La Jolla Permitters grapple with house plans, condo conversions

After canceling several meetings due to lack of projects in the first months of the year, the month of May was a busy one for members of the La Jolla Development Permit Review (DPR) board, which overlooks discretionary building permits within the 92037 ZIP code outside of the La Jolla Shores Planned District.

During the May 9 and May 16 meetings, the board approved one single-family residence on High Avenue, heard plans for five detached single-family houses on Playa del Sur and two detached single-family residences on Kolmar Street, approved a checklist for internal use with condominium conversion projects, and heard the draft proposal for coastal development incentive-based zoning.

High Avenue Residence

The unanimously approved Mojdehi Residence (7567 High Ave.) will be a 5,190-square-foot house on a 0.2-acre lot with modern architectural style featuring straight lines, a flat roof and a mix of wood, smooth stucco, limestone and glass materials to break up the mass of the building. The house opens to a back yard and includes a high-ceiling living room.

The 25-foot-high, two-story building has side and second story features. “On the second floor, we stepped back and created a wood trellis, open to above where we have a little green area. For the stair area (on the side) we stepped back 7 feet and created a glass wall to bring light into the house,” explained architect Leticia Bonnet of Design Lead Architects.

Also on the property, an existing detached garage will remain with a driveway from High Avenue. DPR trustees were interested in the permeable driveway design, made of an array of small tiles placed with enough separation from each other to allow driving on them and, at the same time, water infiltration. The applicant preferred a tile solution over “just pavement in the driveway.”

The applicant is keeping all of the existing mature trees, except one on the south side of the property, which will be removed due to a drainage pipe the City of San Diego will install.

DPR members asked the applicant in first review to consider a more transparent front fence and gate, and in second review plans were showed a mix of semi-transparent and solid fence and gate, at a maximum height of 36 inches. The City’s Development Services Department asked the applicant to re-do the sidewalk in front of the property, “because there’s a storm drain coming through,” said architect Siavash Khajezadeh.

DPR member Angeles Leira expressed disdain for the sidewalk design. “I know City engineers love to put the walking area next to the curb,” she said. “Before, people had trees planted between the walkway and street, and walking was a pleasure. Now, walking by the road is not a pleasure.” During the second review, architects showed DPR members a design where the landscaping appears between the walkway and the curb, and promised to propose it to the City.

Five Playa del Sur Units

A project to demolish a 13-unit apartment building and construct four detached structures for five residential units at 290 Playa del Sur was presented at the May 16 meeting by consultant Joe LaCava. The architectural design by Daniel Linn shows three three-bedroom single-family residences, and a fourth structure divided into a 380-square-foot studio and a two-bedroom single-family residence.

The three-story buildings include a garage on the first floor, with underground carports accessed through a lift, adding up to a total of 14 parking spaces on-site. The exteriors are painted wood-siding, alternating garage and front door on each street (the lot is framed by one-way streets Playa del Norte on the north and Playa del Sur on the south).

LaCava said the project complies with the City Municipal Code on most features, but the applicants are asking for deviations from in three aspects: building separation, front yard setbacks and driveway lengths.

“The City is kind of bad on delivering housing, they don’t want people to build less than what the plan is,” LaCava explained. “So they wanted at least five units. We thought one building was not right for the neighborhood, we wanted to keep the detached-unit thing going, so we kept these as single-family units.” The neighborhood context assessment presented at the meeting showed a mix between detached units and apartment buildings (constructed and future construction) in the area.

To achieve the five-unit goal with detached units in a “financially feasible” product, architects came up with a project that has a three-foot building separation where the Code calls for six, and 15-foot front yard setbacks where the Code asks for 20.

“The City likes the project with one exception,” LaCava continued. “(They think) the driveways are too long. What they asked us to do is make our driveways much shorter, so the driveways are so short that if you tried to park a car, you’d block the road.” He added that the City’s concern is residents will park cars in the driveways, blocking the sidewalk. Thus, the applicant had to request a deviation to make the driveways shorter.

DPR trustees took issue with the deviated spaced between buildings, and asked the applicant to reconsider constructing one big building, or two town homes. “We already considered that,” LaCava replied. “We thought the detached thing was better. You get more light and you’re not sharing the wall.”

The project was tabled for final review at a future meeting.

Kolmar Residences

Architect Linn presented a project to demolish an existing residence and construct two detached single-family residences on two contiguous lots at 257 Kolmar St. The mostly two-story buildings feature a one-room third level and an attached two-car garage.

DPR members asked the applicant about the increase in density. He replied that even though the existing structure is a single-family residence, it sits on two, 25- by 100-foot legal lots. “When you have a legal lot, you’re able to build a house on it, regardless of the zone,” Linn explained.

One of the challenges of the project is the slope across the lots, and board members asked to see some sections of the proposed structures in final review, tabled for a future meeting.

Condo Conversions

During the May 16 meeting, DPR members voted to approve a document for internal use with a checklist of requirements the City reviews when a condo conversion project comes through. In the past year, projects to convert existing units on lots too small to be subdivided into condominiums, have been seen at DPR, and each time members take issue and question the lack of information provided. “We weren’t seeing anything and we were asked to put a rubber stamp on (the projects),” said DPR member Diane Kane.

The one-page document includes 26 items the City of San Diego requires of applicants to be checked by the DPR in three categories: 1) building conditions report; 2) site requirements; and 3) community character and cumulative impact. The document will be sent to applicants when they request a condo conversion review, “allowing the applicants to come prepared and get their projects approved expeditiously,” it reads.

Zoning Proposal

DPR members heard a presentation by Kane on the incentive-based zoning for coastal development, a draft exemption for Coastal Development Permit that gives tools to property owners and developers for constructing new single-family residences in the coastal zone without having to go through the Coastal Development Permit process. The group behind it, Citizens for Responsible Coastal Development, started the effort as a subcommittee of La Jolla Community Planning Association and, although they disbanded as an official group, they’re seeking input from community advisory boards and hope to eventually have their criteria enacted in the City Municipal Code.

“It was initially considered only for older pre-War neighborhoods in La Jolla, but we are inviting other coastal communities, as well as post-war neighborhoods, to consider opting into this system,” Kane said.

DPR next meets 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 13 at the La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St.

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