Design style no piece of cake for Hillside Drive developer: But Shores permitters OK his La Jolla project

In its third presentation to the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC) meeting April 16, the Side LLC project raised some questions about the terms within the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance (PDO) — its blueprint for design — specifically, the suggestion that the upper floors of a project be set back from its lower floors in the shape of a wedding cake.

Applicant Alejandro Doring requests a Site Development Permit and Coastal Development Permit for a 3,868-square-foot addition and interior remodel to an existing 3,126-square-foot residence, and construction of a new 6,880-square-foot residence with new 815-square-foot three-car garage, located at 7687 Hillside Drive.

The resulting development would be two Spanish-inspired houses of nearly 7,000-square-feet each, one considered the “upper house” given its location uphill from the “lower house.” To accommodate the classic Spanish design, Doring argued against the wedding cake style.

Since the last presentation, Doring said the upper house has been moved farther away from the property line and its square footage reduced to better accommodate neighbors. The street is at a higher elevation than the property itself, and the houses will be built downhill to mitigate views from the street. The properties are each three floors at just under 30 feet total.

Calling the subject design “very La Jolla,” he said: “I have a lot of properties that are classically designed and don’t set back like a wedding cake.”

Doring presented a book of photos featuring houses on Hillside Drive that do not articulate this way. He promised most of them are on the side of Hillside Drive that is within the Shores PRC purview (the street divides the jurisdiction of two community advisory groups).

Trustee Janie Emerson interrupted his presentation, saying that some of the houses Doring mentioned were built before the creation of the Shores PDO, to which Doring countered, “so was the White House and Versailles. We cannot turn classical architecture into cakes. When you build in a classical style, you can’t say this needs to be set back like a cake.”

Emerson responded: “Our job to make sure these projects adhere to the PDO, and the PDO asks to have articulation on the upper levels and have it set back.”

PRC chair Dave Gordon clarified that there is no specific measure for setbacks, and read from the PDO: “Building and structure setbacks shall be in general conformity with those in the vicinity.”

He opined: “Many of the houses in this area have no setback.”

The setback average for the subject property is four feet, with some areas being eight feet. There is also a 25-foot landscaped buffer between the street and the property line, which is a rarity in The Shores.

Another rollover issue is support from the neighbors.

Resident Larry Hecker, who originally spoke out against the project, said he met with the architect in between meetings and they came to “an accommodation” of compromises. “As long as he does what he has presented today, we have no objections to the design,” Hecker said.

Another neighbor, Bruce Barshop, said he was never notified about the project. Barshop said he had received City notices about other projects in the area, but not this one. “I think I’m less impacted than other neighbors, but I’m worried about the volume on that lot and the height of the houses,” he said.

A brief discussion took place on how and whether neighbors’ views were being preserved, but that is out of PRC purview and could not be considered in the vote.

After thanking the applicant for working with the neighbors and making concessions, a motion that findings could be made for the project, passed 4-2-0.

Area residents have been paying extra attention to projects on Hillside Drive given what they see as excessive construction activity causing numerous negative impacts.

Addressing traffic mitigation, Doring previously said the lot is large enough to accommodate 11 trucks and other construction vehicles between the two houses. He also promised an on-site project manager whenever construction activities are taking place.

In other PRC news:

Pathria Project approved: The Pathria project at 7975 Calle de la Plata, once described as “too articulated,” was reworked with about a third of the property redesigned.

Applicant Christian Rice said the once-problematic garage was moved to be in line with the property line and extend the length of the driveway, the fence was redesigned to be more transparent and in line with local building code, the roof and some of the planes were simplified to reduce the volume and articulation, and more.

“We did all this to pull back the articulation,” he told the board, “but so much of the articulation is coming from the triangular lot shape. We did a survey on Google Earth to find other similarly shaped lots in the area and there aren’t many. This design makes sense to me as an architect for a lot that is unusually shaped.”

Rice seeks a Coastal Development Permit and Site Development Permit for the demolition of an existing single family residence and construction of a new 3,995-square-foot two-story residence at 7975 Calle De La Plata.

Trustee Myrna Nagle, while “appreciative of all that you’ve done,” said she still thinks the project is “busy” and “too modern.”

After a brief discussion, the board voted 4-2-0 in favor of the project.

La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee next meets 4 p.m. Monday, May 21 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org

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