La Jolla Planners approve Calle del Cielo subdivision, 9-5-2

The controversial Calle del Cielo subdivision project was approved at the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) meeting, Sept. 7, after three sub-committee hearings, one special meeting and more than four hours of LJCPA debate (over two months). After hearing an updated presentation on substantial conformance, a sensitive issue for some trustees, LJCPA voted to approve the project 9-5-2.

Project plans call for subdividing a 4.45-acre site at 8280 Calle del Cielo in La Jolla Shores into eight lots and building a house on each. The land is considered one of the last, large, open parcels in the area. The team behind the project includes developer Louis Beacham, design architects James Alcorn and Paul Benton of Alcorn & Benton Architects, engineer Tony Christensen, and landscape architect Jim Neri.

The applicants are selling the lots themselves and the houses would be constructed when buyers are located. In past presentations, design renderings and guidelines for the houses, which LJCPA trustees favored, were shown. The houses, as presented, come with a Coastal Development Permit, saving the buyer thousands of dollars and the years it would take to independently apply for the permit.

The outlying issue for LJCPA trustees is whether the City would carry out a Substantial Conformance Review (SCR) when a buyer comes forward and requests a building permit. The SCR process looks at any changes to approved building permits to determine whether the modifications are close enough to what was originally approved for the buyer to proceed.

To oblige the board, land-use attorney Scott Williams said, “We’ve added language to the design guidelines, which says that any time a resident applies for a building permit — and not just when there is a question of substantial conformance — they have to come and give and informational presentation to you or the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee. That is above and beyond what the Municipal Code requires. So even if there is no SCR issue, an informational presentation is required. Even if the builder says ‘the home design is exactly what was approved,’ you still get to review it. That’s been added since last month to ease your concern; nothing is going to be ‘snuck’ through.”

Further, architect Paul Benton wrote into the design guidelines that “substantial changes” include “any alteration of the architectural forms, materials, colors or finishes of the approved design concept as presented,” “any decrease to the approved building setbacks for each lot” and “increases to the approved gross floor area for each lot” among other items. Benton also reaffirmed his pledge to personally notify LJCPA when a permit building is applied for and who the project manager is on each house.

With mixed feelings in the room, trustee Patrick Ahern said he doesn’t think “anyone will ever be completely satisfied,” but that the new modifications show “the applicants have done their work” and that “it’s a reasonable project.” Whereas trustee Ray Weiss said he was bothered by the informational nature of the promised presentations because they lack “force.”

All said, trustee Brian Will noted, “Four-and-a-half acres in La Jolla Shores is a big deal. It’s a scary project but in La Jolla, vacant lots get sold with entitlements all the time and we approve them with no other assurance than the City’s normal SCR. We’ve demanded this applicant go above and beyond. I know the SCR process is broken, but it’s what we’ve got and I don’t think we can hold up this project indefinitely because we don’t like how the City does its job. The applicant has offered something better than SCR, and we have to have faith in that.”

Will moved to support the project, and trustees passed the motion.

— La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org

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