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La Jolla planners lend support to Paradisaea restaurant’s controversial outdoor dining expansion

Management at Paradisaea restaurant in Bird Rock is looking to expand its sidewalk dining.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)
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The La Jolla Community Planning Association dedicated more than half of its Jan. 5 meeting to a discussion of the outdoor dining at Paradisaea in Bird Rock — ultimately lending its support to the restaurant’s plan to expand it.

The applicant team is seeking a neighborhood use permit to expand the outdoor dining along the building at 5680 La Jolla Blvd. to add more tables and chairs. The furthest expansion would be 17 feet from the building and 14 feet from the curb, which requires a deviation from the city of San Diego’s applicable sidewalk cafe permit.

Applicant representative AJ Remen said the outdoor dining area is cordoned off by ropes, pots and other movable items and that a darkened area of the sidewalk was created to mark where the outdoor dining would be placed.

However, several residents continue to argue that the expanded outdoor dining would be an intensification of use that needs additional permits and should have gone before local planning boards earlier in the process.

Paradisaea opened Sept. 25 in the former “Piano Building,” which got its nickname because it once was home to Schroeder Piano Co. It also housed various retail stores before it was sold in 2019 to local residents Eric and Zoe Kleinbub, who converted it to Paradisaea.

“The number of restaurant patrons represents a substantial increase in the usage of this property compared to the prior retail store usage,” resident Barbara Dunbar said. “Adding more people by expanding the outdoor dining area is a further intensification of usage. The expansion is unnecessary and impacts the wider sidewalks and walkable community plan, which is part of the Bird Rock traffic-calming plan.”

She added that outdoor umbrellas and heaters pose additional concerns about interfering with pedestrian flow and being a possible distraction to nearby drivers.

Community Planning Association trustee Mike Costello, who also lives nearby, said the proximity to La Jolla Boulevard makes it “a really bad location to have outdoor dining” and that “this is an invitation for disaster.”

Paradisaea restaurant opened in September at 5680 La Jolla Blvd.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Resident Don Schmidt said the project should have gone before La Jolla’s planning boards earlier. “It’s really about the process … and we would have had a lot less headache in this process if it had been done the way it was supposed to.”

But LJCPA President Diane Kane said the only aspect of the proposal subject to the group’s review is “a neighborhood use permit for a 342-square-foot sidewalk cafe where a deviation is requested to extend beyond 4 feet 6 inches from the building facade.”

“We’re straying all over the place,” Kane said. “Can we please get back to the issue at hand?”

Area resident and former City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner argued that if a deviation from applicable code is granted, there should be “a benefit to the community for a deviation” and she doesn’t see one.

“There are no findings for this deviation,” Schmidt said.

However, some at the meeting said the building’s existing layout would allow for the outdoor dining without a deviation.

Should one be required, the community benefit is a thriving restaurant in the area, LJCPA trustee Brian Will argued.

“This restaurant is testament to the hard work that has gone into improving Bird Rock over the last 20 years,” Will said. “[Because of] the success of the traffic calming, we have vibrant businesses there. The replacement of a struggling business with a successful business is what we should be looking for, not criticizing.”

Will moved to support the expanded outdoor dining and that the board could not see the need for a deviation. The motion passed 14-1, with trustee Larry Davidson opposing without comment.

During previous hearings, other local planning groups struggled with the outdoor dining.

The city asked the Bird Rock Community Council to weigh in on the outdoor seating’s planned encroachment into an area in the Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District, but not about the restaurant’s design or operations. The Community Council ultimately supported the outdoor dining in April after multiple hearings and vocal opposition.

At the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee meeting Nov. 14, Chairwoman Deborah Marengo echoed concerns from other hearings that the proposal for the restaurant itself hadn’t gone before local committees for review in its early stages. Permitting for the restaurant was handled by the city of San Diego. ◆