La Jolla DPR approves plans for addition to historic home

Renderings depict a planned companion unit on the alley-facing side of a historically designated house at 391 Via del Norte.
Renderings depict a planned companion unit on the alley-facing side of a historically designated house at 391 Via del Norte.

“Visual” revisions to plans for an addition to a historically designated house were enough to get the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee’s approval during its March 16 meeting.

Plans are to demolish a non-historic structure that houses pool-related equipment on the alley-facing side of the designated house at 391 Via del Norte and build a new 642-square-foot attached companion unit. The house was designed by master architects Herbert Mann and Thomas Shepherd.

Applicant Paul Johnson said the revisions are “not too significant,” and focus primarily on window modifications, roof materials and angles and a door. He said the changes are “only visual” but “make a substantial difference.”

When the matter was previously heard during the March 9 meeting, DPR trustees were unhappy with design limitations placed on the applicants by the San Diego Historical Resources Board — specifically that the addition be differentiated from the house. Trustees wanted time to find an alternative and speak to HRB members before voting.

DPR trustee and former HRB member Diane Kane said she researched the HRB’s recommendation and offered an analysis.

“What HRB is looking at was whether the addition is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, which call for something that is differentiated but compatible,” Kane said. “We saw a lot of differentiation but not a lot of compatibility [with the design that was presented March 9]. … The standards for rehabilitation allow for additions, and the basic standard that applies does not allow for a false sense of history. Basically, you can’t add elements that were never there that confuse the viewer of the house.”

Other relevant standards note that additions must differentiate from the original development and that new additions must be reversible.

Kane said the project does not create a false sense of history because “it’s a companion unit. These weren’t even allowed in our code up until a few years ago.”

Further, the companion unit must have fire-rated windows and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, requirements that were not standard in the 1920s when the house was built, and therefore it differentiates from the rest of the house. And by being a companion unit, it could be removed and is therefore reversible.

“My analysis is this does meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards as redesigned … and meets our community plan and land development code,” Kane said. She moved that findings can be made to support the project. It was quickly seconded and unanimously approved.

“I think it’s a much better project … it fits much better with the existing house,” trustee Angeles Liera said. “It doesn’t call attention to itself, which is what bothered me about the previous design. Taking out the slanted roof really helped.”

Johnson said the next step is to meet with applicable city departments, and he said he would submit Kane’s analysis as part of the report.

The DPR meets the second and third Tuesdays of each month. The next meeting is at 4 p.m. April 13. Learn more at ◆