Work begins on outdoor dining area of Paradisaea restaurant in ‘Piano Building,’ but councilman isn’t pleased

Work has begun in front of the upcoming Paradisaea restaurant to accommodate outdoor dining.
Work has begun in front of the upcoming Paradisaea restaurant to accommodate outdoor dining.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Work has begun on the outdoor dining area of the planned Paradisaea restaurant in Bird Rock, with some claiming there was insufficient communication about it.

The restaurant is scheduled to open next month at 5680 La Jolla Blvd. at what commonly has been known as the “Piano Building” because it once housed a piano company. Paradisaea was the subject of multiple Bird Rock Community Council reviews over the past year, with some on the board struggling with the planned encroachment into the right of way maintained by the Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District.

Ultimately, BRCC voted in April to support the outdoor dining component.

Through the MAD, property owners pay an assessment for care of Bird Rock’s public spaces beyond what the city of San Diego can provide, including landscaping.

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

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

That work has started, and some in the community were taken by surprise.

One of them is City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla. He lives in Bird Rock, and long before he was on the City Council, he was part of a group that got the MAD approved in 2005.

On Aug. 5, he posted a video on social media in which he said he was “really not happy with this little surprise that showed up,” referring to landscaping being removed and boards placed on the dirt.

“I feel a very personal connection with the MAD in terms of the landscaping,” LaCava later told the La Jolla Light. “The landscaping intercepts stormwater, is part of traffic calming and is visually pleasing. Now the landscaping is gone and there is wood planking there But in doing so, they exposed parts of the city irrigation system, which is another level of concern.”

Owner Eric Kleinbub, a local resident, said “the permits are complete for the sidewalk work.” He did not comment further.

During BRCC hearings, Kleinbub called Paradisaea “a passion project” and said “I want Bird Rock to be amazing, and we see this as something that will do that. … This is going to be the heart and soul of the neighborhood.”

Supporters of the restaurant applauded Kleinbub and his wife, Zoe, for preserving the William Kesling-designed building and said having outdoor dining would add “vibrancy” to the neighborhood.

But LaCava said he was disheartened that the Kleinbubs had not applied for a “Spaces as Places” permit, which he said “would be the first step if their interest is in expanding.” The city’s Spaces as Places program, which the council approved in October, establishes a process and regulations for outdoor dining areas that encroach on public spaces. The city began accepting permit applications for Spaces as Places in January, but it can’t take effect in coastal areas such as La Jolla until it is reviewed and certified by the California Coastal Commission.

Nearly a week after the July 13 expiration of temporary outdoor business operations permits in San Diego, some La Jolla establishments are scrambling to adjust to the city’s new outdoor dining initiative while others appear to be waiting for further direction.

July 19, 2022

“My concern is the process is not being followed and there is no discussion with the community,” LaCava said. “Another concern is making sure this doesn’t happen again.”

This is the second time something like this has happened in District 1, LaCava said. In Torrey Hills, a developer working on a property took out some MAD-managed landscaping, including a mature tree. “The community was caught by surprise,” LaCava said. “The same thing is happening here. The community and council office need to be notified before something like this happens. You have to be respectful of the process.”

Opponents of Paradisaea’s outdoor dining have argued that it would create obstructions blocking 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 the property.

In addition to the restaurant, the property will include Dodo Bird Donuts, an all-day cafe and Tropical Punch, a collection of home, beauty and fashion items from around the world. ◆