La Jolla planners debate, deny Rutgers Road street vacation

LJCPA trustees Mike Costello and David Little comment on the proposed Rutgers Road street vacation.
(Ashley Mackin)

After making the rounds at La Jolla and Pacific Beach planning groups, a proposed street vacation project made one last stop — and caused a stir — at the Jan. 5 La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) meeting, before it will be presented to the San Diego City Council at a date to be determined.

The LJCPA board debated the merits of preserving the property that straddles the La Jolla and Pacific Beach border as open space, versus granting a street vacation, before voting to deny the request for the street vacation.

The steep, hilly 0.129-acre (5,600 square feet) undeveloped property sits at the northeast corner of the intersection of Cass Street and Van Nuys Street. Other surrounding properties are privately owned, but also undeveloped.

The City purchased the property in the 1950s to extend Rutgers Road, but having never done so, decided to vacate the street and sell the property on the public market. The Pacific Beach Planning Group approved the street vacation in September by a vote of 8-3-1. La Jolla’s Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) approved the vacation, 5-0-1, and La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group also approved the street vacation, 16-2-1.

City of San Diego property agent Dena Boylan and City asset manager Mary Carlson spoke before the LJCPA and explained the property has been routed to different City departments, including the Department of Park & Rec, and none expressed interest in retaining it.

“The City was contacted several years ago by one of the neighbors who was interested in buying the property,” Carlson said, “and then I contacted another neighbor and they were also interested, so we had two potential buyers, and that was what prompted the street vacation.” At previous presentations, the possibility of a house being built on that property was posed, but could not be addressed. “We haven’t gotten that far. Right now the first step is to vacate the street, then put the property up on the market and see who is interested,” Carlson said. Boylan added that should the property be developed, it will be considered one legal lot, so “only one, single-family residence could be put there, at a maximum floor area of 3,317 square feet.”

City asset manager Mary Carlson and City of San Diego property agent Dena Boylan.
City asset manager Mary Carlson and City of San Diego property agent Dena Boylan.
(Ashley Mackin )

LJCPA trustee Phil Merten, who pulled the item from last month’s consent agenda, said he opposed the street vacation in favor of preserving the parcel as undeveloped open space.

“I don’t remember a time when this committee agreed to let these pieces of public property, particularly of open space, just go. I think these hillsides have value as they are, as undeveloped open space. … When I went up the hill, I was blown away by the view and (the plant life, including) barrel cactus,” he said. “Our community plan calls for the preservation of open space and in following the intent of our community plan, we shouldn’t be on the side of letting these spaces go. It’s a pretty special place. This undeveloped piece of open space should remain just that and not be sold away for another house. We just don’t need another house in the neighborhood.”

Agreeing, trustee Mike Costello said, “I was astonished that no (department) had any interest to preserve this as open space. Once you put a house on there, you lose it forever. This is the last chance to keep this little space open. I’d like to see the City keep this open.”

Disagreeing, trustee Tom Brady said, “The lot could be worth $500,000 and … the City needs the money. As much as I value open space, there was no interest expressed in converting that into a park, and at the Parks & Beaches meeting, the vote was 16-2 to support the street vacation.”

Proceeds from the sale would go to the City’s General Fund, Carlson said.

Patrick Ahern, a self-admitted “tree hugger,” said he spoke to residents nearby and they said they don’t want a park for people or dogs. “I also feel the deal is probably going to happen (no matter what we decide). If the street gets vacated, we could lobby later to keep it as open space, but we can’t do anything until the street is vacated.”

Merten made a motion to reject the DPR findings and deny the request for a street vacation, for the purpose of preserving the parcel as undeveloped scenic hillside. The vote was 7-7-1, with the chair abstaining. To break the tie, acting chair Helen Boyden voted to support the motion, bringing the total to 8-7-0.

In other LJCPA news:

Utility Pipeline projects to resume: Spokesperson Vic Salazar said two pipeline replacement projects were on the way: the La Jolla Scenic Drive pipeline project in the Country Club/Muirlands area and Group Job 820 in the Park Row area.

The La Jolla Scenic Pipeline project would largely affect Fairway Road, La Jolla Rancho Road, La Jolla Scenic Drive South and others, and is “90 percent designed and going to replace four miles of aging water pipeline in La Jolla and a quarter mile of sewer line,” Salazar said. The project is slated to begin in spring 2017 and take about a year. The budget for this project is $9.84 million. Upon completion, the impacted streets would be resurfaced.

In the Park Row area, Group Job 820 will replace, rehabilitate and install approximately 12,045 linear feet of eight-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch to 15-inch sewer main; and relocate or replace approximately 1,364 linear feet of 12-inch to 16-inch water main. The project also includes replacement of sewer laterals, water valves, water services, curb ramps and street resurfacing on impacted streets.

The project paused for the holiday moratorium, and should be complete by March. Find more information about these projects at

Jain Residence approved: A brief presentation took place about the Jain Residence on at 1421 Soledad Ave., to clarify a height issue, after it was pulled from last month’s consent agenda. The project calls for the demolition of an existing 1,878 square-foot residence and attached garage on a 7,647 square-foot lot, and construction of a new 3,225 square-foot two-story residence over 778 square-foot walk out basement and 563 square-foot two-car garage. La Jolla DPR’s committee determined findings can be made for the requested permits.

The item was pulled by trustee David Little, who said he had questions about the height.

Applicant Tim Golba explained the height fluctuates to accommodate unusual parcel layout and steep surrounding streets and hillside. “We’ve brought in a new access that comes in flat and enters a subterranean garage and basement. Then we built a two-story house above that. We set the house back so the homeowners have a usable front yard. You have a fully enclosed basement and then a two story house above that ... and a small roof deck on top of that.”

Including the roof deck rail, the total height of the house is 28 feet, but the bulk of the house is 22 feet tall.

A motion to ratify the findings of DPR passed 14-0-1.

La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.