Permitters OK Su Casa project: Proposed condo complex at restaurant site now up to La Jolla planners

Despite concerns over potential traffic issues, the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) at its Dec. 15 meeting approved plans to demolish the Su Casa restaurant and adjacent apartment complex at 6738 La Jolla Blvd. and 350 Playa Del Sur and replace them with a two-story 7,875 square-foot mixed-use building, a 3,820 square-foot, two-story residential building, and a 3,086 square-foot three-story residential building with a 15,312 square-foot underground parking garage.

After much discussion, the board determined findings could be made for the project’s public right-of-way vacation, Site Development Permit, and Coastal Development Permits — with the recommendation the applicant, Claude Anthony Marengo, present his plans to La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation (T&T) advisory board and continue to explore traffic calming measures and other traffic engineering issues with city staff.

Marengo was on hand to address the concerns raised during previous DPR reviews of the project, including the transition of the garage area to the sidewalk and street, building material samples, relationship to other buildings in terms of height and floor-area ratio, and more. However, between the last review and its most recent review, Marengo added to the plans a possible deceleration and acceleration lane on La Jolla Boulevard, so a vehicle could safely get in and out of the parking garage, and into and out of the flow of traffic.

This opened the door for discussion on other traffic issues, including traffic calming to deter drivers from going too fast on the boulevard, visibility from the garage, the possibility of a roundabout and more. Specifically, the board requested the applicant minimize traffic impacts on La Jolla Boulevard as related to the underground parking garage.

Acting DPR chair Mike Costello noted, “This project itself is a nice project, but we are hung up on the cars entering from La Jolla Boulevard … and we feel this could have significant impacts on other aspects of the boulevard and we have to do something about that.” He suggested a roundabout near the intersection of La Jolla Boulevard and Playa Del Sur.

Added DPR member Diane Kane, “The applicant has addressed all the issues we’re concerned about, and there is only so much he can do (about traffic calming), but I think we can let the city know something needs to be done there. This project brought to our attention that there is an issue here, but it’s a bigger one than we can solve right now.”

Marengo explained that when his plans were presented to city engineers, there were no traffic calming measures in place and the engineers did not suggest any. Marengo also said it was not a project requirement that he present the plans to La Jolla’s T&T board. He said doing so would add time to the venture and would not necessarily yield a solution a traffic engineer would approve. “I’d rather hear directly from a traffic engineer to get a response that’s going to be the right response to address these concerns,” he said.

Marengo did not present to T&T during its December meeting, as they met the day after DPR, and there was not enough time to get on the item on the T&T agenda.

The project will next go to La Jolla Community Planning Association (CPA). Marengo told La Jolla Light he would speak with a city traffic engineer, and ask them to issue a formal opinion on the most appropriate traffic calming measure for this project, if any. Marengo will include the traffic engineer’s recommendation in his planned presentation at the 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7 CPA meeting at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

Eads Duplex Condo project OK’d: A proposal to demolish an existing residence and construct two detached residential condominiums in its place at 7363 Eads Ave. was approved. The project, which would include a front and rear housing units between Eads Avenue and Bishop’s Lane, drew a tight vote mainly on some criticism for its inclusion of basements.

The proposed front unit would be 2,678 square feet, including its garage but excluding its basement. The rear unit would be 2,572 square feet, also including the garage and excluding the basement.

Committee member Kane, one of two votes against findings that the project conformed to the La Jolla Community Plan, was vocal in her concern that the proposed basement could eventually be used as a living space.

“The front unit fits in nicely with the streetscape,” Kane said, “and the rear unit seems to be comporting with what’s going on in the alley, but I’m really having a hard time with your lower living floor. I don’t like people living underground like rats … it’s a very bad precedent. I would not like to encourage it.”

DPR committee members voted to recommend the project on the basis that they may only vote on what the developers propose, not what could happen on the property in the future.

Vista Del Mar project OK’d: DPR voted to approve the Vista Del Mar residential project, a plan to demolish two existing residential units and construct two new units totaling 3,933 square feet at 6651 and 6653 Vista Del Mar Ave. That breaks down to a 2,770 square-foot front unit and 1,160 square-foot rear unit and five parking spaces.

After meeting with concerned neighbors, chiefly Suzanne Figi, planners scaled down the project and reconfigured it, using landscaping and height adjustments to preserve views and appease surrounding homeowners.

“The original plan was to build the property at 29 feet, 6 inches, but we basically took a three level house and made it a two level house with a roof deck,” said permit applicant Scott Spencer. “The net result is we lowered the structure height by about six feet, but kept the same square footage.”

Figi, in attendance at the meeting, said, although she wasn’t “ecstatic” about the project, “there has been a concerted effort in trying to save part of my view.” The board determined that findings could be made for a coastal development permit.

These projects will be addressed at La Jolla Community Planning Association’s next meeting (unless pulled and therefore postponed) 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. DPR meets twice a month, 4 p.m. second and third Tuesdays, also at the Rec Center.

James Palen contributed to this report