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‘Hulk’ house for Sugarman Drive concerns neighbors, La Jolla Shores permitters

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Residents voice their concerns about a possible spec house on Sugarman Drive, March 18.
Ashley Mackin-Solomon

About 10 La Jolla Heights residents turned out at the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC) meeting, March 18 at the Rec Center, to voice concerns over what some are calling an “Incredible Hulk” of a house being planned.

Applicant’s representative Claude-Anthony Marengo seeks a Site Development Permit (SDP) for the construction of a four-bedroom, two-story 6,655-square foot family house (including a 3,172 square-foot first floor; 2,492 square-foot second floor; 991 square-foot basement garage) on a vacant lot at 8356 Sugarman Drive, and an 8-foot to 12-foot lot line adjustment to accommodate. Residents reported that area houses “max out” at 2,300 square feet, and struggled with plans for a house almost triple the average size.

After a preliminary Shores PRC review, Marengo was asked to come back so he could present more information, including how the house would look in the context of the neighborhood, existing street surveys and illustrations of the property.

Nancy Casady, a resident in attendance, said: “The character of this neighborhood is mid-century, single-story and the idea that we could sustain a more than 6,000-square-foot build and retain our character is ridiculous.”

Resident Rachel Klein added that there are a lot of trees in the area and most houses on the street “max out” at 2,300 square feet. “Over the years, many (homes) have been renovated, but with respect to the original footprint, so it has been a lovely neighborhood,” she said. “With this house, the surrounding houses are going to be crunched together. My sense is that this really is going to be spec (house).”

Marengo interjected “It is.”

A spec house is one that is built without a buyer lined up. However, it is not within the purview of the PRC to vote on a project based on its potential use.

After questions about excavations associated with the project on a sensitive hillside, resident Michael Lewis opined: “I have lived on Sugarman for 40 years and have seen a lot of remodels and new houses go up. This is the Incredible Hulk of Sugarman Drive if this project goes through. It is three times as large as the houses on either side of it, and nearly all the houses on the street.” He asked that this version of the project not be submitted for approval.

During committee deliberation, PRC trustee Matt Edwards said he, too, had concerns with the bulk and scale of the property.

PRC trustee Andy Fotch echoed “the size really jumps out” and opined: “There is nothing wrong with being the largest home in the neighborhood, but you have to respect the neighborhood and conform to the neighborhood.”

He added there was information missing that “we would ask of all other applicants,” and based solely on that, he was not comfortable making a recommendation.

In other Shores PRC news

After a preliminary review last month, the Benevente Residence project at 8516 La Jolla Shores Drive got the green light, following some changes that reflected board concerns. Applicant’s rep Jennifer Siller seeks a SDP for construction of a 1,556 square-foot second-story addition and roof deck to an existing one-story single-family residence totaling 3,961 square feet. Siller said architects modified the second floor to increase the setback to four feet, where three feet is common in the neighborhood; removed a troublesome fireplace that would have created the impression of a solid wall; and converted the fifth bedroom into a garage to increase parking.

Trustee Fotch noted: “You took our comments very well. I appreciate the removal of the fireplace to reduce the bulk and scale so that we don’t have a solid wall anymore … I think the style and character of the house is very nice.

Edwards added: “Thanks for modifying the house the way you did, well done.” A motion that findings could be made for the project passed 5-2-1.

La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee next meets, 4 p.m. Monday, April 15 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org