Su Casa demolition, redevelopment proposal heard

A proposal to demolish Su Casa Restaurant on La Jolla Boulevard, along with the apartment complex that sits on the same property but at 350 Play Del Sur (both owned by Su Casa Properties), and replace them with three buildings that include a mixed-use development and two residential buildings, has been introduced to local planners.

At its Nov. 17 meeting, the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) heard an initial presentation on the proposal from project representative Claude-Anthony Marengo, a principal with Marengo Morton Architects. The property owners are proposing that the restaurant and 16-unit apartment building come down, in favor of a two-story mixed-use building, a new two-story residential building and another three-story residential building with an underground parking garage.

Marengo detailed for DPR committee members how the proposed development is envisioned for the half-acre property, which occupies a meandering space between Playa Del Norte and Playa Del Sur streets.

The proposed development would add 3,000 square feet of retail space and 16 condominiums in lieu of the existing apartments. Marengo also explained how he and owners of the property are requesting some exchanges in property lines, to allow for the project to bring adequate parking while meeting requirements of the city’s curb-to-property line standards.

Construction of the proposed 15,312-square foot underground parking garage would be achieved through that desired public right-of-way vacation, he said. “In a very serpentine lot, this exchange will also allow us … to achieve a garage (underground),” Marengo said.

Noting a few potential improvements to the proposal, DPR committee members generally reacted well to Marengo’s presentation, but not without a few concerns. Among them was the configuration of the proposal in relation to La Jolla Boulevard. Members noted an already present problem of drivers traveling too fast around the curve in the road there, and some worried the location of the parking garage entrance as proposed could be hazardous.

“That portion of La Jolla Boulevard is right before the Nautilus/La Jolla Boulevard traffic light,” DPR member Angeles Leira said. “Going south, people just jump on the accelerator. The speeds in that particular area are very high, so I’m more concerned about the people who are going to go into the driveway, because they have to really slow down.” She said she’d be surprised if the city permits the driveway in the proposed location.

Committee member Diane Kane complimented the design, but asked Marengo if the addition of vertical elements in the development would be possible, to break up what some members of the public perceived as the appearance of a strip mall despite the proposal’s three separate buildings. “It’s very clean, and it’s low,” Kane said. “Most of the complaints we tend to get here are that stuff’s too massive. I think this is taking that perspective into account.”

Noting that she doesn’t wish the vertical elements to make the development taller, Kane said such additions within the existing plans for the building heights could provide the perceived relief desired to make each of the buildings more distinguishable on its own.

Marengo appeared accepting of the idea.

According to Jim McInerney of La Jolla-based Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty, the proposed project’s property is currently in escrow, with Michael Blumenthal, developer of WindanSea’s One Neptune Place, listed as the potential buyer. McInerney said he sees the proposed development as a potential win for the neighborhood, for both retail opportunities and potential tenants.

“That corner is a perfect corner for some new products in La Jolla,” McInerney said. “You’ll be within walking distance of WindanSea Beach and the Village. With the success that’s happened with the One Neptune project, I think this is going to be a good alternative for pricing. I think the market will absorb it.”

The matter was determined to need further DPR review, with no date set for the next hearing.