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Hillside Drive home project is heard a fifth time and fails to get a ‘yes’ vote

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee again considered a project planned for 7595 Hillside Drive.
The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee again considered a project to demolish a residence and build a 7,091-square-foot, two-story house at 7595 Hillside Drive.
(Bing Maps / La Jolla Light)

A home development planned for 7595 Hillside Drive has gone through another review and still has yet to get the green light from La Jolla’s community planning groups. The project was discussed for the fifth time this year at the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee meeting Dec. 21 online.

The applicant seeks site development and coastal development permits to demolish a residence and build a new 7,091-square-foot, two-story house.

In February, the PRC approved the requested permits. However, in the months that followed, La Jolla architect Phil Merten argued to the board 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 disputed features, such as the height, retaining wall, guest quarters and staircase.

Nevertheless, the project was voted down and forwarded to the La Jolla Community Planning Association. The proposal was heard but not voted on at the July 2 LJCPA meeting and was sent back to the PRC.

At the PRC’s Dec. 21 meeting, Gonzales said there has been a series of adjustments to the project based on LJCPA recommendations and that the architectural style is in line with “95 percent of what’s being built in La Jolla.”

He also said most of the project would be below grade and therefore below what is visible from the street. “This is one of the few projects in La Jolla where, for the most part, most of it is a clear view of the ocean,” he said.

Merten, who again argued against the project, said, “A lot of revisions have resolved some of the code compliance issues, but there are still some outstanding issues.” Chief among them, he said, is that the proposal exceeds the allowed 40-foot height for the area.

A frustrated Gonzales said: “No, it doesn’t. … I don’t want to get into this again. This has been thoroughly reviewed by the city. This is ... ridiculous at this point.”

Merten argued that a retaining wall comes within four feet of the front entrance walkway. When various structures in a development are connected by less than six feet, they have to be measured together in terms of overall structure height. He argued that the height should be measured from the lowest point of the wall to the highest point of the house, which would top 46 feet.

Gonzales countered that “as far as our calculations, our civil engineer’s calculations, our surveyor’s calculations, we are good. And [city engineers] are OK with it.”

A motion that findings cannot be made to support the project “until we resolve the height issue” passed 5-1, with trustee Matt Edwards dissenting without comment.

The applicant has the choice to return to the PRC for additional review or proceed to the Community Planning Association.

Other PRC news

A project for a house a couple of hundred feet from Caroline’s Seaside Cafe will return for additional review following its preliminary hearing. The project calls for coastal development and site development permits to demolish a house at 8561 El Paseo Grande and build a new 6,194-square-foot, two-story house with a basement parking garage.

Acknowledging that the building “is a bit on the modern side,” applicant representative Claude-Anthony Marengo said the house would be set back and that coastal views would be preserved.

But PRC trustee and La Jolla Shores resident Janie Emerson said there isn’t anything similar to the project in the neighborhood, “so from a street angle and conformity to the neighborhood, I have a problem with the materials being used and the way they erupt out of the ground.”

Marengo agreed to return to a future meeting for a vote.

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆