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La Jolla planners, architects, Realtors and reviewers to work together to revise development guidelines

To look at ways to update and modify La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance, or blueprint for development, a La Jolla Community Planning Association ad-hoc committee is joining forces with the PDO review committee, which looks at projects and whether they conform to the PDO.

Potential changes include revising the requirements for ground-floor retail and expanding residential and outdoor dining opportunities, and could be submitted to the city for consideration by spring 2021.

During its Oct. 12 meeting online, LJCPA President Diane Kane explained that the idea for the ad-hoc committee stemmed from her review of the city’s Complete Communities proposal, which looks to alter development regulations 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 city’s [Complete Communities] plan is to add density to areas that were already maxed out, but what flagged my curiosity was they never looked at The Village,” she said. “If we were going to put additional density anywhere, it would be The Village. I started looking at a counterproposal … and set up an ad-hoc committee to see where we can add density in a sensitive way.”

The type of development that can be built and its location is regulated by the PDO. For example, the heart of The Village — Girard Avenue and Prospect Street — is defined as “the primary retail and visitor oriented commercial area in the core of La Jolla. This area is characterized by high levels of pedestrian activity. Standards for this zone are designed to maintain that pedestrian scale and continuity, and preserve and enhance the retail development pattern of department stores, and small retail shops and restaurants.”

In this area, retail uses are required for 50 percent of the ground floor.

However, Kane said “I think some flexibility in those spaces might be helpful to help the businesses and help smaller businesses with rents” and could even include residential.

Agreeing, PDO Chairwoman Deborah Marengo said “The Village has gone through a lot of changes, and ground floor retail has been hit really hard,” noting that “high end businesses” such as Sur La Table and Kate Spade have recently closed their Village brick-and-mortar locations.

“These are good-size spaces, so possibly reducing some of the square footage on the ground floor and making it up by activating our alleys, where we could allow a residential unit or look at some buildings that could be converted to residential would help,” she said.

The PDO further limits outdoor dining to “fast food” establishments, with standards such as “Food to take out shall be restricted to minimum packaging and shall include a container or paper sack in which the refuse can be collected to be thrown away.”

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, several Village restaurants have been permitted to move tables and chairs outside and serve patrons at a reduced capacity.

“The outdoor experience is going to be more important than the indoor experience,” said Marengo, adding that changes could be made to the PDO to ease some of the restrictions on outdoor dining going forward.

Marengo tasked the board members to walk around and “see what is positive and what is negative so we can really tackle them, because there is a lot we could be doing better as a community … to help our businesses and get a lot more people living in The Village.”

She said the discussion will be slated for the next month’s meeting.

Architects Brian Will, Andy Fotch and Trace Wilson, Realtors John Shannon and Patrick Ahern and engineer Matt Mangano are on the LJCPA ad-hoc committee, which will continue to work with the PDO committee to see if there are code items that need to be modified, and dovetail those with the city’s next code revision update.

Kane said the “target submission date” to get the proposal to the city is between January and March of next year.

Other PDO news

At the same meeting, the board discussed the Girard Avenue Lofts project, which calls for a coastal development permit for three connecting two-story buildings at 7606 Girard, currently a vacant lot between Vons and the Tempur-Pedic mattress store. The plans include 1,960 square feet of ground-floor retail, 17 loft-type apartments over parking and one accessory dwelling unit on a pedestrian path at grade level. The apartments would range from 350 to 755 square feet.

A rendering of the Girard Avenue Lofts project (the mural is for illustration purposes).
A rendering of the Girard Avenue Lofts project (the mural is for illustration purposes).
(Courtesy)

It got the green light at the Development Permit Review Committee’s Sept. 15 meeting after an extensive preliminary review the week before.

Applicant Pauly de Bartolo, founding principal of De Bartolo and Rimanic Design Studio, touted the Girard Avenue Lofts project as a “village within a village” and “easily walkable to the heart of La Jolla.”

He also offered support for the earlier discussion, saying “I think micro-retail — smaller scale tenants that can afford to pay smaller rents — are going to be the thing of the future. So [this project has] a retail/commercial space that can be broken down into smaller tenants if needed.” The total square footage of the commercial space is 1,960.

Due to some questions as to whether the project meets the terms of the PDO, the board asked de Bartolo to come back to a future meeting for approval.

The La Jolla Planned District Ordinance review committee next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org.