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Proposed La Jolla townhomes development gets PDO Committee’s approval

A rendering of the proposed Gravilla Townhomes development
A rendering of the proposed Gravilla Townhomes development, as presented to the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee during its April 11 meeting.
(Courtesy of AVRP Studios)

Though a plan to put townhomes on an “eyesore” lot has some components that don’t conform to the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance, it got the approval of the PDO review committee during its April 11 meeting.

The Gravilla Townhomes proposal calls for a coastal development permit for a new two-story project with 12 for-sale condominiums, including one affordable for people of very low income, with 13 below-grade parking spaces with car stackers at 6710 La Jolla Blvd.

“Right now, the corner of La Jolla Boulevard and Gravilla Street is an eyesore. It’s a vacant lot with a chain-link fence,” said applicant Rhonda Neely, vice president of Newport Beach-based C3 Development. “We’re proposing to bring 12 new luxury townhomes … with a beautiful new building, new trees, new landscaping, new sidewalk pavers and all that goes with it.”

Architect Doug Austin said “the idea was to keep [the architecture] simple and quiet. We have taken a few ideas from Irving Gill’s playbook … and decorate with nature.”

The development would be entirely residential, rather than the mix of residential and ground-floor retail that the PDO recommends, so those in the area “would not have to contend with commercial noise, parking and loading zones,” Neely said.

This vacant lot at La Jolla Boulevard and Gravilla Street is proposed for a 12-unit townhome development.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

There will be efforts to limit using the townhouses as short-term rentals, Neely said, based on feedback from a meeting the applicant team had with almost 20 neighbors who live within 300 feet of the proposed development.

Neighbors also asked the team to check with the city of San Diego on whether the red curb fronting the property could be removed to allow for additional parking and to look into the feasibility of a four-way stop sign at the location.

The latter request raised some eyebrows, as there are no four-way stops along that stretch of La Jolla Boulevard. PDO trustee Joe Pitrofsky said it “doesn’t make sense” and would cause excessive traffic and backups.

Though landscaping would be added throughout the ground floor of the development, other landscaping requirements outlined in the PDO are not being met.

Neely said the design team “has been very careful to pay attention to all the detailed requirements … the stated purpose and intent” of the PDO and met as many requirements as it felt it could.

Despite that divergence from the PDO, a motion to support the project passed unanimously. Neely said the team hopes to present to the city Planning Commission in late summer and start construction soon after.

C3 Development also is constructing a mixed-use retail and residential building, plus parking and landscaping, on the former site of a 76 gas station at 801 Pearl St.

Other PDO news

Village Visioning report: The committee also heard a presentation about the Village Streetscape plan created by the Village Visioning Committee, a La Jolla Community Planning Association ad-hoc group of Realtors, architects, engineers and others.

Urbanist Trace Wilson said the plan would create a “cohesive urban environment” that would look at piecemeal projects such as the Recreation Center renovation and Cliffridge Park beautification and provide a “macro view of La Jolla … from property line to property line, from Turquoise Street to UCSD and the 5 freeway to the coast.”

Street updates would include changing parking spaces from parallel to diagonal to allow for more parking and to slow traffic. The plan also lists areas where roundabouts, bulb-outs and increased landscaping could be used. In earlier presentations, Wilson touted the use of different trees on different streets to give them a sense of identity.

PDO trustee Gail Forbes said she found certain parts of the plan “concerning,” particularly how the proposed street trees would be cared for. She said some of the street trees already in place have died due to disease or insufficient care. “The trees take a tremendous hit from urban life. Whatever trees you use, they will struggle,” she said.

Wilson said the trees chosen would be appropriate for the area. He said sidewalks with minimal space would feature smaller trees and that streets that need more shade would have larger trees.

Board members said they supported the concept, with some saying they “like it a lot.” However, the board did not vote on the proposal.

Antique Maps signage: The committee approved changes to the signage fronting the Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps showroom at 7405 La Jolla Blvd. PDO Chairwoman Deborah Marengo said the previous signage proved too large and created a structural issue and needed to be replaced.

The proposed change includes installing a small, unilluminated gold and satin black marquee to replace the original one, and two even smaller signs on other sides of the building.

A motion to support the project as presented passed unanimously.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee next meets (pending items to review) at 4 p.m. Monday, May 9, likely online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆