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LJCPA passes concerns about Gravilla Townhomes project to city

Renderings depict how the proposed Gravilla Townhomes project (white building) would look among its neighbors.
(Courtesy of AVRP Studio)

The La Jolla Community Planning Association took a different approach to weighing in on a 12-unit condominium project during its July meeting last week. Though largely favorable to the proposal, the board, rather than voting on whether to support it, will ask the city of San Diego’s appropriate departments to consider LJCPA concerns in their review of the project and approve it if they find it complies with regulations.

Gravilla Townhomes, planned for 6710 La Jolla Blvd. at the corner of Gravilla Street, calls for a coastal development permit for a new two-story building with 12 for-sale condos — including one affordable for people of very low income — with 13 below-grade parking spaces with car stackers. The nearby alley is to be expanded.

The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee gave the plan its support May 17 on its third hearing. It was scheduled to be considered by LJCPA during its June meeting but was removed from the consent agenda so a full presentation could be given in July.

In the weeks before the July 7 hearing, La Jollan Phil Merten issued two letters expressing his concerns about the project. Chief among them were whether the San Diego municipal code is being interpreted correctly; whether the maximum building height is within allowable limits; whether the floor area ratio — the size of a structure in relation to its lot — is within local limits and whether “bonus units” would be included in the FAR (they are not, as an incentive to include low-cost units).

He also expressed concern that there was no commercial component to the project, since the property is in a zone set aside for commercial/mixed use. The La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee supported the project in April without the commercial component.

The Gravilla Townhomes project would be built on this vacant lot on La Jolla Boulevard at Gravilla Street.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

In presenting to LJCPA, applicant Rhonda Neely, vice president of Newport Beach-based C3 Development, responded to the concerns point by point, arguing that representatives of various city departments and an attorney determined that the project was on “firm legal footing.”

“While our architectural drawings are very detailed, they are still conceptual and they are not construction drawings,” Neely said. “Given the many city ordinances and building codes, and frankly the time and money and effort it takes to bring a project to fruition, we are very careful to understand those codes and our ability to meet them when we get to submitting our construction drawings.

“The theme here is that Mr. Merten has a different interpretation of the city’s codes and ordinances than the city itself has and what they have provided to us in writing.”

Project architect Doug Austin said: “We did our homework; we are doing this by the book. The city is saying we are doing it right. … I trust the city’s interpretation of the code.”

The La Jolla Community Planning Association was unable to reach consensus during its July 7 meeting regarding updated plans to build two houses with junior accessory dwelling units on Nautilus Street.

LJCPA trustee Greg Jackson said the project is a “good thing for La Jolla” and that it is “high time we figured out where in our community we can actually begin to provide units for people that are not multibillionaires.”

But a lengthy discussion ensued as to whether certain issues should have been raised or “caught” when the project was reviewed during previous hearings.

Among the issues were the use of the city’s density bonus — which allows the low-income unit to be excluded from the FAR — and whether the PDO Committee should have OKd the project without the commercial element.

A motion for LJCPA to “recommend that the city carefully review the issues discussed … and approve the project should it continue to find that the project complies with the San Diego municipal code, the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance and the La Jolla Community Plan” passed 10-2, with trustees Joe Terry and Mike Costello opposing without comment. ◆