August La Jolla planning group updates

Permit group revisits plan to replace gas station with mixed-use project

La Jolla Rec Center was ground zero for presentations on key Village development projects during August meetings of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) and its Development Permit Review subcommittee (DPR).

La Jolla Community Planning Association

Color swap: During the Aug. 6 LJCPA meeting, trustees decided not to take action on what some La Jolla Shores residents claim is an overly bright yellow accent color used for the exterior of the new Galaxy Taco restaurant at 2259 Avenida de la Playa (at La Jolla Shores Drive).

After much discussion, LJCPA trustees decided not grant La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee’s request to rule on whether the project’s exterior colors were appropriate.

La Jolla Shores business owner Myrna Naegle and artist Shirley Church spoke in opposition to the color scheme. “The La Jolla Shores PDO (Planned District Ordinance, or blueprint for design) was enacted in 1974 to stop new structures that are not compatible with the area and would disrupt the architectural unity,” Naegle said, also noting her concern with exposed equipment on the roof of the restaurant. (Galaxy Taco owner George Hauer later said the rooftop appurtenances would be shielded).

While several LJCPA trustees agreed the Shores PDO calls for muted exterior colors, resident Bob Whitney, architect Michael Morton and several LJCPA trustees generally concured that a building’s color scheme is a code compliance issue, and not within the LJCPA’s purview — especially given the city has already approved the project.

Hauer said he spent more than $2 million to restore the formerly vacant building space, once home to La Jolla Shores Market. “I thought you invited me in to give me a commendation,” he joked, noting there are “many facades” with bright orange and yellow colors that “don’t seem to bother people” along the Avenida de la Playa commercial corridor.

As a concession, Hauer met with LJCPA trustee Janie Emerson (as a private citizen), offering to replace some of what Emerson previously deemed “screaming yellow” with a shade of green that Hauer said matches local tree foliage.

Emerson agreed that bringing the issue to the attention of the LJCPA after it was approved by the city was “unfair,” adding she feels Hauer’s offer is a “reasonable compromise.”

Shores pyrotechnics mystery: Trustee Emerson also noted that two weekends in a row Shores’ residents reported aerial fireworks were dispersed near Scripps Pier, causing windows to rattle, some dogs to run off and, reportedly, an elderly woman to be taken the emergency room.

Questioned about the fireworks, UC San Diego representative Anu Delouri told the Light she looked into the complaint and found the fireworks were not related to any events at the nearby Scripps Forum, and are not something Scripps allows. Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s (SIO) last fireworks display at the pier was part its 2003 centennial celebration, she said.

No Shores’ speed decrease: The LJCPA also voted unanimously to ratify an earlier motion by the Traffic & Transportation (T&T) advisory board not to approve a speed limit decrease from 30 to 25 miles per hour on La Jolla Shores Drive, between El Paseo Grande and North Torrey Pines Road.

The item was pulled from last month’s consent agenda by T&T member Donna Aprea, who noted that UCSD requested the reduced speed due to dangerous conditions turning onto La Jolla Shores Drive from the SIO campus. However, a city study showed 85 percent of cars are traveling up to the currently posted 30 mile-per-hour mandate — a criterion for maintaining the current limit.

Trustee Emerson said she felt the danger stemmed from poor visibility rather than speed, suggesting an existing portion of red curb be extended to increase visibility by eliminating several parking spaces on La Jolla Shores Drive. Others suggested better signage could alert pedestrians to the 
nearby footbridge over La Jolla Shores Drive, further increasing safety.

Whitney mixed-use project: The LJCPA’s appeal of Bob and Kim Whitney’s long-stalled, three-story mixed-use project at 2202 and 2206 Avenida de la Playa is set for a tentative City Council hearing, 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5, LJCPA president Cindy Greatrex noted. The San Diego Planning Commission approved the project in April. More at bit.ly/WhitneyAppeal

Development Permit Review Committee

Gas station redux update: During the Aug. 18 meeting of the DPR committee, it was apparent Eads Avenue residents are gradually cottoning to a mix of residential and retail space proposed to replace the 76 gas station at the corner of Pearl Street and Eads Avenue.

Many once strongly opposed to the project now say it is a vast improvement from when it was first presented a year-and-a-half ago, and again at subsequent DPR and LJCPA meetings (conspicuously absent this time were project opponents’ attorneys).

Concessions made since the project was first presented by a different architect include: increasing a setback between the project and the closest neighbor on Eads Avenue from 8 to 15 feet; decreasing the height from three to two stories; and reducing commercial space by 22 percent, project architect Jim Alcorn noted, adding a traffic study shows the project would generate 288 less daily vehicle trips than the current gas station.

However, a few residents said they are still concerned with the project’s bulk and scale. “The project has improved a lot since it was first presented,” Eads Avenue resident Connie Branscomb said. “My only point with this is it’s still massive.”

Karen Moranville, the neighbor directly east of the project, said though plans have improved, she’s nevertheless concerned with the current conversion trend of retail to residential space in the Village.

“Soon, we will not have a viable commercial zone — just one big residential area,” she said.

La Jollan Mark Fackler said he believes the project encroaches into a residential area. “You are changing the feel of the street … taking north Eads onto south Eads,” he said.

Unlike some Village projects now in the pipeline, Alcorn said, the project does not require any variances or deviations from the Planned District Ordinance, particularly the PDO’s requirement for ground-floor retail.

City of San Diego Senior Planner and La Jolla resident Lesley Henegar, who was in

attendance, said the project would not be the first to alter the face of Pearl Street. “There are actually a fair amount of mixed-use projects here already,” she said, noting that the project is less dense than some others on Pearl Street, including the three-story, mixed-use project at 702 Pearl St. (where Sammy’s pizza is located).

“All commercial zones throughout the city, except one, allow residential to be developed with the commercial at 29 dwelling units per acre, by right,” Henegar said. “As we run out of land and values increase, over time property owners may elect to exercise (that right) and include residential” if they meet all of the criteria.

Although DPR member Bob Collins was prepared to make a motion that findings could be made to approve the project, because it was improperly listed on the agenda as a preliminary review it would have required unanimous approval (there were two opposing votes). As such, the applicant will return to the DPR next month.

Before then, community member Ed Comartin and DPR member Angeles Leira suggested Alcorn find further means of breaking up the mass of the building, with the use of increased articulation, colors or building materials.

The Conrad wins third round: La Jolla Music Society (LJMS) and its architectural team returned to the Aug. 18 DPR meeting with additional information on its proposed Fay Avenue performing arts center, The Conrad, garnering its third unanimous vote of approval by a La Jolla advisory group (the project received similar nods this summer from the Planned District Ordinance committee and La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation board).

Although LJMS president and artistic director Christopher Beach told DPR member Mike Costello LJMS hasn’t figured out how much it will charge community groups to use the space two years from now, he said it would be comparable to what the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego charges for use of Sherwood Auditorium (which will be demolished to accommodate MCASD’s gallery expansion). Beach said nonprofit groups would receive a discounted rate to use The Conrad.

DPR member Collins and chair Paul Benton had concerns with the amount of trellis around the perimeter of The Conrad’s central, open courtyard, though Beach said city staff interprets a trellis as being open to the sky.

“It’s a thrilling project (and) innovative design … but I will tell you that you’re really stretching it when you talk about ground coverage to the sky,” Benton said.

Conversely, DPR member Leira noted the project includes a second-story foyer that is open to the outdoors through terra cotta grillage. Such open spaces are requested in the PDO, although they are rarely incorporated, she said.

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