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La Jolla planning group’s ad-hoc committees take on Shores PDO, Village density and blocked coastal views

La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane presides over a recent meeting on Zoom.
(Courtesy)

In the sea of new phrases that emerged in 2020, one that has crept in has been “an ad-hoc committee put together by La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane.”

These ad-hoc committees, featuring representatives of community groups across La Jolla, operate under LJCPA with specific purviews: a Village Visioning Committee, a Shores Planned District Ordinance review board and a new one to examine La Jolla coastal view corridors that are being blocked by development.

Not to be confused with a subcommittee, which continually reviews projects and makes recommendations that LJCPA can later ratify, an ad-hoc committee addresses a specific issue and then disbands.

Kane said she was inspired to form the committees by La Jolla Parks & Beaches President Ann Dynes and how that board has working groups tasked with certain projects. Kane also was inspired by her own experience working on ad-hoc committees.

Kane said LJCPA’s primary reason for being is to review development projects and give a community perspective to the city of San Diego. “We’re playing catch with the city,” she said. “They throw us something, we look at it and throw it back. We don’t get a chance to initiate the throw.”

Kane said some issues would come up constantly. One is the “50 percent rule,” through which a developer could bypass a coastal development permit if the project retains 50 percent of the original walls. Yet some would strip a property down to the wall studs and assert that was abiding by the 50 percent rule.

So, LJCPA set up an ad-hoc committee to come up with community-friendly alternatives that would still meet the needs of developers wanting to bypass the lengthy permit process while meeting their clients’ needs. Kane was on that committee.

“We basically rewrote that section of the code,” she said. “We brought it to LJCPA and got their endorsement and then went to the city and got then-Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s support. We got a meeting with the Development Services Department and presented our recommendation, which had full community support. ... We got shut down flat.”

Kane was elected LJCPA president soon after, in April 2020. Having seen what an ad-hoc committee can do, and having been through the process, she knew she could create such committees as issues arose.

The first was in La Jolla Shores, where residents expressed frustration with the area’s Planned District Ordinance, or blueprint for development. Kane offered to set up an ad-hoc committee under the auspices of LJCPA.

“They started looking through the PDO and asking what issues keep coming up. What is it about the PDO that isn’t working?” she said. The committee got to work and produced a list of potential changes.

Among them, ad-hoc 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 pertaining to maximum size allowances in residential zones; and adds language found in the municipal code and the rest of La Jolla about fences and retaining walls.

In November, the LJCPA board voted to accept the committee’s work and move it to the city for further feedback.

Last summer, when the city’s Complete Communities proposal — which aims to increase density in areas near transit — came up, Kane studied the plan and found it wasn’t considering The Village as a place where density could be increased.

In exploring this concept, she got to working with local architects and Realtors and another ad-hoc committee was born. It would work with the La Jolla PDO Committee, Enhance La Jolla, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association and other groups looking to update regulations that apply to Village development or major Village improvement projects.

“We realized we needed to get these ideas linked up so everyone talks together and walks in the same direction,” Kane said. “We want to get more energy in The Village.”

The committee is composed of architects Andy Fotsch, Brian Will and Trace Wilson, Realtors Patrick Ahern and John Shannon, and engineer and historian Matt Mangano.

As part of his participation in the working group, Fotsch nominated himself for a board seat on the La Jolla Village Merchants Association to serve as a liaison.

“We are developing a comprehensive plan to revitalize The Village,” he said at the time. “Our goal is to collaborate and combine everything. There are all these committees working on different things; we want to come together to look at everything from streetscapes to zoning and transportation.”

The ad-hoc committee is looking to present something to the PDO Committee in the next few months and at some point hold a meeting to get public input.

Not one to slow down, Kane is setting up yet another ad-hoc committee, this one to examine coastal view corridors that have been blocked by residential development.

“There are efforts by a number of organizations in town to address blocking public views that are outlined in the community plan,” she said. “The city hasn’t been enforcing [keeping view corridors unobstructed] because they probably don’t know they need to. There have been neighbors who know there are corridors in certain locations, and they have been blocked one way or another.”

The plan is to have the ad-hoc committee map the view corridors, photograph them in their current condition and get nearby building owners to clear the views with help from the city.

“I’ve been having conversations with the heads of other groups that are dealing with this … and provide a channel of communications and get this done,” Kane said, noting the Bird Rock Community Council, La Jolla Parks & Beaches, La Jolla Shores Association and others. “La Jolla is like a mosaic of groups that work together, and a lot of this stuff ends at the LJCPA because we are the recognized voice on planning at the city. But I want to see what we can get done when we work together.”

The ad-hoc committees will report at future LJCPA meetings when they have new information to provide. LJCPA meets at 6 p.m. the first Thursday of each month. The next meeting is Jan. 7 online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆