It was complaining-room only at the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) meeting on April 17 at the Rec Center, where angry neighbors outnumbered committee members two-to-one and not one of three Coastal Development Permit (CDP) applications was approved.
A clear winner emerged in this unpopularity contest: a 2,686-square-foot, three-bedroom spec house with a carport that architect Tim Golba proposed to build on a 0.1-acre lot at 5543 Waverly Ave. Four individual neighbors showed up to voice their outrage.
“You’re acting like this small lot came from God or something!” noted neighbor David Little. “It didn’t. It was split that way.”Neighbor Chris Dommers introduced a litany of complaints including being observed by occupants of the proposed house looking down from their roof deck.
“I have 33 windows facing that, so I’ll do my best to keep fully dressed,” he said.
But the biggest bone of contention, by far, was the carport, since they are not included in calculating floor-to-area ratio (FAR).
Dommers called carports “impossible to exist in our neighborhood,” because they all eventually get converted into garages by unhappy homeowners. And, before their inevitable illegal conversion, he said, any bicycles or surfboards normally stored in a garage will end up outside, looking unsightly and inviting thieves to hop the fence.
“I expect the lot to be developed,” Dommers said, “but I invite something that comports with the spirit of the neighborhood and respects it.”
At the March 13 meeting, Golba was asked by the committee to swap the carport for a garage and shave 400 feet off the house to reduce the FAR. He ignored every component of that request, instead knocking two walls off the carport and re-introducing it as open on all sides.
Golba was also asked to show the committee other carports in this neighborhood. He ignored that request, too (because there are none, he was forced to admit).
“I’m convincing myself slowly that carports have no place in our present society,” said DPR member Angeles Liera. “It’s really pushing the boundaries.”
Committee member Elizabeth Gaenzle told Golba that he has simply “designed a house that’s too big for the lot.”
“This is a three-bedroom house,” she added. “There are dozens and dozens of three-bedroom houses in Bird Rock that are under 2,000 square feet. I live in one. So it’s not impossible, and I’m sure you could design it if you wanted to.”
Gaenzle noted that the house has an FAR of 5.9, “the highest on its block by far.” (Golba’s response? “I wouldn’t consider it the biggest house on the block, even though mathematically it is.”)
Having done nothing that was asked of him, it can hardly have come as a surprise to Golba when a motion to deny the CDP was introduced by Gaenzle. (A motion to deny, as opposed to one to approve, is never a good sign.)
The vote was 5-2 against the CDP.
More privacy complaints
A neighbor complaint also influenced DPR to send a second scheduled final review back to the architectural drawing board.
Elizabeth Carmichael presented her plans to demolish an existing single-dwelling unit and construct two new 4,859-square-foot, two-story units at 623 Colima St. But neighbor Marc Cleavinger, who said he was unaware of the March 21 meeting on the project, offered an unconventionally aggressive objection — asking to stand at the front of the room and use the presenter’s materials to point out his problems.
“I don’t mean to be critical,” Cleavinger said before going on to raise six problems, the chief being privacy due to the home’s elevation.
“What this developer’s trying to do is grab an elevation in the corner, which is higher,” Cleavinger told committee members. “Not only is it too high now, it’s going to be six inches higher. I’m already two feet below already. They’re going to raise it another six inches, and I have a real concern that this house is going to peek into my living space.”
The fact that they were debating elevation issues seemed ironic since Cleavinger towered over Carmichael and at times used body language that seemed to physically intimidate her. Cleavinger held the floor for 15 minutes before DPR chair Brian Will interrupted him.
“Our specific purpose is to make sure houses suit the needs of the community and not your particular privacy concerns,” Will said, to which Cleavinger replied: “You guys, your disadvantage is you don’t see my house relative to this one.”
Will asked if Carmichael could convince her client to provide a replacement fence that is at least 6’6” higher than the existing fence.
“I don’t want a fence!” Cleavinger replied. “How about we keep the elevation at existing?” He added: “Build your houses, make your money and move on, but respect my privacy.”
Gaenzle asked Carmichael to get rid of an overlooking window, “just to be nice.”
“It’s a spec house,” she said. “I don’t think those people would like to watch him in his Jacuzzi.”
Will urged Carmichael to ditch the window and bring deliverables to the next meeting including accurate elevation diagrams of at least two adjacent homes.
“Immediate neighbor issues end up being the most important,” DPR member Mike Costello told Carmichael. “Please try and see the impact on neighbors.”
La Jolla urban now
Also at DPR, Michael Morton of Marengo Morton Architects presented for a CDP to remodel a 1,005-square-foot, two-story detached single family residence at 622 Palomar Ave. Specifically, he said his client needs to demolish a retaining wall and remove landscaping to create two additional tandem parking spots on his property.
Morton explained that the City recently discovered that the 1990 CDP on the property was not adhered to, since two designated driveway parking spots forced vehicles to jut into the sidewalk. In exchange for correcting the problem, they’re allowing the conversion of a 488-square-foot detached office space on the second floor into a studio apartment with no parking requirement. (Presumably, the living space is already being used for this purpose.)
“The companion unit was designed to create affordable housing,” Morton said. “There are multiple units in this area. Every square block is full of cars. Like most of the area east of Pearl, south all the way to Bird Rock, it’s multi-family, small-street, full-of-cars, high-density housing. Unfortunately, we have to remove their beautiful landscaping in order to get cars on their lot.“It may not be pretty, but it works,” Morton explained. “Like it or not, you’re living in an urban beach community now … and I’m sure you’re going to be seeing more companion units in the future.”
DPR was just one vote short of fast-tracking the motion: Costello’s. He said he wanted neighbors to be alerted of the hearing. He also mentioned his disdain over the City’s new ordinance that allows for parking spaces to be placed anywhere on someone’s property.
“I’m not blaming you for the ordinance,” Costello told Morton, “but I hope Barbra Bry is reading the story that gets written about this. This could turn La Jolla into a slum. This is how you seriously degrade neighborhoods.”