La Jolla permit-reviewers eye plan to replace parking lot with condo

Top: 7600 Herschel Drive is half of a 44-space parking lot next to True Beauty aesthetic surgery center. Bottom: The owner of the property proposes to develop the plot for a four-unit condominium in this artist’s rendering.
(Corey Levitan Photo / Courtesy Rendering)

A new condo proposed for what is now half of a 44-space parking lot at 7600 Herschel Ave. drew complaints from neighbors, and questions from members of the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) at its Jan. 14 meeting.

Applicant’s rep Richard Gombes seeks a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) and Tentative Map to construct a 14,817 square-foot residence consisting of four condos on the 0.16-acre site, occupying the maximum possible floor-to-area ratio.

“My initial concerns and opposition to the project involve the proposed square footage of the development, footprint coverage, lot line and excavation,” read DPR chair Brian Will from a letter sent by Lisa Morgan-Kostner, who owns the mirror-image 22-space lot adjoining the proposed construction site.

Morgan-Kostner, explaining that she lived in Bakersfield and was unable to attend the meeting, asserted that the block is commercial in nature, and that this residence would not fit in with the neighborhood.

“The purpose of building both of these parking lots was to service the needs of the adjacent commercial building which houses Chase Bank and other office suites on Girard Street,” the letter read. (The lots were said to have been built in the 1950s.)

Lynda Cristel, who owns the cottage to the south housing the True Beauty aesthetic surgery center, expressed concern about construction interference, traffic and noise.

“Because we have tenants in there, we’re obviously concerned about what they’re going to be going through for two years,” she said.

Gombes replied that the owner hasn’t come up with a construction plan yet, but intends to make arrangements with the City similar to those made by the recently opened Life Time La Jolla at 1055 Wall St. He also said his client thinks he can finish the project in 12-18 months.

Applicant’s rep Richard Gombes, right, answers concerns expressed by neighbor Lynda Cristel, who owns the adjacent cottage.

DPR trustees also expressed concern about parking issues, exacerbated by the fact that this will eliminate 22 spaces from The Village and only replace four (along the curb cuts that will no longer be necessary).

In addition, the proposed nine-foot wide garage entrance may be too narrow for entering cars to maneuver around.

“If it’s too narrow, people are going to park on the street,” claimed trustee Greg Jackson.

Will asked Gombes to return to the committee with an aerial photo of the frontages on Herschel between Silverado and Kline streets, a construction plan that mitigates the effects on neighbors and the neighborhood, and research on whether some of the eliminated parking spaces are required by municipal code for Chase Bank.

La Jolla resident Sharon Wampler added: “It’s not adding to affordable housing and density, but it is a very nice design. It’s just a shame that the La Jolla Community Plan doesn’t matter anymore.”

2020 Municipal Code update

The committee, led by La Jolla resident David Ish, brainstormed recommendations for the upcoming 2020 Municipal Code update. They identified several deficiencies in the land-development code they said needed correcting. Chief among those was the so-called 50-percent rule, currently used to bypass community review and the need for a CDP — which can cost thousands of dollars and take years to obtain — and has led to what’s become known as “mansionization.”

Under the rule, a project is classified as a “remodel” if 50 percent of the original walls are retained.

DPR also identified deficiencies with the language defining a carport.

Ish said developers and City staff have used their interpretation of the current Code as a loophole to add square footage to the livable area of a house, increasing bulk and scale. He further stated that, even if the permitted carports are not converted into garages immediately, subsequent owners of a house will almost always make that move — either out of ignorance or in defiance of the Code.

— La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee next meets 4 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 11 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.