La Jolla Community Planning Association gives review of Hillside Drive home project a new twist

A project known as the K-4 residence would demolish a dwelling and build a 7,091-square-foot house at 7595 Hillside Drive.
A project known as the K-4 residence would demolish a dwelling and build a 7,091-square-foot, two-story house at 7595 Hillside Drive in La Jolla.
(Bing Maps / La Jolla Light)

A residential project planned for 7595 Hillside Drive has gone through a unique process, to say the least.

It was approved at the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (a subcommittee of the La Jolla Community Planning Association), then the PRC rescinded the approval. The committee heard the project again, denied it and sent it to LJCPA for additional review.

Then, at the July 2 LJCPA meeting, it was heard but not voted on and was sent back to the PRC.

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. However, in the months that followed, 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.

On June 15, architect Jess Gonzales did so and 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.

Nevertheless, the project was voted down and forwarded to LJCPA.

As in previous hearings, Gonzales spoke for the project during the association’s July 2 online meeting, arguing that “the project had a few minor details that have been fixed and we have improved it quite a bit with the help of the community, and at this point, the project meets all the design criteria by the city and La Jolla Shores.”

Speaking to aesthetics, he said the rear elevation would be seen only by neighbors across the canyon; the front elevation was only partially visible from the street. “The rest is pretty much buried, which is a win-win for the community,” he said.

Merten argued that the driveway in the plan was unusable in that it was “too steep to be considered accessible to the garage” and therefore would not provide guest parking on the narrow street. He also said setbacks were inconsistent with surrounding properties (consistency is required in the La Jolla Shores Design Manual) and the project was too tall for the area, among other concerns.

After about an hour of discussion, the board could not cast a vote either for or against the project.

LJCPA trustee Jim Fitzgerald said that with “so much uncertainty,” he didn’t feel comfortable voting on the project. He suggested asking the city of San Diego to review the project for compliance with the design criteria, issue an opinion and have the matter return to the PRC and LJCPA.

A motion to that effect passed 12-2.

Other LJCPA news

Sea Ridge development denied: After a subcommittee narrowly voted in favor of a project at 411 Sea Ridge Road, LJCPA voted it down by a wide margin July 2.

The bluff-facing Salvagio residence project seeks coastal development and site development permits to demolish an existing house and build a new two-story, 5,067-square-foot residence, including a garage, a carport, decks and balconies. La Jolla’s Development Permit Review Committee voted 4-3 on May 12 to approve the project.

For both the DPR and LJCPA, issues included roof decks, orientation of the driveway and carport and geological safety due to the house’s proximity to the bluff.

Regarding the latter, LJCPA trustee Dave Ish said the patio and the pool “will be hanging over the beach.”

A motion that findings cannot be made for the requested permits passed 13-3. Many of those who voted against the project did so without comment.

“Complete Communities”: A controversial city proposal known as “Complete Communities” that could alter development regulations in coastal communities is making the rounds, and LJCPA will hold a special public meeting about it at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 16.

The board discussed the proposal at length during its July 2 meeting, opting to create an ad hoc committee to study the proposal and issue a recommendation.

Complete Communities is a multipart plan intended to “create incentives to build homes near transit, provide more mobility choices and enhance opportunities for places to walk, bike, relax and play” according to the city. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s No. 30 bus route, which snakes through The Village and along the coast, qualifies La Jolla for the program.

LJCPA President Diane Kane said the initiative has been “fast-tracked” with “no public review in La Jolla,” yet would have implications for La Jolla development. She provided a map that indicates areas along La Jolla’s coastline in which building height under the new plan could be as much as 12 stories. The program also proposes to increase the allowable floor area ratio in a development, which other coastal community groups have argued could greatly increase density.

The July 16 special meeting will be held via Zoom. The board’s next regular meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, also via Zoom. Learn more at