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La Jolla planners rule against DPR in permit conformance review for Country Club-area development

La Jolla Community Planning Association trustees and other community members attend LJCPA's June 3 meeting.
La Jolla Community Planning Association trustees and other community members attend LJCPA’s June 3 meeting.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The La Jolla Community Planning Association voted against the findings of its Development Permit Review subcommittee on a project that would overlook La Jolla Heights Natural Park in the Country Club neighborhood during its June 3 meeting.

The project in question is a development at 7362 Brodiaea Way, where applicants hoped for findings that their project essentially meets the terms of a previously approved permit in what is known as a substantial conformance review.

DPR approved a permit application for the property in December 2018 and the Community Planning Association followed suit in February 2019. DPR then ruled the modified project does conform to the previously approved permit in April this year.

LJCPA trustees disagreed.

At issue for trustees was the changes to the project, which include relocating a proposed driveway and making the garage a completely underground structure with living space; and the request to process the application as a SCR rather than as an amendment to the original permits.

The “main item” that triggered a SCR, said applicant representative Roger Sammon of Island Architects, is the garage being removed from the main building pad and placed at the basement level. “It is no longer visible from the public view. The driveway was moved from the highest part of the slope and moved down to the south end of the property,” he said, and the main level includes “minimal changes” on the west side, with the house maintaining a similar footprint.

But the basement would now also include approximately 2,000 feet of livable space that would not be included in measuring the floor area ratio (a building’s floor area in relation to the size of the lot). Some trustees lamented the excavation and related impacts to the surrounding areas with the increased basement square footage.

As such, LJCPA trustee Kathleen Neil argued the project doesn’t meet the criteria for SCR and should have come forward with an amendment to the requested permits.

“The changes to the approved project involve digging a new underground garage and changes to stormwater retention [features],” she said. “The project’s front property line abuts the very top of La Jolla Height Natural Park, so any changes to height, landscape or stormwater flow will impact the fire zone and area of special biological significance. By requesting the project be processed as an amendment to the [requested permits] instead of SCR, the LJCPA could send the message that we care very much about development, both public and private, next to our parks.”

Neil asked the board to consider “how much time this group has devoted to protecting the parks from the impacts of the La Jolla View Reservoir” project, which would replace a reservoir near the proposed development. The board spent several meetings discussing the project, ultimately forming a working group to liaise with the city and find an alternative.

A motion echoing Neil’s position and denying the SCR passed 14-1, with trustee Greg Jackson dissenting without comment.

The project will proceed to the appropriate city departments with the LJCPA’s determination. It is not known if the project will return for further review.

Other LJCPA news

Cuvier Street vacation coming back: The request to vacate a portion of Cuvier Street from city ownership that has been making its way around La Jolla’s community planning groups was pulled from the LJCPA’s consent agenda for a full review next month.

The vacation is considered a necessary part of the La Jolla Rec Center renovation to help expand its offerings, and has been approved by the DPR committee and La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board.

Spindrift Drive handrail: Without elaborating further, LJCPA trustee Patrick Ahern hinted that “traction” was being gained in the board’s effort to install a handrail at the slippery Spindrift Drive beach access next to the Marine Room restaurant.

“After a long delay, partially due to COVID … we’re getting traction with the [San Diego] Transportation and Stormwater Department, which is responsible for that access,” he said, adding a group has formed under the auspices of the La Jolla Shores Association to work with the appropriate city departments.

The handrail was approved by LJSA and LJCPA in late 2018 and reportedly has the support of neighbors and lifeguards. In 2019, LJCPA listed the replacing of the handrail as its number one project for the city to fund.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 1. Learn more at lajollacpa.org.