Proposed hillside home development draws questions over heights from La Jolla Shores panel

A rendering depicts a home development proposed for 7792 Senn Way in La Jolla.
A rendering depicts a home development proposed for 7792 Senn Way in La Jolla.

Eyebrows were raised at the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee meeting Nov. 16 when an applicant proposed a development that includes nearly 30-foot walls and other measurements that “don’t pencil out,” according to one member.

Plans call for construction of a new two-story-over-basement, seven-bedroom house with an attached garage, landscaping, a terrace, a pool and a basketball court at 7792 Senn Way. The approximately 18,000-square-foot project (13,000 square feet of it habitable, the rest basement and garage) is planned for a 5-acre lot, approximately one acre of which could be developed. The rest would remain open space.

Land-use consultant Mike Pallamary, representing the applicant, said he wanted to get feedback on the project and presented it to the committee for information only. No vote was taken or scheduled.

The property is at the top of Senn Way on a “rather steep site,” Pallamary said, accessed by a long driveway. Neighbors are “very supportive of the project,” he said.

Architect Mehdi Rafaty of Tag Front said there is already a foundation on the site from a previous development and that the building would be on the existing footprint.

“The only portion that goes over into the hillside area is the pool element,” Rafaty said. “We don’t want the building to be forceful in nature in terms of the hillside. We played a lot with the interior/exterior spaces; we have a lot of deck space and outdoor space where it overlooks the view.”

Though Pallamary said the building height “has been all reviewed and approved” and that the project would be “out of the way” and “tucked into the hillside,” PRC trustee Larry Davidson said he had read the letter from the city on the project’s early measurements and noted that “the city does not say this has been approved. I think you need to be more clear in what they told you … [which is] that ‘it looks good but we are going to look at it in detail later.’”

Clarifying, Pallamary said the “conceptual plan appeared to comply with the height limits of the zone, and height will be further verified … with the building permit application.”

PRC Chairman Andy Fotsch said overall height of 40 feet is allowed and that “the basketball court with the fence is pushing to the full 40-foot limit and the gym is sticking out … and there are flat 28- and 24-foot walls, which are disguised in the renderings. There are community members that have issues with those things.”

Trustee Janie Emerson said some of the measurements “don’t pencil out” and questioned whether the various structures in the proposal are connected, in which case they would have to be measured together. Should all structures on the property be connected and measured from the lowest point of the lowest structure to the tallest point of the main house, the development would top 50 feet.

“You’re going to be in trouble” if the structures are connected, Emerson said.

Rafaty assured that the structures are separated and the height would not exceed what is allowed for the area.

Fotsch added that “a 30-foot solid wall is not something that is a green light anywhere in La Jolla’s residential zone, and you have several of them that you are proposing.”

Trustee Dan Courtney said the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance Committee recently submitted recommendations to update its bylaws and that “one of the big things on that list was [mitigation against] big blank walls.”

“We are losing hillside and replacing it with concrete. … It’s not something we like to see,” he said.

Emerson said she also is concerned about the garage and noted that one set of drawings seemed to show the basement underground and another showed it differently. She also said a drawing suggested that a portion of the house would be right on the property line.

The applicant representatives thanked the trustees for their comments and agreed to return with additional information.

“You did a great job … and the city may approve everything that is on there,” Davidson said. “But when it comes to The Shores, I think you might get some pushback.”

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee next meets, pending items to review, at 4 p.m. Monday Dec. 21, online. Learn more at ◆