Planning group denies Kolmar Street development in La Jolla


Municipal Code issues, the potential creation of a garage, and the lack of perceived conformance to community character fueled the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s (LJCPA) decision to deny a project to build two houses on the 200 block of Kolmar Street near WindanSea. The discussion took place at the board’s July 6 meeting at La Jolla Rec Center.

Architect applicant Daniel Linn explained that the property currently consists of two legal lots of approximately 2,500 square feet each on which one house is built. He requested Coastal Development Permits to demolish the existing house and build two single-family detached houses with “parking structures” of carports, at 253 and 257 Kolmar St. The houses would have three-bedrooms, two-and-half bathrooms, and be two stories tall with a small third level room that Linn said could be a home office, art studio or play room for children. The architect said he had carried out similar projects in Pacific Beach.

Linn said the third story element is a 12 foot by 15 foot space set “way back” from the front of the house, accessed by an exterior stair off the back deck, “virtually invisible” from the street.

The project was previously heard at La Jolla’s Development Permit Review committee (DPR), whose members narrowly voted not to support the project.

In reviewing the DPR board’s comments, LJCPA trustee Dolores Donovan noted a neighbor spoke in favor of the project because the current house is “an eyesore and should be done away with.” But Donovan said the committee had concerns about the carport potentially being enclosed (effectively becoming a garage) and whether the houses are consistent with those in the neighborhood.

Adding to the discussion, DPR trustee and LJCPA meeting attendee Diane Kane questioned whether a certain Municipal Code section, which addresses when parcels should be merged, applied to this project. She read, “Any parcel or unit of land that does not conform to standards for minimum parcel size under the applicable zone shall be merged with a contiguous parcel or unit of land held by the same owner.” At just under 2,500 feet each, Kane opined that the lots are “very small” and “the City has to merge them. Why the City hasn’t done so, I don’t know.”

By way of an explanation, Linn implied the City has simply not enforced the regulation. “For some reason, and I do not know that reason, that process stopped and there hasn’t been a push to do what you’re saying. I’ve been through dozens of these two-lot projects and no one has ever said, ‘you can’t do that.’ It’s never happened,” he said. “I didn’t write (the Code) and I’m happy they are not enforcing it.”

Addressing the “parking structure,” accessed by the nearby alley, DPR and LJCPA trustee Brian Will said when heard at DPR, “We all appreciated the architecture … but we all had concerns with the carport.” The carports have a door that faces the alley and two open sides. If a property owner were to board up the remaining two sides, the house would essentially have a garage, which would need to be included in the property’s Floor Area Ratio (FAR). A house with such FAR would be too large for the area, some opined.

Further, LJCPA trustee Janie Emerson predicted one if not both units would enclose the carport. “The residents don’t have a clue that they need to get a permit, so they are just going to do it and no one is going to call Neighborhood Code Compliance,” she said.

However, Linn said an approval for his project should not be contingent on a hypothetical scenario. “To assume the person who buys this house encloses the garage without going through the proper permit process, which in theory they would have to try to do, you would be insulting the buyers as being dishonest. If someone decides they want to be sneaky, it’s not my, nor the developer’s, fault,” he said.

But he said he would be willing to put in the deed that if the applicant wants to enclose the parking structure, they would have to go through the City.

Noted Will, “I don’t think it’s our job to do code compliance for what an owner might do down the road.”

Lastly, in discussing neighborhood continuity, DPR trustee and LJCPA meeting attendee Beth Gaentzle said the proposed design “doesn’t fit the character of the houses in the neighborhood.” She added, “(Linn) mentioned that he does this all the time in Pacific Beach, is that what we want this area to look like? Like Pacific Beach?”

Hearing all this, LJCPA trustee Mike Costello said, “We have a Municipal Code problem that we can’t ignore” and he made a motion to deny the project based on Code questions, the lack of community character continuation (as required by La Jolla Community Plan) by way of the narrow side yards; the houses’ tall, thin appearance; and failure to transition from newer to older styles of structure. The motion passed 8-7-1.

—La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.