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Does Olivet’s ‘treehouse’ renovation go out on a limb?

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The current remodel of this house at 1551 Olivet Lane has neighbors concerned about permitting, construction safety and the quality of fill dirt.
(COREY LEVITAN)

What makes 1551 Olivet Lane unique is also why neighbors are complaining about renovations underway on the house.

Nicknamed “The Treehouse” by locals, it was built approximately 50 years ago beyond where Olivet dead ends, on a paper street never vacated by the City. That street dips down a 60-degree slope to the site, which is 20 feet below street level, rendering a driveway impossible. (The house was built only with a stairway, which is currently being replaced.)

Anthony Reilly bought the property last year with plans — to more than triple its current 1,000 square feet of livable space — that were previously approved by the City. (The building permit expired, so he reapplied for and received a new one with, he said, only slight modifications.)

The project never went through community review (La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee and La Jolla Community Planning Asssociation) because it didn’t need a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) due to what’s called “the 50-percent rule,” which classifies projects as remodels if 50 percent of the original walls are retained.

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The City approved these plans for a 3,000-square-foot remodel.
(COURTESY)

Land-use attorney Julie Hamilton, who represents neighbor Donald Kearns, told the Light that Reilly also needs both site-development and grading permits for his current work, however, and that her client and other neighbors want to see a plan for how construction will take place down such a narrow street that is already showing cracks and other signs of erosion.

“Our single biggest concern is that his construction proceeds in a manner that’s safe for his property, for his neighbor’s property and for the drainage stream at the bottom of the hill,” Hamilton said, noting the stream travels underneath Torrey Pines Road before emptying into the ocean.

Reilly claimed all his current and future work adheres to his City-approved permit. He said that Code Compliance visited the property, confirming his permit was valid for the work he planned to do.

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Though a City street, Olivet Lane by The Treehouse is only wide enough for one lane when cars park on both sides of the street.
(COREY LEVITAN)

Another objection Hamilton raised to the Light was the fill dirt recently dumped on the site. She said the dirt is sandy and full of concrete and garbage, improper to place below a slab — especially on property that drains into the ocean.

Reilly replied that the dirt is clean — inspected and approved for compaction — and that it was placed on a site that had been covered in garbage from being vacant 10 years. He said he has already cleaned up much of what was illegally dumped there by his neighbors — such as “No Parking” street signs he reasoned the City instructed them to remove.

Hamilton also expressed other concerns to the Light, such as the property’s lack of onsite parking. However, Reilly said that’s not a complaint against him but against the City, which already included a parking exemption in its permit.

“If there’s no parking exemption, there’s no project,” Reilly said. “You can’t park on the site.”

Reilly said he and his family plan to walk from the closest available street parking which, he said, “is no different than it was for whoever lived in that house for the past 50 years.”

Reilly said he suspects that Kearns, and another neighbor, simply don’t want anyone living in that house.

“They don’t want mail, trash trucks or Amazon deliveries,” he said. “They don’t want to disturb what they think is their private lane, which is really a City street.”

An interview request e-mailed by the Light to City Development Services director Elyse Lowe was not returned by press deadline.


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