La Jolla planning group hears Hillside Drive woes

The concerns with construction projects along Hillside Drive that have been brought before various La Jolla community committees recently, landed before the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), Feb. 1, as the board met to review another home-build project for the troubled street. Residents spoke of their frustrations during the meeting’s public comment period at La Jolla Rec Center.

Issues they brought to light include construction vehicles parking in no-parking zones that block the street on which visibility is already limited by its winding nature; project schedules overlapping and prolonging the hazard posed by construction vehicles; excessive truck weight on a questionably stable hillside; and others.

Chief among the hoped-for solutions, residents are looking for enforcement of current violations and future project plans. Resident Nancy Manno critiqued the lack of local action to support them in their plight.

“No City entity, including LJCPA or its subcommittees, have lent any meaningful assistance to the Hillside community,” she said. “The residents of Hillside and the surrounding streets have been repeatedly and consistently ignored. I have reviewed multiple e-mails to the point that I am cross-eyed and the City’s responses have been negative or non-existent. It’s an attitude of ‘This is not my problem, go talk to that person,’ ” she said.

Resident Kianoosh Radsan added: “Right now, Hillside Drive is a mess. You cannot safely drive in and out of your own driveway. People speed up to 55 miles per hour (on a 15-mile-per-hour zone). We’ve called the police and they are too busy, which I understand. They don’t have the manpower. But nobody is enforcing the law. Trucks park right under the sign (that prohibits parking). In the last few years, we’ve had project after project like this.”

In the case of the Liaghat Hillside Vacation and Residence project, which was presented that night, although the applicant promised traffic-mitigating efforts, the residents remained concerned about whether these efforts would be enforced.

Proposed home highlights

The project calls for construction of new, two-story, single family dwelling unit of 7,884-square-feet on a 0.51-acre property. The vacant site sits on the south side of Hillside Drive, directly north and adjacent to 7520 Hillside Drive.

In the midst of the presentation, at which architect Bijan Arfa and owner Hamid Liaghat discussed layout, parking and materials for the house, LJCPA trustee Mike Costello interrupted. “The big issue here,” he said, “is going to be impact to Hillside Drive. So in the interest of saving time … can you tell us what will you do to minimize the impact on Hillside Drive?”

Responding, Liaghat said the staging area would be largely kept on site. “Rather than having a house built (with the staging) out front … we are building the house farther away from the street, so we have plenty of space for staging inside our property. We are not going to be using the street,” he said.

“We will need to have a truck outside (our property) to lay the concrete, but we will have flagmen. Once we lay the concrete for the driveway, everything else will be done inside our property. The driveway that takes you to the property is 16 feet wide, so a truck could easily fit.

“We are not going to put a single truck on the street, I promise you. There is plenty of space on my own property.”

Code enforcement challenged

One resident still lamented: “Whether you do what you say you’re going to do or not, there will be no enforcement.”

Citing the City’s Mitigated Negative Declaration that states there were no environmental impacts associated with the project (which was released the day of the meeting), Hillside-area resident Diane Kane said: “We have a problem in that, even if there was a plan and mitigation efforts, no one would enforce them. Nothing is being enforced out there. We are fed up, the City has got to get its act together.”

Kane said the Mitigated Negative Declaration was insufficient because it did not address all the issues raised by residents. The LJCPA board determined it would like to review the Declaration before it rendered a decision, so a vote was postponed to a future meeting.

After some additional discussion and suggestions, the board voted to have the project return to La Jolla Development Permit Review committee (DPR), a LJCPA sub-committee, with environmental documents and then come back to LJCPA.

Additionally, a full presentation about the issues along Hillside Drive is scheduled for the next meeting.

In other LJCPA news:

Letter revision: LJCPA will draft a letter to the City asking it to re-write its “Notice of Future Decision,” which is issued when a project is planned. The requested change would place the information about community review above the information indicating no public hearing. The document currently opens with a statement letting residents know there will not be a public hearing on a project, and several paragraphs down, notes a project may come before a community advisory group meeting for review.

The letter will be circulated and voted upon at a future meeting.

Spa approved: After multiple hearings before the DPR committee, a project for a proposed spa at 301 Sea Ridge Drive was heard, and the LJCPA board voted to ratify that findings could be made for the proposed permits.

Applicant Claude Anthony Marengo said the spa would go in a side-yard setback that is a view corridor.

“The structure is partially submerged and no more than three feet tall, and the view corridor is recorded in a 1989 coastal permit. That (permit) says nothing over three feet is allowed in that side-yard,” he said.

LJCPA and DPR trustee Costello explained that the crux of the original issue with the spa was “getting documentation to us in a timely manner so we could study it.

“When this project was first reviewed, I requested the geological report and the geologist response to City comments, along with the Coastal Development Permit.

“At the next meeting, the geological documents were delivered, but the Coastal Development Permit was not there.

“We got the Coastal Development Permit brought to us at the DPR meeting … I would want (more time) to scrutinize this. I asked for more time to study this, and two other members thought it was a reasonable thing to do. Hence the impasse.”

DPR chair and LJCPA trustee Brian Will countered, noting the house was recently renovated: “We have no reason to believe that given the almost brand-new state of the home, there were any other secret remodels lurking.

“I thought this project was getting undue demands placed on it for a three-foot-tall structure in the side yard.”

All said, the board voted 7-5-1 to support the spa project.

La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, March 1 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org

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