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Bird Rock council supports Paradisaea restaurant’s expansion into public right of way at ‘Piano Building’

A rendering shows the planned outdoor dining at Paradisaea.
A rendering is presented to the Bird Rock Community Council during a special meeting April 26, showing the planned outdoor dining at Paradisaea.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

After multiple hearings over the past year, plans to convert the “Piano Building” in Bird Rock into a restaurant got the approval of the Bird Rock Community Council during a special meeting April 26. The board had struggled in the past with whether to support planned encroachment into the public right of way to accommodate outdoor dining.

The restaurant, to be called Paradisaea, is scheduled to open this summer at 5680 La Jolla Blvd. According to a news release, it will feature “contemporary Californian cuisine” highlighting local seafood, handmade pastas, “a signature hamburger and creative ice creams.”

The property also will include an all-day cafe and a retail store in addition to the restaurant.

Plans to convert the “Piano Building” in Bird Rock into a restaurant continue to vex members of the Bird Rock Community Council.

The city of San Diego asked the Community Council to weigh in on the planned encroachment into the landscaped area maintained by the Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District, but not about the restaurant design or operations. Through the MAD, property owners pay an assessment for care of Bird Rock’s public spaces beyond what the city can provide, including landscaping.

To accommodate outdoor dining for Paradisaea, the concrete sidewalk along La Jolla Boulevard would be removed and replaced with hardscape and planters. One area that currently has vegetation and is maintained by the MAD would be removed and replaced with hardscape.

Members of the public on both sides of the issue pleaded their case April 26.

Proponents applauded the restaurant owners, local residents Eric and Zoe Kleinbub, for preserving the William Kesling-designed building and said that having outdoor dining would add “vibrancy” to the neighborhood.

Opponents argued that the proposed outdoor dining would create obstructions that would block the view of pedestrians in a nearby crosswalk and that turning over the MAD-maintained area to a private business would set a precedent that other restaurants would want to follow. Others suggested that those who pay into the MAD should have a vote on whether to turn over that property.

BRCC member Barbara Dunbar said she opposed the “alteration and modification of the MAD and the reduction of MAD green space, as well as the proposed encroachment by a private property owner.”

BRCC President John Newsam noted that the council is “very concerned about safety” and acknowledged that the decision could set a precedent. However, he said, “BRCC has not been asked for input … for any issue other than the proposed encroachment into the MAD area.

“Some community members have expressed concerns relating to building design, parking, access, noise, trash and especially safety of pedestrians and diners. BRCC understands that such matters are the responsibility of the city of San Diego, and the city’s [Development Services Department] will review such issues in the normal way.”

The Bird Rock Community Council meets April 26 on Zoom.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

However, he said the board’s approval would be subject to certain conditions, including stipulations to preserve trees “in their current locations [and with] adequate space and protection,” and to codify which entities would maintain which types of landscaping and outdoor dining features. For example, vegetation outside the property line would continue to be the responsibility of the MAD, while the hardscape and safety bollards that will be installed along La Jolla Boulevard would be maintained by the restaurant owners.

Two motions regarding areas to be encroached passed 7-2, with trustees David and Barbara Dunbar dissenting.

A third motion caused some debate, as it involved expanding the outdoor dining to in front of an adjacent business. Applicant representative AJ Remen said the neighboring building owner is in favor of the outdoor dining proposal, even if it comes near the front door.

The motion to approve, predicated on written support from both the owner and business proprietor of the neighboring property, passed 5-4, with the Dunbars, Newsam and trustee Joe Parker dissenting, all without comment.

A letter will be sent to the city with the recommendation. ◆