La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee again backs plan for Adelante Townhomes

Murfey Co. partners Scott and Russ Murfey present the Adelante Townhomes project
Murfey Co. partners Scott and Russ Murfey present the Adelante Townhomes project to the Development Permit Review committee this month.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

After two other community groups changed their approval votes, the DPR decides for a second time to support the project, but more narrowly than before.


The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee again gave its support to developing the 14-unit Adelante Townhomes in Bird Rock during its April 11 meeting — but much more narrowly than it did four months earlier.

Opponents of the project continued to assert that it does not conform to the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance and that the applicant team is improperly using incentives and waivers afforded by the city of San Diego.

However, the DPR Committee voted 3-2 to support the plan. In December, the board decided on a 5-1 vote that the development meets the requirements for the needed permit.

The issue returned to the committee after the La Jolla Community Planning Association board in March took back its approval of the project, a month after voting 9-2 to support it.

The change of heart came after LJCPA heard new objections from former San Diego City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and asked its subcommittees to re-review the development and reconsider whether certain incentives and waivers the applicant team was planning to use would apply for the project.

Adelante Townhomes developer Murfey Co. is seeking a coastal development permit to demolish an office building and construct a two-story residential building with a basement level, covered parking and roof decks at 5575 La Jolla Blvd., at Forward Street. The project would total 21,485 square feet. The 14 townhomes are to be offered for sale, with one unit considered affordable for low-income residents.

Because the project includes the affordable unit, Murfey Co. requested a waiver to a Planned District Ordinance requirement that 50 percent of ground-floor space in new developments be reserved for retail in Zone 4, which includes La Jolla Boulevard.

During two hearings by the DPR Committee in December, some speakers said the PDO requirement for retail on the ground floor should be honored. Others argued that the number of vacant storefronts along La Jolla Boulevard indicates more retail is not needed.

The applicant team previously acknowledged that the project does not comply with the PDO but said it is using waivers and incentives to comply with state building codes.

Lightner had objected to LJCPA about what she called the project’s “misuse” of a housing density bonus and incentives and waivers that would allow it to proceed without ground-floor retail. She also objected to the proposal being considered first by the Development Permit Review Committee and then the Planned District Ordinance Committee — out of the conventional order.

The PDO Committee voted in January to support the plan, though it determined the project does not conform to the Planned District Ordinance because of the lack of ground-floor retail. Upon re-review March 13, the committee determined simply that the project does not conform to the PDO.

The issue went back to the DPR Committee on March 21, but it was unable to reach a decision and asked the applicant team to return.

At the April 11 DPR meeting, Murfey Co. partner Russ Murfey challenged the notion that the waivers and incentives are not being used appropriately.

“We are confident that we are applying the density bonus provisions correctly,” he said. “Furthermore, this is something that is directly under the purview and jurisdiction of the city of San Diego. We are working closely with them and the San Diego Housing Commission to ensure we are applying the provisions in the code correctly. … They will not allow this project to be approved if we don’t meet these provisions.”

Nevertheless, Bird Rock Community Council President Joe Terry expressed concern about the DPR Committee setting a precedent by supporting the project.

“Approving the Adelante Townhomes would send a strong and wrong signal to property owners in Bird Rock who are deciding between updating their retail spaces to attract and retain viable tenants or forgoing such upgrades in the hopes of … replacing their retail buildings with developments similar to the Adelante Townhomes development or selling their property to someone who would do that,” Terry said.

He called the retail stipulations the applicant team is looking to bypass “fundamental elements of the PDO … not just minuscule issues.”

“One of the key issues is whether the project qualifies for the bonuses and waivers that would allow it to ignore substantial parts of the PDO,” he added. “Until the committee has that answer, I don’t think you are in a position to say this project is OK.”

A rendering depicts the proposed Adelante Townhomes at 5575 La Jolla Blvd.

During comments by DPR trustees, Greg Jackson said there are “policy conflicts” between local and state building codes to consider.

“The PDO — putting aside its technical requirements — expresses a policy for what parts of the community should look like,” Jackson said. “That is a policy statement. At the same time, the state has policies that it has implemented attempting to deal with the very real problem … of [people] being unable to afford a place to live. … Those policies are in conflict here.”

Fellow trustee Glen Rasmussen said he’s also concerned about setting a precedent but doesn’t see including retail in the townhomes project as viable.

“I think precedent is a major concern here,” Rasmussen said. “But I’ve come around to the notion that I first had when this project came before us, and that is that we don’t need more small retail in Bird Rock. … I don’t see how you could put a small retail space in what you have.”

A vote on a motion to support the development tied at first, with Rasmussen and Jackson in favor and Angeles Leira and John Shannon opposed. DPR Chairman Brian Will broke the tie in favor of the applicant.

The findings will proceed to the Community Planning Association for ratification or further review.

Other DPR news

West Muirlands: With new exhibits depicting the proposed house in relation to its neighbors, a planned development in the Muirlands area got the DPR’s approval. The project includes demolition of an approximately 1,000-square-foot, one-story house at 960 W. Muirlands Drive and construction of an approximately 4,200-square-foot, two-story house with a deck and subterranean two-car garage.

The plan was presented at the March 14 DPR meeting but the board did not vote, pending more images showing the house in context with the other homes on the street. With that information, the board voted 4-0 on April 11 to support the development.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meets the second and third Tuesdays of each month. Agendas are posted at ◆