City OKs Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego expansion plans in La Jolla; Museum to jump from 10,000 to 40,000 square feet

The San Diego Planning Commission on March 23 unanimously approved plans for a $55 million expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD)’s La Jolla campus at 700 Prospect St.

The expansion will quadruple the museum’s exhibit space from 10,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet, add ocean-view terraces and increase parking by replacing a 24-space surface lot with a 41-space underground garage. (The City is requiring that valet parking be provided for events with expected attendance of 320 people or more.) Plans also call for converting the surface lot into an outdoor sculpture garden.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association voted 11-1-1 in favor of the expansion in 2015. The work is expected to be finished by summer 2020, after two years of construction slated to begin in 2018.

Commission chairman Stephen Haase said it’s impressive that the museum, founded in 1941 as the Art Center of La Jolla, has the required community support and financial contributions for such an expansion.

The new design, created by New York architect Annabelle Selldorf, will build upon and re-work a significant 1997 renovation that included work on the current museum buildings, the Sherwood Auditorium, offices, workshops, storage spaces, book store and cafe.

The expansion will increase the museum’s footprint of just over 2 acres by 10 percent. The site of an adjacent single family home at 636 Prospect St. will be added to the site and the home will be demolished.

The museum, which is 55 feet above ground level at its highest point, already exceeds the City’s 30-foot height limit for coastal areas because it was built before that limit was in place. The expansion will also exceed the 30-foot limit, but only by 3 feet.

The museum site is bounded by Prospect Street, Cuvier Street and Coast Boulevard near the Pacific Ocean. The expansion will shift the front entrance to the museum from the north side to the east side along Prospect Street. Access to the garage will be from Cuvier Street.

The La Jolla campus will close during construction, with exhibits shifting to the museum’s downtown branch on Kettner Boulevard.

—San Diego Union Tribune contributed to this report. Learn more at