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City responds to La Jolla Planning board’s request for 40 scooter corrals

scooter-3.jpg
A group of electric scooters rest within a new ‘corral’ recently painted in Pacific Beach. Scooter corrals like this one will also likely be coming to La Jolla.
(Light File)

The City of San Diego has accepted the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s (LJCPA) terms to install a limited number of scooter corrals in The Village — for the most part. At its Aug. 1 meeting at the La Jolla Rec Center, District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry’s representative Mauricio Medina said he submitted the board’s recommendation to the City and they “agreed to” start with 40 corrals. More details, such as to when they would be installed, were not announced.

During its July 18 meeting, LJCPA passed a multi-part motion to approve 40 locations to be determined by the City, but only with the following circumstances in place before the corrals are installed: (1) ensure that any corral locations that are selected be in conformance with the regulatory ordinance, including keeping them a certain distance from schools and out of residential areas; (2) require that locations be geo-fenced so that riders will continue to be charged unless they park in a corral; (3) require that the City’s Get It Done app be updated to provide a dedicated option for reporting improperly left scooters; (4) ensure that red curb locations be vetted by engineers to make sure they are safe for scooter corrals; and (5) make sure that the City Council agrees to revisit the scooter ordinance within one year of its adoption to amend it for effectiveness.

However, the City had not responded to the additional conditions. “The response came in kind of late and didn’t address all the questions I asked of them,” Medina said.

The only suggestion that was loosely addressed was, “require that the City’s Get It Done app be updated to provide a dedicated option for reporting improperly left scooters.” Using the app is the City’s current method of enforcement.

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“I let City staff know using the app is not as easy as it sounds, so they are working on it,” Medina said. “But apparently if you report scooters in the ‘other’ category, it gets to the right entity.”

But given the lack of response about the board’s other suggestions, trustee David Little questioned whether the board should have placed conditions on its recommendation to begin with.

“For years, we have had the issue of whether we can place conditions on a motion,” he said. “My understanding is when there are conditions, they are not considered. I think we need to get clarification from the City on that. When something comes before this group, we make a motion to approve or not approve. That’s what we do.”

Fellow trustee Jim Fitzgerald said he was on the committee that helped make the determination whether the board offers conditions or not, and said, “We decided several years ago to not include conditions, we either approve or disapprove, and part of the reason for that is the City was ignoring them. Secondly, we put ourselves in a position of trying to manage the project and modify from it the floor, and that’s not a position we want to be in. A project either confirms to the code or it doesn’t.”

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San Diego City staff sought community feedback on locations for these corrals, which are painted-on 10-foot-by-six-foot squares on the street, typically fronting red zones, for the staging of electric scooters.

Between the board’s July 18 vote and its Aug. 1 meeting, Bry issued a memo asking for a moratorium on electric scooters “until we demonstrate that we can develop a fiscally responsible, well-thought-out plan that ensures public and environmental safety.”

She requested that San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer terminate the agreement with scooter companies so the City could draft a Request for Proposal (RFP) and select a few companies and limit the number that would operate in the City.

Audience member and La Jollan Ray Weiss suggested, in light of the Bry memo, that the LJCPA vote in kind to put a complete stop to the electric scooters.

“Until there is a way to enforce it, they shouldn’t be here,” he said, and asked the LJCPA to add the item to the next month’s agenda for consideration.

Those that agree with the requests in Bry’s memo can e-mail their council members and the mayor’s office, Medina suggested.

Also at LJCPA

New Muni Code language: The board also approved a proposed change to the San Diego Municipal Code to address “serial permitting” and carport-to-garage conversions, to be sent to the City for consideration.

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Presented by LJCPA trustee Dave Ish at the La Jolla Development Permit Review committee and again at the LJCPA board, the following regulations will be submitted for inclusion into the San Diego Municipal Code: “Improvements to existing structures are exempt, except ‘The demolition or removal of 50 percent or less of the exterior walls of the existing structures if the proposed application is received within five years of final inspection of a previous 50 percent exempt remodel on the same structure. An exemption will be allowed within the five-year time frame if 50 percent of the exterior walls of the original structure (as it existed five years ago) will still remain.’ ”

He added stipulations that the house be occupied during that five years, and that any permit after five years be subject to community review and Coastal Development Permit.

By using the so-called 50-percent rule, developers could remodel a house with a ministerial (over-the-counter) permit if 50 percent of the walls remain.

However, Ish said he has presented “several examples” over the years of abuses of this rule. “Though the original intent was to help a homeowner do some remodeling, what has happened is developers have taken advantage of that,” he said, leading to a proliferation of what has become known as “McMansions” and houses being built larger than their predecessors without Coastal Development Permits or community review.

Trustee Diane Kane noted her “favorite example” of this was on Virginia Way, in which the developer “cut the house in half, vertically, and half the house was remodeled with one ministerial permit and the other half with another permit so there was a new house. That’s just silly.”

The intent of the five-year moratorium is to prevent this and other similar strategies.

Several trustees questioned whether the City would dedicate the time and resources to checking to see if another permit had been filed within five years, when reviewing an over-the-counter permit.

Further, LJCPA chair Tony Crisafi noted the City does not keep a record of what percentage of walls come down when someone applies for a 50-percent rule remodel.

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Nevertheless, a motion to send the suggested wording to the City passed 14-0-1.

As a secondary component defining a carport as “roof and posts only,” with the posts numbering no more than four and measuring no greater than 8-inches-by-8-inches each. Such a carport may be attached to one exterior wall of the main house at most. All other structures, according to the revision, must be counted in floor-area-ratio calculations also passed 14-0-1.

Hirschfield residence project: Because the LJCPA and its La Jolla Shores Permit Review sub-committee voted the Hirschfield Project in La Jolla Shores down earlier this year, but the City gave it the OK, the LJCPA filed an appeal against the City’s decision.

The project calls for a Coastal Development Permit and Site Development Permit to demolish an existing 4,067 square-foot single-family residence constructed in 1985 and construct a one-story single-family residence with basement, decks, garage, mechanical room and back-yard swimming pool totaling 12,092 square-feet.

However, after two lengthy presentations displaying changes made to the project that appeased the LJCPA’s concerns, the board voted to withdraw its appeal.

La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org


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