DPR approves Liaghat home build (again)


At his sixth and (boy does he hope) final appearance before the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) on Feb. 20, applicant Hamid Liaghat did what he was asked and walked through precisely how he would stage construction for his dream house on a 22,000-square-foot lot directly north and adjacent to 7520 Hillside Drive.

His project was initially approved by DPR and forwarded to the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) for ratification, but the LJCPA felt that the City’s mitigated negative declaration (MND) — a document describing a project’s environmental impacts — was incomplete because it did not address all concerns raised by residents.

At this Rec Center meeting, Liaghat laid out his plans for parking all employee and construction vehicles, and storing all materials on site. He promised that all new sewer-line work would occur on site. And he agreed to have weekly meetings with the neighbors to see if they had any complaints. He honored almost every request made of him by the committee and public except one.

“Is your project manager going to be there every day?” asked neighbor Barbara Majure. “Because if somebody isn’t there, who’s going to police all the people except a few workers who don’t speak English?”

Laighat said hiring a full-time site supervisor was an unnecessary expense when one who splits his or her time among many projects would suffice. “Sometimes, you’ve got only two people there or one guy there,” Liaghat said. “We do our best to comply, but I don’t want to create a rope and you guys hang me later. Please do not ask me to do something that nobody has asked.”

As a concession to Liaghat’s myriad concessions, DPR chair Brian Will cut off public comment and agreed to accept the engineer’s proposal that he act as his own site’s supervisor. Since he’s currently living only a five-minute drive from the proposed construction site, Liaghat agreed to give his cell number out to every one of his neighbors who could possibly be affected by a construction issue, which the committee agreed was adequate.

DPR trustee Mike Costello, echoing the committee’s opinion, said he believed Liaghat was a good man who would honor all his promises, but that it would also be helpful to have those promises in writing. However, Will did not want to impose them as conditions on DPR’s recommendation to LJCPA. Instead, he had Liaghat spell his promises out, in marker, on his exhibits in front of the group.

After Liaghat bent over to do that, literally and figuratively, DPR unanimously voted to send its approval onto the LJCPA. This was followed by loud applause from the committee.

“Holy moly, that was a workout!” Will said.

Amplifying the sense of relief, Hillside Drive citizen activist Diane Kane — Liaghat’s biggest opponent on the committee — indicated her approval of the applicant’s mitigations by hugging him. “I think he has proven that he can handle it,” she said.

However, Kane also said there was still a problem not being addressed by the City: the cumulative impact from all Hillside construction projects — the ones that have already occurred, the ones that are in process and the ones coming down the pike. Kane noted that Liaghat’s solution still doesn’t address the condition of repair of the road — because he will still need to use concrete trucks and other heavy equipment — nor does it address added rainwater runoff from projects that cover soil, which is porous, with concrete, which is not.

Will faced a dilemma of how to send a message to the City that cumulative impacts are real and that there is a real problem with them, while also rewarding Liaghat for bending over so far backwards to please DPR and his neighbors. So he proposed a second motion charging Kane with drafting a letter, from DPR, asking the LJCPA to tell the City it can do a much better job in its California Environmental Quality Act review by looking at cumulative impacts to infrastructure, while also acknowledging Liaghat for creating his own mitigations “that should have been in the MND and should be in all projects’ MNDs.”

At first, Costello opposed such a letter. “It’s just going to be one more reason why they ignore us downtown,” he said. “I believe in the cumulative impacts. This is unacceptable. But how can you ring a different bell rather than the MND?”

Will replied: “I don’t know how this is going to go over at LJCPA, but I think we ought to send it to them and have a bigger discussion.”

After more deliberating, the motion also passed unanimously.

In less dramatic DPR news…

A preliminary review was held for a summary street vacation of .469 acres of land owned by the City at Fay Avenue and West Muirlands Drive across from La Jolla High School. (Vacation is the first step the City must take before designating any property it owns for another use.)

The parcel was originally acquired for a realignment of Fay Avenue back in the late 1950s or early ’60s. When that project was completed, some land was left over that was originally designated as eight parcels.

City property agent Dena Boylan and City asset manager Mary Carlson, who made the joint presentation, said that the land — on which a vacant duplex currently stands “in poor condition” — was already offered to outside agencies, including the San Diego Unified School District, and generated no offers.

Boylan and Carlson said the City is looking to sell or possibly lease it, and seems to have in mind selling it to the homeowners of a house adjacent to the property.

During committee deliberations, concerns were raised about what its future use would be. “I don’t want to let go of any City property unless a specific project will do so much good for the community that I cannot resist it,” said committee member Angeles Leira.

Following the presentation, Boylan and Carlson were asked to investigate options to maintain the land as City property and develop or preserve it for a future park or other public use, and to produce a site context map including bike lines and parking.

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