La Jolla Planners OK Black Halibut project and committee for Hillside Drive

In a last-ditch effort to stop the Black Halibut project in La Jolla Shores, residents attended the April 5 La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) meeting to voice concerns over everything from its bulk-and-scale and influence on the neighbor’s quality of life, to how plans were updated and whether environmental concerns were addressed.

After an hour of discussion, the board narrowly voted to support the project 7-6-2.

Applicant Claude-Anthony Marengo sought a Site Development Permit and Coastal Development Permit for demolition of an existing 2,578-square- foot single-story residence and 639-square-foot building to construct a new two-story-over-basement 6,927-square-foot single-family residence on a 0.27-acre site located at 8470 El Paseo Grande. The beachfront property sits next to a house that is slated to be developed into a property that will be larger than the Black Halibut project.

When heard at the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC), a LJCPA sub-committee, the project was approved 4-2-0 after two reviews.

The discussion and debate started with public comment from La Jollan Peggy Davis, representing adjacent homeowner Richard Johnson, who said the project’s bulk-and-scale is not compatible with surrounding houses, its cantilever overhang would block light and sun from the neighboring house, and its basement is being dug near an earthquake fault line.

Johnson, who has a small 1950s beach cottage, added: “There would be two stories on the street side and three stories on the beach side. I know this size will affect not only our sunlight and view and privacy … but a pool is planned that would be three feet from our property line. I’m concerned and would hope for a more modest project.”

Applicant Marengo, after correcting what he said were misrepresentations of the project, said: “The building articulates quite a bit, and this is not unusual in keeping with the aesthetic of the beach (homes in this area).”

A geotechnical expert spoke, indicating that monitoring would be a part of the project, and that he was not worried about vibration or disruption association with the excavation of the basement.

LJCPA trustee and architect Phil Merten said there were environmentally sensitive lands on either side of the project and environmental considerations were still being reviewed by the City, which the board should know before proceeding. Merten also critiqued the fact that the plans were different from what PRC was shown during earlier reviews.

Marengo responded: “The drawings keep moving, we are still doing construction documents. A project doesn’t stand still once it leaves an architect’s office. … Anything we’ve done from PRC meeting forward was to better the project not worsen it.”

LJCPA trustee Brian Will said: “To (punish an applicant) because they update their plans and address our concerns would be to kill what we are asking for. We’re asking them to make concessions and redesign, which should never be held against the applicant.”

PRC chair and LJCPA trustee Dave Gordon said the project was heard twice at PRC. “The only reason it was not voted upon in January was that a neighbor was out of town and wanted to be part of the conversation. (In that time) we addressed a lot of issued of articulation and size, and this project does, in my opinion, conform to the look and feel of the neighborhood. I think CA (Marengo) did a good job on this.”

In conclusion, Will made the motion that findings could be made for the project, which passed. “I haven’t heard anything today that talks about this house being out of character with what I know to be very large homes between Scripps Pier and the Kellogg Park on the waterfront,” he told the assemblage. “Frankly, I haven’t heard anything (to speak to) why we shouldn’t approve this project.”

In other LJCPA news:

Oath of office: Seven of the eight board members elected to LJCPA last month were sworn in: Patrick Ahern, Tom Brady, David Little, Matt Mangano, John Shannon and Suzanne Weissmann. Diane Kane was not present and will be sworn in at the next meeting. The board also elected its officers for the coming year. Bob Steck continues as president, Helen Boyden as vice-president and Brian Will as second vice-president; and as new officers, Cindy Greatrex volunteered to be secretary and Dave Gordon volunteered to be treasurer.

Hillside Drive Committee: LJCPA voted to ratify a La Jolla Traffic & Transportation recommendation to establish an ad hoc committee to develop a traffic management plan for Hillside Drive, which is currently experiencing excessive construction activity causing numerous negative impacts, according to residents.

Advocating for the committee, resident Nancy Manno explained: “I’ve attended La Jolla Traffic & Transportation meetings, LJCPA meetings, La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meetings and PRC meetings and the board members have been sympathetic, but each group can only address certain concerns. There is the general consensus that Hillside Drive is faced with such a complex situation that a small group from La Jolla — who know the Hillside situation well — can study it, organize their information, give reports and send them to the correct City department to see what we can do about it.”

Trustee Will added: “With the construction on Torrey Pines Road, the situation on Hillside has only gotten worse. The public should realize that what was once a viable shortcut (to Torrey Pines Road) is now a disaster and not go that way.”

After finessing the specifics of the sub-committee — making sure it operates under terms of the Brown Act, number of members needed for a quorum, ensuring adequate representation of local groups and residents, sunset clause, etc. — the board voted to ratify the Traffic & Transportation motion.

Price/Cohen approved: In an about-face, LJCPA trustee Phil Merten went from being the most vocal opponent to the Price/Cohen Project to being so in favor of it, he presented it to trustees on the applicant’s behalf. For his presentation, Merten recused himself from his LJCPA trustee role.

The applicant seeks a Coastal Development Permit and Site Development Permit to demolish an existing 2,432-square-foot, single-story residence and construct a new 3,749-square-foot, two-story residence at 2045 Lowry Place. Because Merten had previously been the only voice of opposition, trustee Will asked if anyone else objected to the project. Seeing none, the board voted to support it, 10-0-1.

La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, May 3 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org

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