‘Last exciting piece of property in La Jolla Shores’: Planners defer vote on Calle del Cielo subdivision

A controversial project from a collective of La Jolla builders/developers to create eight lots in La Jolla Shores (and build a house on each lot on what is considered to be the last open parcel of space in the area), came before the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) during its July 6 meeting at the Rec Center.

But after nearly two hours of discussion, the board determined it could not vote to support nor reject the project (which at this point does not have a name), and postponed its decision to a future meeting. At issue for LJCPA trustees was the lack of assurance that the houses would ultimately be built to the specs presented, missing or conflicting information, and drainage concerns.

Applicants for the planned development — to be created by subdividing a 4.45-acre site at 8280 Calle del Cielo — requested a Coastal Development Permit, Site Development Permit and Tentative Map for eight lots with private drives and common improvements for drainage and stormwater management, and the subsequent construction of eight, new, single-family dwelling units with attached garages.

The project includes design renderings and guidelines to which the houses could be built. The houses would be (on average) 5,110-square-feet each and have a Floor Area Ratio of .22. However, the applicants are in actuality, just selling the lots and the houses would be constructed when buyers are identified.

The proposal was heard at least three times at La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC) meetings, and members ultimately determined that findings could not be made to support the project: 4-1-2.

Hoping for a different result at LJCPA, developer Louis Beacham, design architect James Alcorn of Alcorn & Benton Architects, engineer Tony Christensen and landscape architect Jim Neri presented and answered audience and board questions.

In introducing the project, Alcorn showed slides with illustrations of what the houses could ultimately look like, including aesthetics, heights and setbacks. The designs would be submitted as part of the Coastal Development Permit application.

Beacham, representing the team that purchased and is developing the property, said while the eventual home owners would not be required to conform to the designs presented, it would trigger a larger review if they were to seek something else.

“If someone wanted to buy one of these lots and make substantial changes they would have to go through the City and get a new Coastal Development Permit and go through all the community review, which would take a few years and cost thousands of dollars. So it’s highly unlikely they will do that,” he explained. “And there has been great interest in the property due to the fact that it comes with a Coastal Development Permit … ready to go. Although there is no requirement, we are going to recommend the buyers hire Alcorn & Benton architects, Beacham construction and Neri Landscape Architecture (so what gets built is in line with what the community saw in the planning stages).”

Alcorn added, “The plan, as proposed, doesn’t ask for any deviations or variances, it doesn’t ask for anything except a private drive. The City Planning Department has cleared every item they had questions about, with the exception of one last item that would come up when someone applies for a building permit, which is (he read): ‘the approval of any building permit shall be based on substantial conformance with the approved Coastal Development Permit, Site Development Permit and Cielo design guidelines.’ ”

Offering additional insight, City of San Diego community planner Marlon Pangilinan explained, “In a project like this, under substantial conformance review, the things that would go forward are things that would be locked-in as part of this project ... like design guidelines, elevations, landscape plans, site plans. In my experience with looking at substantial conformance reviews, City staff will compare that project to what has been approved. If there are any changes, that is not substantial conformance, and then it would be looked at through another permit process.”

However, those opposed to or concerned with the project questioned whether it would actually go through proper review should the need arise, and several trustees said they did not “trust the City” enough to conduct the conformance reviews. Further, trustees, such as Dolores Donovan, said in her experience, community planning groups are not always contacted for such reviews. Hearing this, several trustees wanted some other guarantee that the houses would be built with the designs that were presented.

Although many said they liked the aesthetics of the renderings, there were concerns over conflicting information in terms of outstanding issues. Trustee Phil Merten, who recused himself from further discussion because he represents some nearby neighbors, said the City issued a 24-page document listing issues and/or comments that have not been resolved. “I don’t think it’s wise to approve any project with (so many) issues standing open,” he opined.

Trustee Dave Gordon said he read a much shorter document, suggesting there was conflicting information about how many “open issues” remain and how many have been deferred to another department.

Beacham replied, “All the planning issues have been cleared, but there are still quite a few engineering issues … however, technical issues and engineering are not under the purview of this committee.”

Trustee Emerson, who also sits on PRC, noted that there were also missing details about the houses themselves. “Normally, when we see a property, we see floor plans, we see sections, we see materials and where the bathrooms are,” she said. “We have not seen any of that with these houses. This is the last exciting piece of property in The Shores, so everyone on all sides want this to come out properly.”

When heard at PRC, nearby residents expressed concerns about the drainage design, and two residents spoke at LJCPA in opposition to the drainage plan and the fact that plans have changed. One said, “We don’t actually know what the plans are at this point.”

Engineer Christensen argued that the change in drainage would actually be an improvement for the area. “Currently, the majority of the runoff flows down to the west of the project and down to La Jolla Shores Drive. Following development, that same situation will occur, but with a 49-percent decrease of the amount of water that currently runs to La Jolla Shores Drive,” he said. “Additionally, a portion of that water will be picked up and brought into a pipe and catch basin. It’s a vast improvement.”

All said, Emerson commented, “My feeling is that this is incomplete and in another month, you could collect some of the information we are asking for so we can move forward.” A motion to postpone a vote for a minimum of one month, and a maximum of two months, passed unanimously.

— La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3 at La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St. bit.ly/planningagendas

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