La Jolla applicant files appeal of own project, then gets approval from San Diego Planning Commission

A rendering of a home development proposed for 9872 La Jolla Farms Road.
A rendering of a home development proposed for 9872 La Jolla Farms Road was presented to the San Diego Planning Commission on Feb. 2.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The proponent of a 16,488-square-foot home development in La Jolla Farms had to resolve California Coastal Commission staff concerns over native habitat, brush management and the California gnatcatcher.


A home development planned for the La Jolla Farms area took an unusual step in the review process when the applicant filed an appeal against its own project.

The proposal, heard at the Feb. 2 San Diego Planning Commission meeting, is to build a new two-story single dwelling with an attached garage and two basement levels totaling 16,488 square feet (6,432 square feet above ground and 10,056 square feet of basement levels) at 9872 La Jolla Farms Road.

The lot currently is a field used informally for neighborhood recreation. There also is a trailhead for public access at one end of the site, which will remain.

The project was approved locally in 2021. Soon after, it went to a city of San Diego hearing officer. But the night before that meeting, “California Coastal Commission staff sent a letter to the city raising new information and issues concerning the proposed project,” according to city staff member Benjamin Hafertepe.

The concerns included potential impact to undisturbed native habitat in the area, along with brush management and how the sensitive habitat and breeding season for the California gnatcatcher bird would be considered.

“The applicant chose to appeal their own project to grant them time to analyze the Coastal Commission issues and resolve them,” Hafertepe said.

During the process, the project was modified to add voluntary pre-construction monitoring during the gnatcatcher season and add a buffer to the structure to separate it from a nearby habitat area by reducing the square footage and shifting the structure closer to the street.

The modifications “addressed all the concerns related to habitat buffers, brush management and unpermitted development,” Hafertepe said. “The [city] Development Services Department environmental analysis section conducted a comprehensive review of the modifications … [and] city staff have reviewed the modifications to the project and determined it complies with development standards required by the Land Development Code.”

Thus, staff recommended that the Planning Commission grant the appeal and approve the project with the modifications.

During commissioners’ deliberations, Chairman William Hofman questioned whether the Coastal Commission letter was as last-minute as described.

San Diego Planning Commission Chairman William Hofman presides over the commission's Feb. 2 meeting.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Attorney Matt Peterson, representing the owner, said “we were aware of the Coastal Commission’s issues, but their primary issue initially was brush management and we got that worked out. Then the commission raised the brush management and two other issues” the night before the hearing. “We didn’t know what we could do to address those concerns.”

Therefore, the applicant filed an appeal of the project and worked with Coastal Commission staff.

“We were able to achieve a slight modification to the project to address their concerns, and additional measures to protect the gnatcatcher,” Peterson said.

Hofman called the delay “unfortunate for the applicant” and commended architect Tim Golba on “a beautiful project.”

A motion to support city staff’s recommendation passed unanimously.

When La Jolla’s Development Permit Review Committee preliminarily reviewed the project in May 2021, Golba said the property is owned by a homeowner next door who wanted to develop it as a “guest house and man cave” with a yoga patio, meditation area and other recreational amenities. Most of the proposed house would be buried into the grading and not visible from the street, Golba said.

After a presentation including renderings and aerial views of the site and surrounding neighbors, attention shifted to the proposed view corridor from the street to the ocean.

Golba said the plan maintains a previous condition for a 15-foot view easement on the south side of the property. But the current view corridor “bends over” one area of the property. “It’s mind-numbingly worthless,” he said.

Golba’s plan is to move some shrubs so a view window would look straight out to create a new line of sight to the ocean at the width specified in the original permit. ◆