City Council OKs ‘Newmann Project’ in La Jolla’s Country Club area

The existing property at 7742 Whitefield Place
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The Newmann Residence project, which stymied the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) from taking a successful vote when it was heard locally last year, was approved by the San Diego City Council at its Oct. 21 meeting.

The project calls for a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) and a Site Development Permit (SDP) for the demolition of a one-story 3,040-square-foot single dwelling unit with a studio loft on a 0.55-acre (23,958-square foot) lot, and construction of a new two-story 10,121-square-foot single dwelling unit with a basement and an attached 740-square-foot three-car garage located at 7742 Whitefield Place, in the La Jolla Country Club neighborhood.

The project was heard Sept. 11 and Sept. 18, 2018 at the LJCPA Development Permit Review (DPR) sub-committee, which ultimately determined findings could not be made for the project based on its perceived inconsistency with bulk and scale of surrounding houses, and lack of conformance to the La Jolla Community Plan.

When heard at DPR, resident Robert Steiner said: “The average-sized house in our neighborhood is 3,000 to 4,000 square feet … This is three-to-four times the average size.”

When it went before LJCPA for ratification, a motion to approve the project ended in a tie 7-7-1 (and thereby did not pass) and a second motion to affirm the DPR motion to deny the project failed 5-8-2.

The project was determined to be categorically exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) on June 19, 2019. An appeal was filed two weeks later, prompting a City Council hearing.

Over the course of an hour of public testimony and deliberation, opponents to the project — largely neighboring property owners — unsuccessfully argued there were issues of geological instability.

Land-use attorney Julie Hamilton, representing one of the residents who lives next to the project, said there were unusual circumstances that were not being considered.

“It is unusual to build a large house on a steep hill in La Jolla, where the existing house shows significant effects of subsidence and movement of the building,” she said. “A sidewalk has been displaced by six inches … it is important to evaluate why this building is so damaged. Why and what happened to cause the foundation to crack, stairways to separate from the walls and the sidewalks to be displaced? Without that, you have no idea what the impact would be on the proposed residence, neighboring residences and your own infrastructure.”

In a counter presentation offered by attorney Matt Peterson, representing the property owners, he said “extensive” geo-technical studies were done and found there would be “no problem with this project,” and that the property “would be more stable than it is now.” Others who spoke in favor of the project were the engineers who carried out the geological reviews.

“There has been no credible evidence from anybody that any of the categorical exemptions were inappropriate,” Peterson said.

District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry maintained the issues presented could be resolved if the neighbors and the property owner met independently, and moved to postpone a vote. “I think it’s a shame that this has come here. I would like the applicants to figure it out,” she said.

However, she withdrew her motion so she could hear from Council colleagues. After brief comments and based on the information, City Council voted to support the staff’s findings that the project is CEQA exempt. The City Council denied the appeal 8-1, with Bry in opposition.