La Jolla Shores permitters see plans for house twice the size of its neighbors

A development project that could yield one of the largest houses by Floor Area Ratio (FAR) in a La Jolla Shores neighborhood came before the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC) during its Aug. 22 meeting. The La Jolla Shores’ Planned District Ordinance (design guidelines) does not impose a maximum FAR, so though PRC cannot deny a development based on its FAR, the committee could not bring itself to support the project at hand.

Applicant Michael Morton requests a Coastal Development Permit and Site Development Permit to demolish an existing house and construct a 4,689-square-foot two-story house with a 784-square-foot basement, swimming pool and spa at 8276 Paseo Del Ocaso. The site is 0.12 acre (5,227 square feet). The neighborhood FAR average is .44 and the proposed house would have a FAR of .89. The project was originally proposed at .94 FAR, but the square footage was reduced.

FAR has been defined as the relationship between the total amount of usable floor area that a building has, or has been permitted for the building, and the total area of the lot on which the building stands.

“Most of the newer houses are larger than existing homes. The houses that were built in the 1950s were 1,800 to 2,000 square feet on these lots,” Morton said. “It is one of the larger homes … but we have the required landscape coverage and meet the metrics required under the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance.”

He explained the setbacks have been increased on the north and south side of the six-bedroom house with 18-foot driveway leading to a two car garage. “The second floor is set back by about five feet. There are a series of staggers that follow the south elevation and let light into the house,” he said, and described the proposal as a Mediterranean-style house with a courtyard in the front. At its highest, the roof deck ridge is around 28 feet.

But trustees still couldn’t sit with the .89 FAR and how close the house ends up to neighboring properties.

PRC board member Tony Crisafi commented, “I appreciate the outside of the house and I think The Shores is evolving. … But I’m uncomfortable when I see the houses going in that are two-stories of this form ... they seem to look a little aggressive when they are too close to the setback line. You will have neighbor upon neighbor.

“Speaking to the FAR issue, we use it as a metric because we cannot see how this home relates massing-wide to the surrounding homes. To go from an average of 44 percent to 89 percent FAR — we would need to see something extraordinarily created to mitigate the mass of the building.”

Other project issues included the proximity to an older, smaller house; articulation to break up the massing of vertical walls and whether the driveway is long enough.

Neighbor Mary Little spoke to the proximity of the house to hers, and the possibility of a deck that looks over her yard and living room. “If the pool should leak, it would destroy my vegetation and I’m worried about the vibration (from construction) because when they start digging right next to me, my wall might fall down because I have an older house,” she said. Morton noted that the existing house had a deck.

Although he said he liked the “color schemes and exterior details,” trustee Matt Edwards said the walls appeared to be straight up, with the exception of small rectangular “cut-outs” in their surface. He also had concerns about the driveway not being 20 feet long to accommodate a standard-sized car. “A car with a similar driveway has to park at an angle to keep from sticking out into the sidewalk,” he said.

Rather than proceed with a vote, Morton volunteered to come back to a future meeting with responses to committee issues.