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La Jolla Shores review committee rejects planned house as ‘just too big’

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee considers a project proposed for Spindrift Drive during its Jan. 18 meeting.
The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee considers a project proposed for Spindrift Drive during its Jan. 18 meeting online.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

A home development project planned for La Jolla Shores — which could be one of the last to be processed under some old rules — was voted down by the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee during its Jan. 18 meeting online.

The project requires coastal development and site development permits to demolish a 1,863-square-foot single-family residence and garage and build a new 2,924-square-foot house with a 500-square-foot garage and 302-square-foot accessory dwelling unit at 1851 Spindrift Drive. The floor area ratio (a building’s total floor area relative to the size of the lot) is 0.86.

The project was last considered in July. At the time, the La Jolla Shores area did not have a maximum FAR, though it was used as a metric for measuring bulk and scale. La Jolla Shores had a de facto FAR limit by requiring that 30 percent of a property be covered by landscaping and that structures be limited to 30 feet tall in compliance with the coastal height limit established in 1972 by Proposition D, but it did not have one in writing.

Since then, as part of the city of San Diego’s annual update to the land development code — which contains regulations for development and use of property, including zoning, subdivisions and other related uses — the Shores Planned District Ordinance was modified to specify the method for calculating FAR to make it consistent with single-family zones citywide, providing for a FAR limit in the building code. The changes to the land development code were approved by the City Council on Dec. 13.

However, applicants are held to the code in place when plans are submitted, so the Spindrift project is not required to meet a new FAR limit.

Nevertheless, PRC trustees discussed the FAR at length during this week’s meeting. While many of them applauded the home’s design, they said they could not approve it, citing bulk and scale issues.

As part of the review, applicant representatives explained how the project has changed since it was last heard.

In the past, the development drew objections over plans to build on the rear property line to accommodate a two-car garage instead of the one-car garage currently there. Haley Duke of Island Architects in La Jolla said “we pulled that back so there is a one-foot setback that is within inches of the current condition.”

Other changes included reducing the length of the house and narrowing the ADU attached to the house.

“The existing house is about 45 feet long along the alley and we were proposing about 69 feet of habitable space, so in discussions, we have come back and reduced that to 47 feet,” Duke said. “The length of house now is within two feet of what is existing along the alley to accommodate more open space. We pushed that extra space to the downstairs level … in a subterranean area.”

Duke described the aesthetics as “a Spanish style with light stucco, with iron and stone detail.”

To soften the appearance from the street, gardens are being added at the ground level.

Speaking against the project, neighbor Joseph Costello expressed concern about the size of the house and how views would be affected. “It’s a huge house,” he said. “Pushing everything to the maximum limit is terrible. … We just think it’s too much for the size of the lot.”

PRC trustee Janie Emerson agreed, saying the applicant “did a wonderful job on redoing things, and I was on board until you said what the FAR is. It’s just too big.”

Island Architects founding principal Tony Crisafi responded that “as a committee, you are being shortsighted on reviewing these projects, which is unfortunate. La Jolla Shores exists as a village with very interesting architecture and creative projects. … A lot of the newer projects ... may not fit the context of [what is there] … but there is more than the FAR that has built this village, and I think a lot of people are going to push to keep things moving the way they are.”

The board’s findings proceed to the La Jolla Community Planning Association for ratification or further review before going to the city for a final decision.

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee next meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22, online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆