La Jolla Community Planners stymied by Country Club-area project

Following more than an hour of discussion, the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) was unable to make a recommendation on the controversial Newmann Residence project during its Nov. 1 meeting at the Rec Center.

The residential development, planned for 7742 Whitefield Place in the Country Club neighborhood, would demolish an existing one-story house and construct a new two-story, 10,861-square-foot house with basement and attached garage.

The project was heard Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 at the LJCPA sub-committee Development Permit Review (DPR), which ultimately determined findings could not be made for the project based on its perceived inconsistency with bulk and scale of surrounding houses and lack of conformance with the La Jolla Community Plan.

A LJCPA motion to approve the project ended in a tie 7-7-1 (and thereby did not pass) and a second motion to affirm the DPR motion to deny the project failed 5-8-2.

During the meeting, the applicant’s representative Paul Benton explained the fundamentals of the project, before hearing from residents who argued the property was too large for the neighborhood.

Part of the issue is that the lot includes a steep canyon, so some of the land cannot be built upon. While the Floor-Area Ratio (FAR) for the property is .45 based on the entire lot (the higher end of what is allowed), some argued there is a perception that it’s larger because the square footage on which the house could actually be built is smaller.

LJCPA trustee Ray Weiss said the appearance of the project, based on build-able space, is “a 10,000-square-foot house on a 13,000-square-foot lot.”

However, Benton said the project conforms to City building regulations and to the FAR of surrounding houses.

Still, immediate neighbor Bob Steiner argued it would be “far and away the largest home in the neighborhood,” and said he had a letter signed by 20 neighbors against the project. He also said allowing its construction would set a precedent and that a house of this size would be “the first of many.”

“The problem is you can’t find anything like this in our extended neighborhood, in terms of its size or the reconstruction (required),” Steiner told the board, adding that the neighborhood is characterized by smaller, some historic houses.

Speaking for the DPR sub-committee, DPR and LJCPA trustee Diane Kane said: “DPR held a couple meetings about this, some were standing-room only, and there was intense neighborhood concern, primarily about the precedent-setting nature … we get one in, and there goes the neighborhood.”

The discussion further prompted some LJCPA trustees to look at their role in the approval process through the lens of this project.

Trustee David Little opined: “We have to go with the neighbors and how they feel about it. The community doesn’t need us 15 people to be code-checkers and community plan-checkers, you can hire people to do that. We’re here to give an opinion and be a guide for the community.”

Conversely, Dave Gordon, said: “We’re supposed to vote on how a project conforms to the La Jolla Community Plan, it’s not a popularity contest.”

A motion that findings could be made for the project was initially 6-7-1, but because the LJCPA chair can vote to make or break a tie, Bob Steck opted to do so, making the vote 7-7-1. A counter motion to affirm the findings of the DPR committee also failed, 5-8-2.

LJCPA affirms stance on night roadwork

Despite pleas from residents who would be affected by the nighttime construction to complete the Torrey Pines Road Slope Restoration project, LJCPA voted to reaffirm its position that work be done at night: 9-3-1. In September, LJCPA voted unanimously to support the night work. However, in October, trustee Glen Rasmussen asked the board revisit the issue. At the November meeting, resident Cindy Hazuka cited potential health impacts to those who will go without sleep due to the construction noise.

Citing the impact on merchants and commuters should the work be done during the day, former La Jolla Village Merchants Association president Alisha Hawrylyszyn Frank said: “This is an unfortunate situation that will impact some homeowners, but we have 53,000 motorists who come through La Jolla. Work done during the day would impact these drivers as well as 1,300 local businesses. There is no easy solution to this, but in the grand scheme of things, our only option is to impact as few people as possible.”

In the interest of getting the project done as quickly as possible, trustee Tom Brady made the motion to affirm the LJCPA position that work be done at night, which passed.

— La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. <end_bug_diamond>