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Girard Avenue Lofts retail/apartments project clears further local review over ‘mezzanine’ area

The under-construction Girard Avenue Lofts
The under-construction Girard Avenue Lofts underwent an emergency review by the La Jolla Community Planning Association that determined a change meets the terms of an existing permit.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla CPA decides changing the description from ‘attic’ to allow upper space to be used for sleeping satisfies the terms of the project’s existing permit. The change is being reviewed by the city of San Diego.

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Facing a possible stop in work that is already underway, the Girard Avenue Lofts commercial and residential project was the subject of a La Jolla Community Planning Association emergency review Dec. 1 to determine whether a change in the project meets the terms of a previously approved permit.

At issue was changing the term for the upper area from “attic” to “mezzanine” to allow the space to be used for sleeping, as the designers intended.

LJCPA trustees decided the change was minor enough not to affect the rest of the project and voted unanimously that the revised language substantially conforms to the approved permit.

LJCPA President Diane Kane called the development a “wonderful new addition to The Village.”

Girard Avenue Lofts is under construction at 7606 Girard Ave. where it meets Torrey Pines Road at the entrance to The Village. The project includes three connecting two-story buildings between the Pavilions supermarket and the Tempur-Pedic mattress store. Plans include 1,960 square feet of ground-floor retail, 17 loft-type apartments over parking and one accessory dwelling unit along a pedestrian path at grade level. The apartments would range from 350 to 755 square feet.

Applicant Pauly de Bartolo said the number of units, exterior design, floor area ratio, building setbacks and height, open space, landscaping and retail and parking areas are “identical to the 2020 permit.”

A rendering shows the Girard Avenue Lofts project (the mural is for illustration purposes).
A rendering shows the Girard Avenue Lofts project (the mural is for illustration purposes).
(Pauly de Bartolo)

“The request before you is to allow a relabeling of approved attic spaces ... as mezzanine spaces,” de Bartolo said. That’s necessary, he said, because city of San Diego reviewers determined that should the upper spaces be actual attics, they would need to be enclosed and accessed only through a pull-down ladder.

“This direction greatly impacted the overall feasibility of the development,” de Bartolo said. “[This area was] always intended to be the sleeping space of the loft-style units. These are micro-lofts, so that is valuable real estate as the sleeping space.”

The difference between an attic and a mezzanine, de Bartolo said, is that an attic must have “a compressed ceiling height and that’s pretty much it. … A mezzanine, defined by local building code, shall remain open and unobstructed to the floor below to create a true loft.”

The change is being reviewed by applicable city departments, he said.

“The urgency to get in front of this group [LJCPA] ahead of receiving the city’s comments is that we are under construction and don’t want to hold that construction up by waiting for comments and for things to pile up,” de Bartolo said.

He said LJCPA subcommittees reviewed the issue outside of regularly scheduled meetings and allowed it to go before LJCPA directly.

LJCPA originally gave approval to the project in 2020 after getting different messages from its subcommittees.

The development was unanimously supported by the Development Permit Review Committee, but a month later the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee cited concerns with some requested deviations from local planning code.

The deviations are allowed under San Diego’s affordable-housing provisions but not under the La Jolla PDO, a blueprint for local development.

Despite concerns about impacts from construction and traffic, the La Jolla Community Planning Association voted Dec. 1 to support a plan to develop a site on Coast Boulevard South that contains historically designated houses.