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La Jolla planners vote down Kolmar Street home development, but city already approved permit

A rendering depicts a two-house development proposed for 304 and 306 Kolmar St. in Windansea.
(Courtesy)

The La Jolla Community Planning Association voted against a residential project proposed for Kolmar Street in Windansea, but the discussion during the board’s online meeting June 4 raised other issues that the development seemed to represent, such as carports and whether the city of San Diego gives enough consideration to community planning group input.

The project, presented by architect Tim Golba, calls for a coastal development permit to demolish a house that sits across two lots and to build a pair of two-story houses at 304 and 306 Kolmar. One home would be 2,229 square feet and the other 2,244 square-feet. The applicant would live in one of the homes and sell the other.

When it was heard by the Development Permit Review subcommittee twice in May (DPR meets the second and third Tuesdays of each month), trustees and neighbors had concerns about privacy, community character and a proposed carport. The project ultimately was voted down 6-0-1 on May 19.

City approval

But in the days between the DPR hearings and the Community Planning Association review, the city released a notice of decision on the project and issued a coastal development permit.

“That bothers me,” LJCPA trustee Mike Costello said. “It would not have hurt to have the applicant present this to the CPA first and then to the city staff for a decision.”

Neighbors seemed to agree.

Julie Ruef, who has spoken out against the project at every local hearing, said: “The city does not recognize [the findings of] these groups. I think that is a shame and ill-advised.”

Given that the meeting was held via Zoom, neighbor Megan Heine added in the chat feature: “What’s the point of having any community planning committees if the city will just override their recommendations if the project ‘checks all the boxes’? I agree with Mr. Costello! The decision seemed to have already been made (before the committee’s findings were even made!).”

A city representative told the Light that “the project applicant attempted to continue working with the LJCPA; however, the applicant decided to decline obtaining a final recommendation from the LJCPA. ... Consistent with City Council Policy 600-14, community planning group recommendations to the city’s decision maker for discretionary land-use items is a recommended action and not a required step in the city’s review or approval process for this type of project application.”

LJCPA President Diane Kane said she would immediately file an appeal of the city issuing a permit for the project, given that the deadline to appeal was the day after the association meeting.

In his presentation to the LJCPA, Golba said the design is modern farmhouse style and was changed from a “concrete, edgier, more modern look that was significantly more boxy” and now has a picket fence and sloped roofs to be more consistent with other houses in the area.

Speaking to privacy issues, he said the master bedroom was moved upstairs, with no windows where people could see into neighboring houses.

However, residents concerned with how the project would alter the community character said it would “tip the scale” to something more modern in a neighborhood marked with cottages and Mediterranean-style homes.

Carport concerns

As for the controversial carport, Golba said, “It is a detached carport with two sides open, so it is, as an accessory building, allowed to encroach into the side yard setbacks. We moved the carport and justified it on that side of the property.”

Some trustees argue that a carport could be closed in after a house is built to become a garage and increase a development’s floor-area ratio.

Carports are not included in a development’s FAR, but a garage would be. In answering an inquiry from Costello, Golba said if the carport were enclosed to become a garage, the project would be above the allowable FAR for the area.

Neighbor Tom Miller said during public comments that “we are seeing new development of large houses that seem right out of scale with the neighborhood, built with carports … and the new homeowner wants to enclose the carport and it becomes a garage. If you see a house that looks bigger than its neighbors, odds are it had a carport and is now a garage. We want [the applicant] to treat the ‘garage’ as part of the FAR to bring the bulk and scale down.”

The vote

In the end, a motion to ratify the DPR’s findings against the project passed 11-5-1. Most of the dissenters voted without comment, but trustees Patrick Ahern and Matt Mangano said the project conforms to local planning codes. Kane abstained, as the chair typically only votes to break a tie.

A second motion to formally ask the city to cease approving carports that would cause a project to exceed allowable FAR if they were counted as garages passed unanimously, with Kane abstaining.

LJCPA next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 2, via Zoom. Learn more at lajollacpa.org.