La Jolla’s League House to undergo major renovation: 18 more senior apartments could be added


Plans are in the preliminary stages to renovate — if not completely rebuild — the League House for low-income seniors at 7465 Olivetas Ave. The intent is to upgrade the building, increase the number of housing units from 52 to 70, and maybe even add underground parking. There are no designs, schedules or cost estimates at this time.

The Social Service League of La Jolla manages League House, and its board president Linda Masters told the Light: “We want to renovate where we can, rebuild where we must, and expand where we’re able to. We would like to go to 70 units, because we have so many low-income seniors in need and helping them is where our heart is.”

Part of the building is three stories tall (grandfathered in from when it was built in the 1970s), and the intent is to match the rest of the facility to that height.

La Jolla architect Paul Benton has agreed to design the new facility, and said while the team is “going through design options right now,” the goal is to “get the maximum number of units and make it a masterpiece of architecture.” He added: “We hope to make the facility more of a good neighbor, take advantage of the views, optimize the space — things like that — and be mindful of the need for an increase in housing units for seniors.”

There would be minimal changes to the frontage, but Benton explained: “One of the concerns is that the main entrance is kind of tired, and for goodness’ sake, it is right next to the Darlington House, so we have the opportunity to make it more coherent to the gorgeous building next to it. We want a more unified appearance.”

The renovation — which spans from upgrades to the stairs and elevator to full tear-down and rebuilds of housing units — was spurred when pipes started breaking on a somewhat regular basis. And, noting some of the building was constructed in the 1950s, Social Service League board members thought it was time and decided to make the most of it.

“We want to expand, because we can do so much good,” Masters said. “We’re going to install a rooftop garden that overlooks the ocean, and will be open to rent for the community. I think a lot of organizations will enjoy coming here. We want to help seniors, but also be active in the community and make this a place where people want to come for their events. We’re in a good place and this is the right time to get this project going.

“When we look at the work that the women of the Social Service League who came before us did, raising millions of dollars to get this place established and growing, we are excited to continue that work.”

Founded in 1947

Social Service League of La Jolla executive director Sarah Ferry explained the League was founded in 1947 as a non-profit. From 1947 to 1955, the first phase of the League House — 12 units that form an L-shape between Pearl Street and the alley — were built.

“It was just a group of women who had parties and raised the funds to buy the property and then build the building,” she said. “In 1962, they started fundraising for the second phase. They built onto the lot and added 13 more units.”

The women kept fundraisers going and had their eyes on the lot next door — where the Darlington House sits — to build even more. Ferry said: “They waited until they could buy the lot owned by Sybil Darlington, which is how we got the Darlington House (the lot had to come with the house). Darlington House is now used as a wedding venue and income-generator.”

The Olivetas Street-facing portion of the property was purchased in the late 1960s and built in the early 1970s, to add 25 units and a lounge area. (The other two units are an office and a manager’s residence.) In keeping with tradition, the renovation will be paid for with funds raised privately.

While there are other San Diego housing agencies that receive public funding, the League House is privately subsidized and financed. The rent is stable and based on income; and it includes one meal a day, five days a week.

To affect as few tenants as possible, Masters said as units become vacant, they will not be refilled right away. One idea is to have those empty units renovated first, and tenants in other units can move around as needed. A meeting is planned with the board and residents to decide the details. “I’m confident no one will lose their place to live,” Masters said.

Neighbors have not yet been notified, but Masters said meetings with those in the area are planned.

To kick-start the fundraising, a Rummage Sale, sponsored by the Social Service League of La Jolla, will be held 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7465 Olivetas Ave. To learn more, visit