La Jolla permitters review early concepts of new residential, commercial development planned for Prospect St.

During the Feb. 21 meeting of the La Jolla Development Permit Review committee (DPR), board members heard a “courtesy” presentation from project applicant Chris McKellar, about an upcoming application for a 21,997-square-foot mixed use development at 850 Prospect St. The presentation didn’t require a board decision or vote, but provided the chance for board input on the forthcoming application to develop the building.

“We encourage people to come here before they go to all the trouble downtown, through the permitting process, spend a great deal of money and find out that the PDO (Planned District Ordinance) does not allow something, or we would rather see this than that,” said acting DPR chair Mike Costello.

McKellar replied, “We’re happy and pleased that you allowed us to present our plans before we make the application to the City of San Diego, which we will do, provided your input. Unless there’s a major redesign, we will go ahead and do the formal application.”

He explained that the project calls for a two-story development featuring 4,442 square feet for retail and the remaining 17,555 square feet to be divided among eight condominium residential units. Added architect Chris Barlow, “The size of the units will go from 1,900 to 2,200 square feet, with two to three bedrooms.”

Underground parking would allow for 23 parking spaces — 16 for residential (two per unit) and seven for retail. The two retail or commercial units are proposed at street level on the front of the building, with two residential units on the back, four residences on the second floor and two in the third floor.

“I’d describe the architecture as symmetrical, easy to understand, and it has classical details, such as cornices, arches and symmetrical columns,” said Barlow.

The most controversial design element for the board was the front patio, which will be created at a level lower than the sidewalk — from 7 feet to 5.5 feet below the street.

DPR member Angeles Liera said, “I really have a problem with retail that’s at a different level from the sidewalk. Traditionally it’s at the same level, and when we do things like this, there’s problems … that needs to be analyzed.”

She also criticized the setback and the transition with other area construction.

However Barlow pointed out, “The entire building is over 10 feet back from the property line. One side is 10 feet and then on the other side it gets to 14 or 15 feet.”

Board member Diane Kane stated “the PDO also calls for courtyard and pedestrian spaces, and this seems to be closing itself off from the street instead of opening itself to the street.”

The project will be subject to community review once the owners have submitted an application to the City of San Diego.

In other DPR news:

Condo Conversions. Liera came up with a series of recommendations for the board’s approach to condominium conversion map waivers, which have generated controversy in the past few months.

During the DPR’s Jan. 10 meeting, members voted to form a subcommittee charged with studying the local legislation around condo conversions and looking for clarification on the community review process.

“The City of San Diego has a pretty complete set of regulations dealing with a building conditions report, a review of electrical system standards, energy window requirement, smoke alarm, street landscaping, even for small projects, parking requirements, and a lot of these things are waived or relaxed for four and less units. But there has to be a finding that the conversion doesn’t have an impact,” she reported.

Board members speculated that, as City requirements, the above list should be available for review when condominium conversion projects come to DPR.

“When these (projects) come in,” Kane said, “we should be asking to see if the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted, because we don’t get to see it, so we have no idea what we’re blessing. What’s the point? Why are we even part of the review process? If you want to do it that way, please keep us out of it.”

For Liera, the most important request would be the parcel map “because in a condominium, the parcels are not delineated as clearly as in a subdivision. In a condo, the owner owns the building, so that’s your parcel. Anything around it is either exclusive use, common area or private area. So those things are important to see because then you have an understanding of how the site is going to be arranged.”

The board members on the condo conversion subcommittee (Liera, Kane and Brian Will) are in charge of creating a checklist that could serve developers when they face the community review.

Later, DPR plans to present its final checklist to La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), the community advisory board charged with making recomendations to the City in local matters.

Chair Costello hopes LJCPA will approve their recommendation “to go downtown in the form of a letter to the development services and the mayor’s office,” and eventually become the standard for condo conversion presentations in the community review process.

— DPR next meets 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 14 at the La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.