HEIGHTENING THE STAKES: Under SB 330, City Council can overturn 30-foot height limit

According to Senate Bill 330 the height of La Jolla's skyline — limited to 30 feet since 1972 — could rise higher in increments of individual construction projects voted exempt from Prop D by City Council.
According to Senate Bill 330 the height of La Jolla’s skyline — limited to 30 feet since 1972 — could rise higher in increments of individual construction projects voted exempt from Prop D by City Council.

If Senate Bill (SB) 330 is passed in its current form, keeping La Jolla’s coastline from scraping the sky will be up to the San Diego City Council and no longer to the voters (not directly, anyway).

A provision not clearly stated in the bill gives either the San Diego City Council or the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors (whichever has jurisdiction) the sole power to overturn Prop D’s 30-foot coastal height restriction — established by public vote in 1972 — on a project-by-project basis.

The Light learned of the provision during an update given by Mathew Gordon, representative for Assembly member Todd Gloria, at the May 7 Bird Rock Community Council (BRCC) meeting. The latest version of the bill — — makes no mention of city councils or boards of supervisors. What it does say, under Sec. 13, is that any requirement for a public vote to overturn Prop D is “hereby declared against public policy and void.”

Therefore, overturning Prop D height limits would be a matter for city councils or boards of supervisors to decide case-by-case, explained Robert Gammon, communications director for State Senator Nancy Skinner (Democrat, representing the East Bay), who introduced the bill in February.

Sources behind the scene tell the Light that the thinking behind outlawing a direct public vote is to expedite the process of getting height-limit exemptions passed.

When asked to comment on the City Council’s potential new charge, District 1 Council member Barbara Bry said: “I’m opposed to any legislation that tampers with the 30-foot coastal height limit that was approved by the voters of San Diego.”

Many have misinterpreted SB 330 as overturning that limit. (Realtor and community volunteer James LaMattery gave a presentation at the May 9 La Jolla Town Council meeting stating exactly this.) Gammon admitted that the language of the bill caused enough concern and confusion to justify adding another amendment to clarify that “this section shall not be construed to void a height limit … established by the electorate of an affected county or an affected city on or before Jan. 1, 2018.”

SB 330 has already passed the Senate Housing Committee (8-2), as well as the Senate Governance and Finance Committee (6-0). As the Light went to press on Tuesday, May 14, it was scheduled to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee. (If it passes there, it will go to the Senate floor later this month.)

While addressing the BRCC, Gordon explained that SB 330 could potentially shed this or any other provision by the time the full Senate votes — and that it will be subject to additional editing when it gets vetted by the Assembly.

“We don’t know which way the wind is going to blow on it,” Gordon said. “That’s why Assembly member Gloria has not provided a position on it yet — other than he’s wary of overturning the will of the voters outright, since (the 30-foot height limit) is what San Diegans voted for.”

SB 330, dubbed the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, would suspend “specific local rules and regulations that are recognized as obstacles to housing production,” according to an initial statement from Skinner.

In other Bird Rock Council news…

  • Rebuttal dispensed: Audrey Gans, human resources director of Sorrento Valley’s Torrey Holistics cannabis dispensary, provided a rebuttal to the presentation made by Bird Rock resident Laura Bertagnolli at the March 5 BRCC meeting, during which she complained about the marijuana billboards lining Turquoise Street — Torrey Holistics’ in particular — being seen by young children on their way to and from school. (The story, which appeared on the front page of the March 15 Light, also ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune.)
    “I can’t defend the billboards, because I am getting very tired of looking at them as well,” Gans said, attempting to break the ice. Then she explained: “I grew up with the egg and the frying pan and the teacher saying ‘Just say no.’ Obviously, I have come a long way and I have learned the science of this plant — and I am very passionate about changing minds.”
    However, neither Bertagnolli nor two other residents who complained about the billboards on March 5 were present, so Gans provided her contact information for anyone who had a question, then relinquished the floor.
  • Refuge island correction: A conceptual diagram provided by the City of the refuge island to replace the southbound left-turn lane on La Jolla Boulevard at Mira Monte — published in the April 10 La Jolla Light — was preliminary and contained inaccuracies. An updated diagram, published below, shows a smaller island shifted 20 feet further south. (A resident concerned about her access being jeopardized expressed her concern to BRCC after seeing the original diagram in the Light.) Construction should begin shortly, Council member Barbara Bry’s representative, Mauricio Medina, told the BRCC.
In this updated City diagram of the traffic refuge island (Figure 5) to be built on La Jolla Boulevard at Mira Monte, the island appears much smaller.

  • Roundabout roundup: All five La Jolla Boulevard roundabouts were recently repaved to correct the job done last May, said BRCC secretary Barbara Dunbar. The roundabouts are expected to be re-striped by mid-May … BRCC has reported the pedestrian-crossing signal pole missing from the La Jolla Boulevard pedestrian crossing just north of Camino de la Costa and expects the problem to be fixed soon. The pole was taken out during a February 4 hit-and-run accident, and the situation is dangerous for people trying to cross there … Dunbar described the results of the latest three-hour inspection of the Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) as “overall good” despite damage caused by hit-and-runs, vandals and cars and pedestrians traveling through the roundabouts instead of around them.
  • Bird Rock Visioning: will take place 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wed., June 12, tentatively at the Masonic Lodge, 5655 La Jolla Blvd. Architect/coordinator Trace Wilson described it as “getting in one room to brainstorm what we think the issues are and to identify what we want Bird Rock to look like in 20 or 30 years.” Lunch will be served.
  • Parade theme: This years Bird Rock 4th of July Parade, sponsored by the Murfey Company, will have a Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” theme. To contribute to defraying Murfey’s costs,

— Bird Rock Community Council next meets 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 at Bird Rock Elementary School, 5371 La Jolla Hermosa Ave.