Two radically different approaches to presenting projects were employed at the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) meeting Jan. 9 at the Rec Center. In one, criticisms from the committee were accepted and addressed, resulting in a unanimous recommendation for architect Eduardo Frischwasser to build a 6,444-square-foot, two-story mansion at 7247 Fairway Road.
In the other, presenter Claude-Anthony Marengo of Marengo Morton Architects, verbally sparred with committee members during an initial permit review to add a spa, fire pit, site walls, fences, walkways and equipment enclosure to a house at 301 Sea Ridge Drive built in 1991.
“I think it’s a good design for that site, and a good use of that topography,” DPR member Mike Costello told Frischwasser, who adjusted retaining wall heights, softened the facade of a pool wall visible from the street and displayed a streetscape comparison with neighboring houses.
The committee voted 6-0-2 to forward the project to the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s (LJCPA) consent agenda.
But Costello had issues with the mechanical room Marengo wants to build inside a retaining wall, and noted that it’s within a 25-foot setback and would be nonconforming if torn down. “So get the City to say something about that,” Costello said, asking to see the original Coastal Development Permit from 1989. “Tell me why it’s allowed.”
Marengo, who was suffering visibly from the effects of either a cold or the flu, used angry words but never lost his temper. He calmly argued: “That structure exists. The walls are existing and we’re modifying the walls to allow for a hole for the equipment room.
“I don’t understand why I’m being held to a higher standard than everyone else ... I’m just not happy with overreach, and I will bring it up to the City because I’m tired of it.”
Committee member Elizabeth Gaenzle pointed out that, on the Abbott Residence project (a second-story addition to 6340 Camino de la Costa that was approved by both DPR and LJCPA last year) “we brought up issues that the City didn’t see.”
Marengo replied: “But you guys aren’t the only level. That’s why there’s 14 reviews on this thing. If you guys were that good, then I would be going, ‘Wow, OK,’ but it’s not really that. So let’s stay to the agenda.”
Costello replied: “Simply passing projects isn’t our agenda. We try to identify things in the Community Plan and the Municipal Code. If we didn’t bring up the fact that the garages were in the setback (on the Abbott project), the City probably never would have.”
Marengo continued his soft-spoken tirade, laughing as he said: “I don’t get this. It’s Community Planning. You’re not doing codecompliance ... You’re not the Gestapo agency, you’re not the Municipal Code agency. Let’s be real.”
DPR chair Brian Will stepped in, pointing out that Marengo is technically correct but that DPR reviews many Municipal Code items, including FAR (Floor Area Ratio), height and Prop D compliance. Will attempted to conclude the review by asking Marengo to explain the equipment room in the bluff setback, but the back-and-forth continued.
Costello said: “It’s just a request. He can reject the request, but the request is there. It’s not an order. It’s a request and if this goes to the hearing officer, then it’ll end up getting serious.”
Marengo responded: “That’s just close to a threat,” to which Costello said, “No, it’s a process.”