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Potential neighborhood impacts stall vote on La Jolla Christian Fellowship church expansion

A rendering depicts the proposed expansion of La Jolla Christian Fellowship at 627 Genter St.
(Mark Lyon)

Congregants of La Jolla Christian Fellowship and residents in the surrounding neighborhood continued to be at odds this week over a planned expansion of the church, prompting the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee for a second time to ask the applicant to return at a future meeting.

The renovation is focused on the two-story education building at 627 Genter St., adjacent to an alley and Draper Avenue, outside the church sanctuary and fellowship hall.

The proposal calls for a neighborhood development permit to add 1,926 square feet, including 680 square feet to both the first and second floors and 566 square feet to create a third floor.

“Over the last several years, the church has been growing, which is a great thing, and a lot of families are joining,” architect Mark Lyon said previously. “These families have young children, and the church has found itself short of space.”

Lyon said the church wants to provide four things with the renovation: an entryway from the street to the facilities; a space for individual and family counseling; a space for child care during Sunday services; and a space for Bible study classes that take place two nights a week.

Speaker Xavier Richey favored the project during the DPR Committee’s Sept. 13 meeting online, saying the church is “a pivotal cornerstone in the community” and is “very reachable” to parishioners in need.

“They should be able to continue the great work they are doing, reaching out to the community, especially the youth,” Richey said.

Church member and volunteer Sean Butland said that “as the church continues to grow and thrive, the community itself will benefit as well.”

However, questions remained from a DPR hearing in August about whether the area is zoned for the proposed level of use and whether construction of a third floor is appropriate for the neighborhood.

A planned remodeling at the La Jolla Christian Fellowship campus in The Village drew strong opposition and a series of questions during the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee’s meeting Aug. 9 — so much so that trustees asked the applicants to return with more information at a future meeting.

Nearby resident Andrea Russell said her concerns are centered on the “effect that this expansion would have on our very residential neighborhood.”

Lyon said the zoning for the area is “multi-family,” which is primarily for residential, but that city code allows for commercial properties to be built as a secondary use. “The city … has designated the church to be a commercial use,” he said. “Within that [commercial] category there are sub-categories, with religious assembly included in that sub-category.”

The code is in the process of being amended, but at the time the permit application was filed, the use was allowed, Lyon argued.

Addressing the third floor, Lyon showed a map of what he said were other three-story structures in the area to demonstrate precedence. But some in attendance said the locations were actually two-story single-family houses with roof decks.

Though the new structure would be three stories, it still would be under the 30-foot coastal height limit, according to the plans.

Other questions arose about parking and whether the proposed increase in use necessitates other permits.

In seeking a neighborhood development permit, Lyon said, he had to show the project “will not be detrimental to public health, safety and welfare” and that it meets other local code requirements. “We clearly showed that we are compliant with the land development code, and those are the only findings you need to make,” he said.

DPR trustee Greg Jackson said the issue is whether the project would be a detriment to the neighborhood. “This is a question of whether it fits into the neighborhood, hence an NDP,” he said.

Should the committee vote despite the lingering concerns from the community (thereby sending its recommendation to the La Jolla Community Planning Association for ratification or further review), it likely would be pulled for a full presentation and not be voted on until November, Jackson said.

Thus, the DPR opted not to vote and asked the applicant team to address the concerns and return so the committee could vote on the plan “without controversy.”

Other DPR news

Three projects slated for preliminary review were discussed briefly Sept. 13 and will return at a future meeting for a vote.

One is seeking a coastal development permit to demolish a residence and detached garage to make way for construction of a new 5,418-square-foot, two-story single-family home at 7798 Prospect Place and a new 3,600-square-foot, three-story single-family home with an attached 785-square-foot accessory dwelling unit at 7788 Prospect Place.

Another is seeking coastal development and site development permits for a new 16,251-square-foot, two-story house over a basement, with an accessory structure and a pool, on a currently vacant lot at 2072 Via Casa Alta.

The third project calls for a substantial-conformance review of changes to a previously approved permit that would allow construction of two houses in the 1400 block of Nautilus Street.

The Development Permit Review Committee next meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆