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Parking and size issues plague Hillside Drive development as PRC issues ‘no’ vote

The La Jolla Shores PRC voted down a plan to demolish a dwelling and build a 7,091-square-foot house at 7595 Hillside Drive.
The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee voted down a proposal to demolish a dwelling and build a 7,091-square-foot, two-story house at 7595 Hillside Drive, following up a decision to rescind its previous approval.
(Bing Maps / La Jolla Light)

After a first-of-its-kind decision at the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee meeting in May, at which the board rescinded previous approval of a residential project, the board again broke with convention at its June 15 meeting, voting down the same project on re-review.

Applicants for the project, known as the K-4 residence at 7595 Hillside Drive, seek a site development permit and coastal development permit to demolish a house and build a new 7,091-square-foot, two-story house.

In February, the PRC board approved the requested permits. The approval proceeded to the La Jolla Community Planning Association for ratification, but the item was pulled from the consent agenda for a full review. It wasn’t heard in April or May.

La Jollan Phil Merten argued to the PRC that there had been significant changes to the design plans since the project was approved. He requested that the board take back its approval, which it did by unanimous vote May 18 and asked the applicant to return to present the updated plans.

In an “odd” and “atypical” situation, the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee rescinded previous approval for a residential project during its May 18 online meeting.

On June 15, architect Jess Gonzalez called the change in vote “surprising” but offered a point-for-point explanation of some of the contentious features, such as the height, retaining wall, guest quarters and staircase.

Focusing on the driveway as an off-street parking arrangement (Hillside is a narrow street with no sidewalks or on-street parking), he said, “We are clearly ahead of the pack when it comes to the amount of parking area in terms of length between the garage area and the curb.”

He said there will never be a sidewalk on that street and that there was “certainly” enough off-street parking provided by the driveway.

Merten countered that the driveway appeared “impossible to use” on the designs.

Diane Kane, who chairs the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s Hillside Drive ad hoc committee (formed to address issues of development, traffic and other issues pertaining to that street), echoed that the driveway was “insufficient” and would cause cars “to stick out into Hillside.”

Addressing the height of the building, Gonzalez acknowledged there was “a little bit of confusion” in that with one section, “when you add up all the numbers, they add up to about 41 feet [above the 40-foot limit for the area]. However, that is if you take it to the retaining wall to the street, but that wall has more than six feet of separation … that allows us to bring that height way down.”

After some disagreements about how the retaining wall and fencing would contribute to how the height is measured, trustee Tony Crisafi said the project was “creeping” over the height limit. “This is a very steep lot; Hillside Drive is cut into a very steep slope, so I’m not sure I’m comfortable with how this house complies,” Crisafi said.

Aesthetically, Kane said she had “real problems with the frontage of the property being that close to the street” and said there were no “good renderings” so she didn’t have a good sense of what was being proposed.

Rather than return to the PRC, Gonzalez asked for a motion so he could proceed to the Community Planning Association for an additional full presentation and vote.

A motion that findings could not be made for approval of the project passed 6-0, with committee Chairman Andy Fotch abstaining, as the chair typically votes only to break a tie.

“There are just too many issues that are unresolved in the presentation of this project,” trustee Janie Emerson said. “There are a lot of questions related to this project. It seems there are issues that are in an amorphous category. The applicant said he could do this or could do that. I’m uncomfortable with sending something forward that is in flux as much as this project is.”

Other PRC news

Sinnett project approved: After three presentations, applicants for the Sinnett residence project succeeded in their quest for approval for coastal development and site development permits to add to and remodel their house at 2365 Via Siena.

Responding to issues raised by neighbors regarding height and view impacts, the homeowners said they would lower the height of one chimney, remove the other and add more vegetation to mask the street-facing garages.

The board made a motion to approve, pending the applicants agreeing to have the changes to the chimneys be written into the plan, garage doors be “softened” through landscaping and possible color changes, and retaining walls be reduced to grade at the street level where possible. The motion carried 6-0, with Fotch abstaining.

El Paseo Grande project: A proposal to demolish a 1,528-square-foot single-family residence and build a new house more than double the square footage with an attached 1,102-square-foot companion unit at 8423 El Paseo Grande was presented and discussed but will return to a future meeting for a vote.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Shores PRC next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, July 20, via Zoom. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆