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Residential/retail development gets La Jolla PDO Committee’s approval for Herschel Avenue

A rendering shows a development proposed for Herschel Avenue where there is now a parking lot.
A rendering presented to the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee on Oct. 10 shows a development proposed for Herschel Avenue where there is now a parking lot.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

In its first meeting since April, the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee gave its support to construction of a 24,435-square-foot residential/retail building on Herschel Avenue during its Oct. 10 meeting.

The development would be two above-ground levels with a 33,535-square-foot basement parking garage at 7945 Herschel. It would consist of 12 residential apartments with a roof deck above a ground-floor residential/lobby area with retail. The site currently is a parking lot for the La Valencia Hotel.

Project manager Jack Straw said it has been in the works for years and will “add a lot to the location.”

Sophia Del Mar English, another project manager, said there would be 25 residential parking spaces, eight commercial spaces and 69 spaces for use by the hotel. The development also would feature a ground-level courtyard and publicly accessible open space.

She described the building materials as “natural ... in lighter tones and glass for transparency” and said her goal was to meet the intent of the Planned District Ordinance “and create an interior/exterior feel to the project. We want it to feel open and light and elegant.”

Landscape architect Pat O’Connor said the existing streetscape along Herschel inspired the vegetation plans. “There are some fairly large trees proposed for this project … and we anticipate street activity, so the idea is for it to blend in with its neighbors.”

Pending city approval, the plan is to use street grates over the tree wells to allow for uninterrupted pedestrian access along the frontage, he said.

The back of the building contains a third story, and the frontage is at the same height as surrounding buildings. Del Mar English said city staff deemed the third story acceptable on that block.

A mixed-use development is planned for this parking lot on Herschel Avenue.
A mixed-use development is planned for this parking lot on Herschel Avenue.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Addressing questions from PDO Committee trustees about whether there would be a residential unit considered affordable for lower-income people, Joseph Wong, president of development firm JWDA, said the team “is not required to have an affordable unit” and would pay the in-lieu fee to the city instead.

PDO Chairwoman Deborah Marengo said she “likes the exterior and the materials” and called it a “great addition for the area,” but she asked for more information about screening material, the signage plan and where mechanical equipment would be stored on the roof. The team said it would be willing to provide that.

She said she was apprehensive to approve the project as presented but would defer to the board.

Trustee Gail Forbes called the development “a considerable change for that block” but added that it “looks like a good project and meets all the requirements.”

Trustee Joe Pitrofsky called the current lot “an eyesore” and a “nuisance to attracting homeless” people and that as long as the project meets the requirements of the Planned District Ordinance, he could support it.

With the rest of the group in agreement, a motion to support the development passed 3-0, with Marengo and Forbes abstaining. The committee asked that the applicants return with additional information but acknowledged that there would be additional presentations and opportunities to answer those questions at meetings of other local planning groups.

The plan will be reviewed by the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee at a future meeting. ◆