La Jolla planners OK apartment project for Pearl Street

Owner David Bourne would like to demolish and clear the former 76 service station at 801 Pearl St. in La Jolla and build a 20,595-square-foot, two-story mixed-use building consisting of 26 residential and two retail units with 23 parking spaces, as pictured in this architect’s rendering.
(Courtesy Photo)

New two-story building for 26 residences, 2 retail spots, 23 parking spaces


The La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) on Dec. 5, 2019 voted to approve (10-3-1) property developer David Bourne’s project at 801 Pearl St. where a 76 Unocal gas station sat since 1964. This approval overrules the La Jolla Development Permit Review (DPR) committee’s non-approval vote on Nov. 19. The DPR did not recommend the project “because the intensification of density above the base zoning density is not appropriate to the level of affordable housing provided and does not provide the desired benefit to the community plan.”

Bourne purchased the .48-acre property earlier this year from Mark Conger, and seeks a Coastal Development Permit to demolish the service station and construct a 20,595-square-foot mixed-use building. The proposed two-story project will have 26 residential units, including two affordable housing units, two retail units on the ground floor, and an on-grade lot with 23 parking spaces.

Before showing a presentation explaining the project, Bourne said he came to understand the neighborhood and its potential concerns in the past 12 months since initiating the process to purchase the property. He expressly stated: “For the record, there is absolutely no intention, whatsoever, of doing short-term rentals.” The project will be a traditionally operated apartment project with standard leases under local management.

Information in the presentation — created by the Murfey Company overseeing the design and construction of the mixed-use building bounded by Pearl Street, Eads Avenue and Bishops Lane — noted the project complies with regulations under the City of San Diego Municipal Code pursuant to the La Jolla Planned District Overlay (LJPD-4) including height limit, setbacks, density and parking. The proposed building height is less than the required 30-foot limit, has an 18-foot setback on the south (which is three feet more than required), and has reduced commercial space of 3,300 square feet rather than the 5,400 square feet under Conger’s plan approved by the CPA in October 2015.

Bourne’s proposal offers 26 residential units with less square footage than the previously approved plan with 12 units.

Bourne commented that to comply with State regulations to include affordable housing units and have increased density, each unit will average 600 square feet, with a maximum of 800 square feet. The lot would be shared by residential and commercial tenants and totals 23 parking spaces, two more than required by code regulations. Four curb cuts will be removed allowing additional street parking on Eads Avenue.

A traffic analysis by Chen Ryan Associates estimates the number of average daily vehicle trips under the proposed plan will be half that of gas station activity.

David Bourne, developer of the housing project proposed for 801 Pearl St. in La Jolla, addresses the La Jolla Community Planning Association, Dec. 5, 2019 at the La Jolla Recreation Center.
(Photo by Claudia Baranowski)

The concerns

After LJCPA chair Tony Crisafi asked the public for comments on the project, seven audience members voiced their opinions. Two supported the project calling it an attractive building to revitalize Pearl Street; the others spoke against it or expressed concerns including proximity to the adjacent residential building on the south, setting a precedent for density, lack of elevator access, no environmental review, and increased traffic.

Trustee Brian Will advised that his vote at the DPR meeting was reflected by an abstention because he was not able to vote as committee chair, but: “I am in favor of this project.” He summarized the DPR meeting on Nov. 19 stating: “There was no discussion or no objection to the physical form of this building; the bulk of the conversation was about density and this notion of walk-ability. We live in an environment that is built and dependent on cars and we all want something different. We have to have development that encourages walking.”

Opined trustee Jim Fitzgerald: “This project is a quantum improvement over what is there now. The issue is, is it a perfect project? No. I am concerned about density overall. This is a location where, if you are going to add density in La Jolla, I can’t think of a much better place to add it than to put it on the one street where our one bus line runs.”

Although his concerns included only one entrance and exit to the parking lot and no elevator access to second floor, Fitzgerald supported the project.

Trustee David Little commented: “This project sets a very bad precedent for La Jolla. Our business district, and indeed all along La Jolla Boulevard, will be turned into an overly dense bedroom community.”

Trustee Greg Jackson offered: “When I look at the project as designed before us, my general sense is it strikes a reasonable balance on a lot of the trade-offs between things I think are likely to be problems (parking, elevator) and things I think La Jolla needs in terms of having more people who live closer to The Village to re-energize the area. I don’t think we’re going to see something better than this.”

Concerns about the project expressed by trustee Mike Costello included an abrupt transition in scale to the adjacent building, insufficient parking, only two affordable housing units, and lack of hazardous waste analysis. Based on these considerations, Costello, who also sits on the DPR committee, made a motion to deny the project.

Trustees voted 4-10-1 with the motion not passing.

Upon LJCPA approval, the next step is a positive recommendation from City staff, followed by administrative approval from the hearing officer to be able to begin the application process for the building permit. Once required compliance is met, Bourne anticipates construction to start in mid-2020 with about 14 months to complete.

Also at LJCPA

More beach area parking: LJCPA voted 10-3-2 to accept La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board’s recommendation to eliminate red curbs on the east side of La Jolla Farms Road. This will facilitate 11 additional parking spaces for benefit of beach access.

La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 (second Thursday instead of usual first Thursday for January only) at the La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St., La Jolla.