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Plan for new buildings on Bishop’s School campus gets mixed reactions from La Jolla planning groups

A current view of Draper Avenue (left) is pictured next to a rendering of a proposed development at The Bishop's School.
A current view of Draper Avenue (left) is pictured next to a rendering of a proposed development on The Bishop’s School campus.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The Planned District Ordinance Committee backs the four-phase expansion proposal along Draper Avenue, but the Development Permit Review Committee asks for more details.

Architectural representatives were on hand at meetings of the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee and La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee this week to provide more details of a planned four-phase expansion of the Draper Avenue-facing side of The Bishop’s School in La Jolla.

The PDO Committee voted Nov. 14 to lend its support to the proposal, but the following day, DPR trustees asked the applicants to return with more detailed renderings at a future meeting.

The applicant team is seeking permit amendments to allow construction of batting cages, indoor soccer and field hockey areas, an athletic center, a student-wellness building and a creative sciences, visual arts and social innovation building on the private school’s campus at 7522 and 7554 Draper Ave. and 7607 La Jolla Blvd. The project would add about 1,000 square feet to the campus but does not involve a change to student enrollment numbers or parking spaces.

The applicants made a presentation to the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board in October, though that discussion was limited to modifications to the curb, gutter and sidewalk, vacation of an alley along the property and paving half the street.

At the PDO and DPR meetings, David Pfeifer, principal architect of San Diego-based Domusstudio Architecture, said some existing permits need to be amended and that “the focus of this amendment to the permits is the buildings along Draper. This project doesn’t propose anything other than that portion of the property. The purpose of these facilities is to allow The Bishop’s School to offer a more diverse offering of curriculum for its students.”

The Bishop’s School recently acquired 7552, 7554 and 7556 Draper Ave. and wants to fold that property into its campus.

A rendering depicts new buildings The Bishop's School is looking to construct.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Domusstudio project architect Anna Nagasugi described multiple phases associated with the work.

Phase 1 would focus on the new athletic offerings and “shifting existing [athletic] programs … onto the new property.” Vacation of a nearby alley would allow students to go from the field to the new practice area.

Phase 2 would create the two-story-over-basement creative sciences, visual arts and social innovation building with classrooms, offices, labs and restrooms. Pfeifer said the new building would be consistent with existing facilities in the vicinity “architecturally and massing-wise.”

Phase 3 includes construction of a “high-performance and student-wellness building” that would take the place of the current batting cages and contain a weight training area, a treatment room, a locker room and offices.

Phase 4 is the creation of the athletic center, which would include a gym and locker rooms.

At the PDO meeting, a motion to support the proposal passed unanimously.

At the DPR meeting Nov. 15, Pfeifer said the changes to the Draper Avenue site would “create architectural harmony and clean up that street frontage.”

The aesthetics of the new buildings, he said, are “in the spirit of the surrounding Irving Gill [-designed] projects … and he relied on a lot of plane changes with the theory being [that] in the bright light of La Jolla, it is not about adding ornamentation but really letting the play of light and shadow add the detail to the building.”

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In addition to the architecture, he said, “we are going to have a full bank of landscaping in the setback between the property line and the building,” and the trees along the street will be consistent with others in the area.

The intent is “to get Phase 1 implemented in calendar year 2023,” Pfeifer said.

Graham Anderson of San Diego construction management firm Campbell-Anderson & Associates said the school would like to have Phase 2 done “within the next two or three years” and that later phases have “a longer potential time frame before we start working on that, which hinges on fundraising.”

When construction begins, Anderson added, much of the staging will take place on the Bishop’s campus.

“These projects are conceptual in nature, but with the first phase … we have adequate space between the tennis courts and the Draper parking lot that provides adequate space for construction activities,” he said. “We’re well aware of traffic issues and work with the general contractors we hire to have no or minimal impact to the neighbors.”

DPR trustee Greg Jackson said that while the project is “a very good addition to the school,” he is still concerned that the construction would mean “a major disruption to Draper Avenue, which is used very heavily for parking for the Museum [of Contemporary Art San Diego], the Recreation Center, the churches, etc.”

Trustees ultimately asked that the team return with landscape renderings and offer more opportunity for the community to weigh in.

This project is entirely separate from a proposal to vacate part of Cuvier Street to help make way for part of a La Jolla Recreation Center renovation. That vacation got the approval of the La Jolla Community Planning Association last year.

It also is separate from a plan to renovate the former Jack in the Box fast-food restaurant at 564 Pearl St., which The Bishop’s School purchased last year. The plan is for the site to be leased in the short term to a yet-to-be-decided tenant, according to the school. In the long term, it will be converted for student use. ◆