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San Diego hearing officer approves home development opposed by La Jolla Shores review committee

A rendering shows plans for 7951 Paseo del Ocaso, as presented to hearing officer Antoinette Gibbs.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Plan for a new two-story, 3,503-square-foot house on Paseo del Ocaso gets the OK despite concerns about community character and building materials.

Despite concerns about community character and building materials, a San Diego hearing officer approved permits and plans for a residential project in La Jolla Shores. When the proposal was considered locally last year, the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee voted against it after three reviews.

During a virtual meeting Oct. 5, hearing officer Antoinette Gibbs approved the project, which seeks coastal development and site development permits to demolish a one-story, 1,799-square-foot house and build a new two-story, 3,503-square-foot house with an attached garage at 7951 Paseo del Ocaso.

Project manager Veronica Davison said it is designed to “be in general conformance with development patterns in bulk and scale of the existing neighborhood, including setbacks … and complies with design requirements of the La Jolla Shores Planned District [Ordinance].”

Applicant representative Chandra Slaven said “critical design concessions” had been made since the project was reviewed locally, including an overall size reduction and moving a stair wall.

A rendering depicts the home project planned for 7951 Paseo del Ocaso in La Jolla Shores.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Project architect Chris DeHenzel called the plan “an amalgamation of forms and materials that are contextual to this place and a continuation of the development of this neighborhood over the decades.”

He said the proposed house uses “natural materials,” such as board-formed concrete, cedar, cement plaster and natural zinc, that are intended to “age gracefully.”

However, plans to include zinc gave Gibbs pause.

“I don’t think I can support the use of zinc because it is not a material that is consistent with [local building] regulations,” she said. “The La Jolla Shores PDO talks about exterior wall materials should be limited to [natural stone and other materials]. Zinc is not a natural stone.”

The issue of community character also was raised. Area resident Tricia Riha submitted a comment that questioned the development’s consistency with the neighborhood.

Gibbs asked the applicant team to address neighborhood character, saying, “I had some concerns with that as well.”

“The [La Jolla] Community Plan talks about stepping the second story back,” Gibbs said, and she questioned whether the development does that.

San Diego associate planner Kyle Goossens responded that the guidelines offer “a recommendation” intended to “provide articulation and avoid a box-like structure. This house assists in minimizing bulk and scale by providing articulation in the form of recessed balconies, offsetting planes and architectural projections.”

Gibbs said she was open to approving the project but issued a condition that the walls be made with a material “in line with the La Jolla Shores PDO” and that the proposed use of zinc was not acceptable.

The applicant team was amenable to that condition, and Gibbs approved the project. The decision is appealable to the San Diego Planning Commission.

Shores Permit Review Committee trustees expressed concern in September last year that the closeness of the house to the property line and the appearance of a solid blank wall would conflict with local building guidelines.

Despite changes to the design in ensuing months, trustees such as Janie Emerson were not satisfied.

“I feel like all the work we put into this meant nothing,” she said last November. “What you have done does nothing to correct the issues we brought up.”

Rather than return for a fourth review, the applicants opted for a vote by the PRC board. A motion that findings could not be made to support the project passed 4-1, with trustee Angie Preisendorfer dissenting, saying, “I like the design.” ◆