San Diego Planning Commission approves Gravilla Townhomes plan in La Jolla

Renderings depict how the Gravilla Townhomes project (white building) would look among its neighbors.
(AVRP Studio)

Commissioners also deny an appeal of a La Jolla Mesa home project.


Gravilla Townhomes, a 12-unit project planned for 6710 La Jolla Blvd. at the corner of Gravilla Street in La Jolla, won approval from the San Diego Planning Commission during its Nov. 17 meeting.

The commission also denied an appeal regarding a home project that has been given the go-ahead on Copa de Oro Drive in La Jolla.

Gravilla Townhomes

The Gravilla Townhomes proposal calls for a coastal development permit for a new two-story building with 12 for-sale condominiums — including one affordable for people of very low income — and 13 below-grade parking spaces with car stackers. The nearby alley is to be expanded.

City planner Oscar Galvez said that because the proposal includes a low-income unit, incentives are being used that allow the development to have 100 percent ground-floor residential use — when local zoning suggests some ground-floor retail — and reduced landscaping.

With little feedback and no questions, the commission unanimously approved the project.

The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee gave the plan its support May 17 on its third hearing.

During the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s review in July, the board asked the appropriate San Diego departments to consider issues
it discussed and approve the project if they found it complies with regulations.

1542 Copa de Oro Drive

A rendering shows a project planned for 1542 Copa de Oro Drive in La Jolla.
A rendering shows a project planned for 1542 Copa de Oro Drive that was backed by the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee in 2020.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

After hearing an appeal arguing that environmentally sensitive lands were ignored, the Planning Commission affirmed a decision by the city and a local board that a project at 1542 Copa de Oro Drive in the La Jolla Mesa area substantially conforms to a previously approved permit and could proceed with construction.

Commissioners ruled in favor of a permit to add 281 square feet to the plans for a single-family residence there, for a total of 3,936 square feet.

In May, the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee determined that the revised set of plans substantially conforms with the project’s previously approved coastal development permit, and the La Jolla Community Planning Association ratified the findings.

The DPR backed the previous permit in November 2020, when the project was described as a partial demolition, remodeling and 782-square-foot addition to the 2,873-square-foot, one-story home.

According to a staff report for the Planning Commission meeting, the proposed modifications to the approved permit are a 266-square-foot increase in habitable area and a 15-square-foot increase in the garage area, for a total of 281 square feet.

The San Diego Development Services Department determined that the proposed revisions “are in substantial conformance with the objectives, standards, guidelines and conditions for the approved project” and issued a notice of the decision on Aug. 31.

Attorney Cynthia Morgan-Reed filed an appeal Sept. 15 on behalf of John Venekamp, arguing that the city failed “to require an analysis of steep hillsides as environmentally sensitive lands or open space on the project site,” said Jose Bautista, a development project manager for the
Development Services Department.

However, he said the hillsides that surround the property are not in a system of canyons and that the site “does not meet the definition of steep hillsides, and therefore staff has determined there [are] no environmentally sensitive lands onsite.”

Morgan-Reed asked the city to “simply do its actual site-specific study … to determine whether there are steep hillsides that qualify as environmentally sensitive lands.” She cited a 2006 city memo that indicated steep hillsides are on the site.

The applicant team said the city did a physical site review in 2020 and confirmed that there were no environmentally sensitive lands.

The team also noted that the issue before the Planning Commission was simply to determine whether the new project substantially conforms to the original permit, not any concerns with the underlying coastal development permit.

Commissioner Matthew Boomhower agreed, saying, “I’m not finding anything in the appellant’s argument that leads me to think staff has done anything wrong that we should compel the applicant to go back and do any additional study on the site.”

Commission Chairman William Hofman said that “in all my years of land use, I would never call this a sensitive land or steep slope.” ◆