Companion unit rules explored at DPR meeting

Brian Will will chair the La Jolla Development Permit Review (DPR) committee for another year. Will, who took over from former chair Mike Costello last year, was elected unanimously by the six DPR trustees attending the community group’s April 16 meeting at the La Jolla Rec Center. (The chair only votes to break ties.)

Companion units unpacked

During a preliminary review of a 540-square-foot companion unit at 441 Palomar Ave., a discussion ensued among the trustees that was more like a primer in the new categories of similar structures and the regulations governing them.

“So many people are looking for this sort of thing right now,” said applicant’s rep Bryn Young. “I have a lot of people interested in a companion unit, but a lot of people in La Jolla get a little scared when I tell them they have to obtain a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for a companion unit, so they end up with guest quarters.”

Guest houses cannot be rented out, do not require a CDP and have size limitations on what goes in the kitchen, Will explained. Also, guest houses don’t require any parking unless they are in a campus overlay zone and have five bedrooms or more, while companion units require a parking space unless they’re in transit-overlay zones.

In addition, companion units may be built to a maximum of 1,200 square feet or be attached to the existing dwelling unit. (In the latter case, they may only be 50 percent of what’s existing, whereas a guest house may be 25 percent of the allowable floor-area ratio.)

The other benefit of companion units, Will explained, is that habitable structures may now be fit inside side or rear setbacks. In the past, non-habitable structures under 525 square feet couldn’t be habitable. Now, they can be — although they would require a fire rating.

Before offering Young a list of deliverable items to bring back to DPR’s next meeting, Will offered her a nugget of information to take back to her clients that could affect their willingness to proceed. Recently, Will said, someone at the San Diego Development Services Department (DSD) told him that “some people were shocked at their tax bill after they did this.”

The issue was not the added square footage, but the companion unit’s potential for rent generation.

“It had a drastic effect they did not anticipate,” Will said, “so DSD was telling me that they had people undoing companion units because, just like your client, they just thought, ‘Let’s just do it because they can,’ but they weren’t actually counting on the additional revenue.”

Will asked Young to “just double-check” with her clients before singing on the dotted line.

“I’m just going to take notes,” she replied.

Young said she intends to return to DPR with, as instructed, a site plan with parking notated, a landscape plan, an aerial view of the site and a proposed travel path to the backyard.

In other DPR news

Will said that DPR now has “at least one vacancy and possibly two” to vote on during a meeting in the near future. One was left by Pancho Dewhurst, appointed from the La Jolla Community Planning Association, who has not attended a DPR meeting in several months. Also, the seat occupied by Lawrence Zynda of Town Council appears to be vacant as well.— The La Jolla Development Permit Review committee next meets 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 at the La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

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