DPR deadlocks on Marengo spa


Claude-Anthony Marengo of Marengo Morton Architects was dealt a no-vote by La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) at its Jan. 16 meeting at the Rec Center. DPR deadlocked, 3-3-1, on separate votes to recommend, and to not recommend, the architect’s spa addition to an existing house at 301 Sea Ridge Drive to the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), resulting in no recommendation.

Marengo accommodated all four requests made by the committee at its previous meeting (Jan. 9), including producing the original 1989 Coastal Development Permit (CDP) to build what was then known as the Spitzer residence. And DPR chair Brian Will was clearly on the applicant’s side, not only voting in favor of the project, but stating of the proposed spa: “They allow three feet, and this applicant is proposing something 18 inches tall.”

However, DPR member Mike Costello objected because he said that just bringing the CDP to the meeting did not give him ample time to study the permit before voting. “I’d like the opportunity to review this at home ... and have one of your architects help,” Costello said. “I’ve previously been told a CDP has said one thing when, in fact, it said another. I do believe we were burned three times last summer, and that’s too many times for me.”

Marengo responded by requesting that a special session be held the following week, giving Costello enough time to study the permit. “I really don’t see anything in the document that’s going to enlighten anybody,” Marengo said. However, a quorum could not be reached for such a meeting.

“To those people who live in Bird Rock, this is not a minor issue,” Costello continued. “This is a major iconic view. Until this house was built in the 1990s, that was a vacant lot, and this view was partly left open. Next, we’re going to see umbrellas out there or shading because people are going to be out there in their bathing suits and feel uncomfortable about that.”

Marengo responded that no obstructions over three feet in height, temporary or permanent, would be allowed by law, to which Costello shot back: “Who enforces it?!”

50-Percent Rule blues

DPR also addressed community objections to the so-called 50-Percent Rule, which allows the owners of homes near the coast seeking a renovation or addition, “categorical exemption” from obtaining a CDP and from participating in the community review process — if the project retains more than 50 percent of the house’s existing walls. The applicant may then obtain an over-the-counter (ministerial) permit, which does not allow the community to review the project and offer feedback.

“It is what it’s always been,” Will said. “We’re revisiting the same subject of dissatisfaction with the 50-Percent Rule. I don’t know the best thing to do with this item, frankly.”

Ultimately, DPR voted 7-0-1 to pass a motion to create a “sub-subcommittee of this subcommittee” to draft a letter to the City attorney and present it to DPR for ratification, with an eye toward potential elimination of the rule.

Hapless Hillside

Finally, DPR heard from Diane Kane, a Hillside area resident seeking a moratorium on the various construction projects along the street, pending a truck study to determine whether the new homes could be built without creating a public hazard — no room for cars or emergency vehicles to pass.

“Hillside will never meet the City standards of a road,” Will told Kane and six other gathered residents. “There isn’t room to ever bring it to City standards, so it’s a bit of a sore spot for the City because they feel the only thing they can do is close it, which they can’t do because none of you could get to your homes.”

Kane expressed optimism, however, noting that she worked as a California Department of Transportation specialist for 20 years. “This is chickenfeed compared to working with Caltrans and the feds,” she said. “I’ll just say, don’t mess with me.”

Hillside Drive homeowner Kianoosh Radsan offered his help via a suggestion that the street’s residents stage a protest by forming a human chain to block construction traffic — and that they do it naked.

“I guarantee all the media would cover our issue then,” Radsan said to loud laughter and some eye rolls.

Instead, Will introduced a motion asking LJCPA to develop a traffic plan, limit the size of trucks, develop a plan to regulate construction activity in the area and draft a letter to the City stating the problems.

It passed unanimously.

— DPR next meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.