Shores permit-review meeting gets tense over project on Esterel Drive

La Jolla Shores residents Engy and Bishoy Said face questions from neighbors about a proposed companion unit, during the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee meeting Dec. 16.

At its Dec. 16 meeting at the Rec Center, the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC) gave a collective thumbs-up for a Site Development Permit (SDO) and Coastal Development Permit (CDP) to demolish an existing residence and construct a two-story 11,952-square-foot house at 8441 Whale Watch Way.

The Morgan Residence project had been presented to the committee twice before, but faced questions about parking and setbacks, all of which were addressed. No neighbors attended to comment and the committee voted in favor, 6-0-0.

“The third time’s a charm,” trustee Janie Emerson told applicant’s rep Scott Huntsman. “Sorry it took three times.”

“No worries,” Huntsman replied. “I get paid for doing it.”

7824 Esterel Drive

Things went much less smoothly during the preliminary review for the Said Residence Project at 7834 Esterel Drive, for which 14 neighbors showed up with questions.

The applicant seeks an SDP to add 945 square feet of basement, 551 square feet of first floor and a new, detached 1,200-square-foot companion unit (with roof deck and two-car garage) over 546 square feet of basement parking, increasing the floor-to-area ratio from 13 to 21 percent.

Applicants reps Mark Lyon and Sara Carpenter faced numerous objections to the companion unit, which neighbor Christine Wichard called “a completely separate residence,” citing its kitchen, 9-foot ceiling, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, large patio, roof deck and garage.

“A two-car garage is not a necessity for a granny flat,” Wichard said.

Other neighbors called the companion unit out of character for the neighborhood and expressed concern about a future lot-line adjustment that could easily make it a separate primary residence.

When property owners Bishoy and Engy Said took the floor to respond to questions personally, the dialogue grew more heated.

“We said to the prior owners that we can maintain the house as much as possible and follow the historic guidelines,” Engy told her neighbors. “We can easily sell this house or demolish the house before marking it historic. We can put a 12,000- square-foot house on this half-acre lot.”

“You would be stopped by historical preservation!” a neighbor interrupted.

“It’s not historically designated yet,” Engy replied.

Trustee Tony Crisafi stepped in at this point with a warning directed at everyone.

“We have to follow rules, otherwise we’re not effective,” he said, “and when the meeting gets out of control and this gets back to the City, it’s neither good for the applicant nor the neighbors.”

The applicants and their reps were instructed to work things out with their neighbors before returning.

Also at PRC …

Dave Gordon announced he will be retiring as chair of the PRC. His last meeting will be March 16.

— PRC next meets 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21 (moved from that Monday because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day) at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.