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Local permit reviewers approve slope work in Muirlands and wireless project in La Jolla Alta

The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meets Sept. 14 online.
The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meets Sept. 14 online.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee approved a slope stabilization project for the Muirlands area and the replacement of wireless communications technology in the La Jolla Alta area during its Sept. 14 meeting online.

Neither project will be largely visible from nearby public right of ways, applicants said.

Slope stabilization

To correct work that a previous homeowner did without permits, the current owners of 6444 Avenida Manana got support for coastal development and site development permits for slope restoration with construction of a shoring wall, retaining walls and a drainage system and removal of unpermitted retaining walls.

Civil engineer and applicant representative William Mack said previous work on the north side of the property resulted in structural failure that needed to be repaired. To do so, he proposed regrading and resloping the hillside surrounding the property and building the retaining and shoring walls, shrouded by landscaping.

“We propose minimal excavation below the existing structure,” he said.

Mack said San Diego native plants would screen the retaining walls.

“It’s going to be a keystone-type retaining wall,” he said. “It will have a 1-inch offset between the blocks, which helps the vines connect to the face of the wall.” The planting would look like what surrounds the site to blend with neighboring properties, he added.

In addressing height issues raised during a previous hearing, DPR trustees and the applicant debated whether the distance of the retaining wall from the house should be considered. In a residential project, if structures are connected, they must be measured from the lowest point of the lowest structure to the highest point of the house to calculate overall height and make sure it complies with local limits. However, if they are separate, the measurement would be just the house. (Some have taken to creating underground structures to separate some features from the house, along with other ways to get around that regulation.)

DPR Chairman Brian Will said that if the retaining walls were moved a few inches farther from the house, they would be six feet away and separated “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Mack noted that city planning staff has approved the project as is.

“We need to make sure the separation of structures is six feet,” Will asserted.

To address drainage, Mack said the project would add a new catch basin and a dissipator to slow the water that flows down the hill and ends up on the street.

A motion in favor of the project passed 5-0.

Wireless equipment

DPR also lent its support to replacing wireless infrastructure on the roof of a clubhouse at 1570 Alta La Jolla Drive in the La Jolla Alta residential community.

Justin Causey, representing AT&T on the project, said the plan is to remove and replace six antennas, remove six radios and install nine new radios along with upgraded mounts to house the equipment. There would be no exterior change, and the equipment would be shrouded from view with an existing enclosure.

Causey said the coverage with the improved equipment would provide “good service to that neighborhood. Typically we battle issues with topography and getting over a lot of residential dwellings. … But this provides a significant amount of coverage for that localized area.”

DPR trustee John Shannon argued against the installation in a residential neighborhood because of the possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields. “I don’t have my cellphone next to my head or my WiFi on right next to me when I sleep,” he said. “Those gentle pulses keep us awake and they are not healthy. I think we are going to learn this over time.”

Causey responded: “We take health and safety very seriously. Every single one of our projects, especially ones that are mounted 40 feet or lower, we perform [radio frequency] and [electromagnetic field] studies. This one is well below FCC [Federal Communications Commission] standards.”

Any preliminary hearing can be made final by a vote of the trustees, which occurred in this case. Soon after, a motion that findings can be made to support a conditional use permit for the project passed 5-0.

The findings will proceed to the La Jolla Community Planning Association for possible ratification. LJCPA next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7. It has not yet been determined whether it will meet in person, online or a hybrid. For more information, visit lajollacpa.org.