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La Jolla community planners approve Girard Avenue retail-residential project

A rendering depicts the Girard Avenue Lofts project planned for 7606 Girard Ave. (The mural is for illustration purposes.)
A rendering depicts the Girard Avenue Lofts project planned for 7606 Girard Ave. (The mural is for illustration purposes.)
(Courtesy)

After getting different messages from two La Jolla Community Planning Association subcommittees, a mixed-use project proposed for a major La Jolla intersection was approved at the LJCPA meeting Nov. 5.

The Girard Avenue Lofts development is planned for Girard Avenue where it meets Torrey Pines Road at the entrance to The Village.

It includes 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.

The project was unanimously approved at the Development Permit Review Committee’s Sept. 15 meeting. But in October, the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee cited concerns with some derivations from local planning code that the applicant, Pauly de Bartolo, requested.

The derivations are allowed under the city of San Diego’s affordable-housing provisions but are not allowed under the La Jolla PDO, or blueprint for development.

“The nature of the PDO objections were that there is no flexibility in the PDO for variances; a project either complies or it doesn’t,” LJCPA President Diane Kane said.

In describing the project, de Bartolo said he wanted to maintain the pedestrian pathway that currently connects Girard Avenue to Fay Avenue, and he touted the facility as promoting pedestrian activity in the commercial heart of La Jolla.

“We designed this building to be respectful of the existing pedestrian path through The Village, be mindful of the eclectic nature of The Village and bring a mixed-use project that activated the streetscape, brought flexibility in the future of retail and housing into The Village,” he said.

None of the requested changes, de Bartolo said, “modify the property height limit” or other building envelope limitations.

To increase the number of housing units the development would provide, including an affordable unit, “we are proposing … to allow for a single residential unit in the front 50 percent of the lot, but we have intentionally pulled it back so it would not be seen from Girard Avenue,” he said. That strays from the PDO regulation that the front 50 percent of any ground-floor unit must be retail.

De Bartolo said he also is requesting elimination of a loading zone. “A typical loading zone is 14 feet wide by 30 feet deep, and our property line is 55 feet wide, so per the PDO, there is a requirement to have the loading zone,” he said. “But to preserve the pedestrian link and all the utilities, to impose a loading zone per the PDO would limit our ability to engage 18 units on the site, reduce our parking and cause financial implications for the project.”

As an alternative, he said, one excess parking space would be converted to a van-size loading space so delivery trucks accessing the commercial space or a moving van accessing a residential unit could load and unload. He said city staff did not require that, but he made the change following PDO members’ comments.

He also asked for a reduction in the frontage that had to be activated, or publicly accessible, from 75 percent, as required, to 70 percent to accommodate the public pedestrian space and for a reduction in the driveway from 24 feet to 22 feet.

During LJCPA trustees’ comments, member Patrick Ahern said the project represents “what we are looking for for the future of The Village.”

Trustee Jim Fitzgerald called it a “very creative and very attractive use of [the] odd-shaped parcel.”

The only concerns expressed were with the proposed gray tones.

A motion to support the project passed unanimously.

Other LJCPA news

STVR letter: Reflecting a long history of opposition to short-term vacation rentals, LJCPA drafted a letter to members of the San Diego City Council and city Planning Commission against a proposal set to be heard again by the Planning Commission next month.

Under the proposal, drafted by the office of Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, the city would issue a limited number of STVR permits, group short-term vacation rentals under a four-tier licensing system and create a process to track and manage such rentals and enforce regulations.

It was heard by the Planning Commission in October and sent back to Campbell’s staff for refinement. The commission is slated to consider it again at its Dec. 3 meeting.

“For some San Diego communities, such as Mission Beach, STVRs are an accepted, even essential part of their economy and character. For others, such as La Jolla, they are, on the contrary, an undesirable, counterproductive threat to affordable housing, quiet family-friendly neighborhoods and safety,” the LJCPA letter states. “Both perspectives have merit, and both need to be reflected. We stand ready to work with you, other neighborhood organizations and Councilmember Campbell and her collaborators to ensure that San Diego regulates and enables STVRs to our collective benefit. [However,] we remain strongly opposed to the draft currently before you.”

The full draft letter is posted at lajollacpa.org.

A motion to send the letter passed 13-1, with trustee Dan Courtney opposed.

Shores PDO update: In addition to an ongoing effort to update The Village Planned District Ordinance, the La Jolla Shores PDO underwent some updates to the language in its bylaws. Chiefly, La Jolla Shores PDO committee chairwoman Suzanne Weissman said, the draft recognizes the La Jolla Shores Design Manual as part of the PDO; integrates language in the land development code regarding maximum size allowances in residential zones; and adds language found in the municipal code and the rest of La Jolla as it pertains to fences and retaining walls.

“We’ve only worked on the residential part of the La Jolla Shores PDO. There are other zones, but we haven’t gotten into that. We thought we would start with smaller changes,” Weissman said. “It’s a work in progress.”

The LJCPA board voted to accept the committee’s work and send the draft to the city for feedback.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆