Bird Rock’s Paradisaea looking to expand its outdoor dining, but La Jolla committee has concerns

Management at Paradisaea restaurant at 5680 La Jolla Blvd. is looking to expand its sidewalk dining.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Looking for support for a plan to expand its controversial sidewalk dining area, Paradisaea restaurant in Bird Rock took the idea to the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee during its Nov. 8 meeting.

However, rather than vote on the proposal, the committee asked the applicant team to return with more information at a future meeting.

Paradisaea opened Sept. 25 in the former “Piano Building” at 5680 La Jolla Blvd., with the outdoor dining in place. Management is applying for a neighborhood use permit to expand the outside seating area along the building.

Noting that the Bird Rock Community Council lent its support to the sidewalk cafe earlier this year, applicant representative Trip Bennett said that when the project started, the seating was next to La Jolla Boulevard and the pedestrian walkway was next to the building. But it since has been switched to put the tables and chairs closer to the building and the foot traffic closer to the street.

“This adjustment was well-received and prevents the restaurant traffic — the servers and diners — from interfering with pedestrian traffic,” Bennett said. “The neighborhood use permit is only concerned with an expanded use of an existing sidewalk cafe.”

Some opponents of Paradisaea’s outdoor dining have argued that allowing it to encroach into the area cared for under the Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District 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.

However, some DPR trustees expressed frustration that the proposal for the restaurant hadn’t gone before the committee for review in its early stages. Instead, piecemeal components of the plan went before other local boards.

In April, the city of San Diego asked the Community Council to weigh in on the planned encroachment into the MAD area, but not about the restaurant design or operations. Permitting for the restaurant itself was handled at the city level.

In September, the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board was asked to consider a valet parking proposal for the restaurant.

The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meets Nov. 8 online.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

“The problem here is not specifically with what is being requested. The difficulty is this is the first time we are able to see a major project,” said DPR trustee Greg Jackson. “We have asked that it come for review several times and for one reason or another it has bypassed us. ... So I have a sense that we are seeing piecemeal permitting on this and not seeing this project as a whole.”

He called the sidewalk dining a “major change of use of a very prominent site” and said the proposal “should have gone through community review earlier in its entirety rather than presenting valet parking one day and the seating the next day.”

DPR trustee Diane Kane agreed. “This is a much bigger project than what was reviewed by BRCC and should have come before CPA [the La Jolla Community Planning Association] and relevant committees for discussion of other issues,” she said.

Bennett responded that “we have done everything the city has asked us to do. … To insinuate we are doing something [underhanded] is very uncomfortable [for] me. We’re here because the city asked us to be.”

Jackson countered that “this is a major change of the use of this corner and should have been brought for community review even if the city didn’t ask. … There has been frustration nonstop about this and the continued resistance to this being reviewed.”

Other trustees expressed concern that the location is a “major intersection” for pedestrians and questioned whether the outdoor seating leaves enough room for them to safely traverse the area. ◆