of 7550 Hillside Drive, who claimed his land used to be part of her property before she purchased it. “I think maybe you might want to save yourself a huge headache and consider my offer again.”

Liaghat, taken aback, responded to the public comment with a nervous smile. But Benson wasn’t finished. “I would not have that property built on,” she said. “I would donate it to the City to have a nice view, as you come around the corner, rather than another house.”

DPR chair Mike Costello ended the “negotiation” by calling it “a private matter” while choking back surprised laughter. Liaghat’s proposal, for a permit for a two-story, 7,884-square-foot house on .51 acres, had faced a laundry list of concerns from committee members and three sets of stern-faced neighbors. Most concerns had to do with traffic snarls caused by construction on the narrow winding road.

“The street is horrible right now,” said John Gilchrist of 7595 Hillside Drive. “We have three to five concrete trucks blocking half of Hillside and you don’t have much room for an ambulance or a firetruck. We have four houses currently under construction, four … in the planning stage, and two more … bought by speculators who we assume are going to come online. Your particular site is on a hairpin curve. You put one major truck on that corner, which is where your driveway is, and that street is, for all intents and purposes, blocked off. That street was never built to handle the magnitude of construction and activity that’s currently underway and I think, from a safety standpoint, the City’s got a real liability on its hands.”

Liaghat and his architect, Bejan Arfaa, were asked to return with plans for grading, vegetation presentation and permeable surfaces, in addition to a construction plan that directly addresses traffic impacts. They were also asked to observe nearby swimming pools and tennis courts and bring their plan more into line with Hillside development.

All members of the public cleared out after the presentation, leaving zero opposition to the proposal by presenter Michael Rollins for a house at 1830 East Puente Drive. The 3,975-square-foot, single-family residence would capitalize on grading, retaining walls and drains already built by a previously scrapped construction project. In addition, it would sport natural landscaping, a garage and patio under footprint, a virtually see-through fence and no swimming pool or cantilevered decking.

“They’re really minimalists,” Rollins said.

As if sporting one of the most and one of the least objected-to projects in recent memory weren’t enough excitement for one meeting, immediately afterward, Costello tendered his resignation as chair of the committee. He will be replaced by Brian Will, who is also a La Jolla Community Planning Association trustee. Costello will continue serving on the DPR committee, but said, “I just don’t have time” to be chair anymore.

— DPR next meets 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12 at the La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect Street, Room 1.

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