Shores Permit Review Committee votes down ADU proposed for historic property

A rendering of a proposed accessory dwelling unit at 8445 Avenida de las Ondas (right).
A rendering of a proposed accessory dwelling unit at 8445 Avenida de las Ondas (right), next to an existing historically designated house, was presented to the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee during its March 21 meeting.
(Courtesy of Marengo Morton Architects)

A debate that started last month on whether a planned accessory dwelling unit is compatible but differentiated from an existing historically designated house continued at the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee’s March 21 meeting. Trustees ultimately voted against the project, citing architectural inconsistency between the two homes.

The project proposed for 8445 Avenida de las Ondas would demolish a garage and build a two-story structure, with a “small guest room, workout room, bathroom, laundry [and] very deep two-car garage” on the bottom floor, according to applicant representative Michael Morton. The top floor would be a one-bedroom, 1,191-square-foot ADU that would serve as a residence for family members.

The original home on the property is designated historic, Morton said, and thus his designs for the ADU follow the secretary of the interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, which state that “new additions, exterior alterations or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment.”

Under the project, the existing house would remain as is.

Morton said the guidelines suggest “that new work shall be different from the old work but comparable in some aspects … so historical projects remain historical and additions are not too blended with them, because then you can’t tell the difference … and if removed in the future, would not damage the historic property.”

But some PRC trustees argued that the proposed ADU was a little too different to be comparable.

Trustee Larry Davidson said in February that “it just looks so disparate from the original to the new construction. … I don’t see the connection between the two buildings in materials, shape, form.”

Morton said the proposed colors were “softened and darkened, making more earth-tone colorations.”

But Davidson said his concerns remain and that it was “wishful thinking” to find the proposed structure compatible with the historical one.

Trustee Dan Courtney said that “when someone has a historic structure, historical preservation groups would prefer the addition be in a similar style with a similar look, as opposed to being totally different.”

He added that he supports the concept because “this is what ADUs are intended for. We get a lot of ADU applications that people take advantage of to get more square footage on their property.”

Speaking in support of the project, trustee John Shannon said he was “very much in favor of maintaining historical structures, and I think this new structure is done as well as can be under the constraints.”

After additional discussion about setbacks, heights and drainage, a motion that findings cannot be made to the support the project, based on contrasting architectural styles, passed 5-2, with Shannon and Angie Preisendorfer opposed.

The San Diego Historical Resources Board voted in January 2021 to designate the existing house, known as the Dorrit and Albert Wright House, as a historical resource with a period of significance of 1955 under HRB Criterion C, which indicates the house “embodies distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period or method of construction or is a valuable example of the use of natural materials or craftsmanship.”

A report associated with the designation stated that the house “embodies the distinctive characteristics through the retention of character-defining features of post and beam and retains a good level of architectural integrity from its 1955 period of significance. Specifically, the resource retains the direct expression of the wood structural system; U-shaped structure; shallow pitched roof with deep overhang; wood cladding; floor-to-ceiling glass; and the absence of applied decoration.”

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, April 18, likely online. Learn more at