Coastal Commission approves blufftop development in La Jolla’s Lower Hermosa neighborhood

California Coastal Commission staff member Alex Llerandi presents findings about the Abbott residence project.
California Coastal Commission staff member Alex Llerandi presents findings and recommendations about the Abbott residence project in La Jolla.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

With a laundry list of conditions and some modifications to the layout, a residential project in the Lower Hermosa area of La Jolla was approved by the California Coastal Commission during its Oct. 12 meeting.

The project was approved by the La Jolla Community Planning Association in November 2017.

The proposal, known as the Abbott residence, looks to renovate a one-story, 5,524-square-foot single-family home with a basement and two detached garages into a two-story, 8,916-square-foot residence on a 1.37-acre blufftop lot at 6340 Camino de la Costa.

At issue during previous hearings was an existing retaining wall that had been classified as a mechanism for erosion control located 25 feet from the bluff edge. The Local Coastal Program — which serves as a planning document for coastal communities — requires that seawalls be at least 40 feet from the bluff.

As a compromise, the applicant team agreed to move the first floor and basement to be at least 40 feet from the bluff edge to be in accord with the LCP but keep the retaining wall. Applicant representative Chandra Slaven said the basement was moved to be 70 feet from the bluff.

Project architect Lauren Williams said that while there is a cantilevered element on the property, there is “no structural support in the 40-foot setback.” Drainage and other features between the house and the bluff edge also were redesigned.

Nevertheless, there was a lengthy list of conditions for the homeowners to meet to garner Coastal Commission support.

A rendering of the planned development at 6340 Camino de la Costa was presented to the California Coastal Commission.
A rendering of the planned development at 6340 Camino de la Costa was presented to the California Coastal Commission.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

  • Special Condition No. 1 requires revised plans that, among other requirements, include the deletion of the cantilevered portion of the second story and the proposed basement because the rear wall and lawn area are being retained.

However, Slaven requested a revision to the condition, which is being considered, to read: “Any building design elements proposed seaward of the 40-foot bluff edge setback line be cantilevered no further than the 25-foot bluff edge setback line. All building structure foundations, including the basement, must be located landward of the 40-foot bluff edge setback.”

  • Special Condition No. 2 requires a final landscape plan that, in part, prohibits installation of permanent irrigation in the geologic setback area to decrease risks to geologic stability from excess water infiltration.
  • Special Condition Nos. 3 and 4 require construction and post-construction pollution prevention plans that will address the capture, retention and disposal of pollutants before they can enter coastal waters at all phases of development.
  • Special Condition No. 5 addresses the existing below-grade sump pump that is being abandoned in place by the bluff edge, requiring that a removal plan with erosion thresholds be submitted should future exposure necessitate its removal, and ensure the removal is done safely.
  • Special Condition No. 6 requires the waiver of future shoreline protection on the property to avoid future additions to the existing erosion control device or the installation of additional protective structures that would further bury the bluff.
  • Special Condition No. 7 establishes erosion thresholds that can trigger review and potential removal of all or part of the approved development should hazard risks arise.
  • Special Condition No. 8 requires the applicant to assume the risk of development, receiving notice that the proposed development is built in an area potentially subject to future geologic instability, sea-level rise, erosion, wave uprush and landslides.
  • Special Condition No. 9 requires recording a deed restriction against the property to give the applicant and successors notice of the rights and responsibilities in the permit.

Project opponent Talon Powers said the cantilevered element does not conform with the LCP and would create “significant adverse precedence to the … scenic quality of La Jolla” and that the development and the seawall could have environmental impacts. He also urged that the public, the city of San Diego and the commission be given the chance to view the revised plans.

A motion to approve the permit in line with the staff-recommended list of conditions passed unanimously. ◆