Adelante Townhomes project gets approval from La Jolla Community Planning Association — again

A rendering illustrates the proposed Adelante Townhomes at 5575 La Jolla Blvd., at Forward Street, in Bird Rock.

The local chapter in the six-month saga of reviews and re-reviews for the Adelante Townhomes project appears to be closed after the La Jolla Community Planning Association voted for a second time to support the proposed development at its May 4 meeting.

The Community Planning Association is recognized by the city of San Diego to make recommendations to the City Council, Planning Commission, city staff and other government agencies on land-use matters and is the last stop in La Jolla’s community review process.

The LJCPA recommendation now proceeds to higher levels of city review, where more complications may await. As the Adelante applicant team was leaving the meeting, former San Diego City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, a vocal opponent of the townhomes project, said, “See you at the Planning Commission.”

Adelante Townhomes developer Murfey Co. is seeking a coastal development permit to demolish an office building and construct a two-story, 14-unit residential building with a basement level, covered parking and roof decks at 5575 La Jolla Blvd., at Forward Street, in Bird Rock. 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 La Jolla 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.

The lack of ground-floor retail has been an issue of contention since the project was first proposed in November. In subsequent hearings, opponents have questioned whether the waivers and incentives being used to bypass the retail requirement are being applied correctly.

At the LJCPA meeting, Murfey Co. partner Russ Murfey said: “We are applying density bonuses correctly for this project and we are using waivers to eliminate retail, which people don’t like to hear, but it is allowed. … That’s the crux of this issue.”

He added that the city would not approve the project if the applicant team doesn’t meet the provisions in the way they were intended.

During public comment, Craig Bender, chairman of the Bird Rock Merchant Group, said the property would occupy “one of the most important corners in the Bird Rock commercial district. Forward Street is literally the center of all five roundabouts and the middle of the commercial zone. … Once that corner is changed to residential, it will never be retail again. More importantly, the project sets a precedent for other developers to start buying up buildings, adding more condos … until the merchant district is not a district at all.”

A rendering of the Adelante Townhomes (white building) depicts how it would be seen from the street.
A rendering of the Adelante Townhomes planned for 5575 La Jolla Blvd. (white building) depicts how it would be seen from the street.

Murfey countered that focusing on residential units would create more residents “that spend money at the retail” and that while other locations are suitable for retail, “this site is not one of them. … This is the best use for this site.”

LJCPA trustee Joe Terry, who also is president of the Bird Rock Community Council, said, “It’s interesting to be told this is good for us; the community has had several meetings on this and that is not our conclusion.”

The Community Council was presented the project in November but did not vote.

Though Terry and trustees Larry Davidson and Bob Steck dissented, LJCPA voted 10-3 to support the proposal. Davidson said the lack of retail bothers him and that “the PDO should stand.”

History of ups and downs

After the Bird Rock Community Council’s hearing in November, the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee held two hearings on the Adelante project in December, with some speakers saying 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 DPR voted to support the development Dec. 20.

The Planned District Ordinance Committee voted in January to support the plan, though it determined it does not conform to the PDO because of the lack of ground-floor retail.

The Community Planning Association board voted 9-2 in February to support the development, but it took back the approval in March after hearing new objections from Lightner and asked its subcommittees to re-review the development.

Lightner noted that the proposal had been heard first by the DPR and then the PDO Committee when proposals typically are considered by the PDO Committee first. She also wanted the boards to reconsider whether certain incentives and waivers the applicant team was planning to use would correctly apply to the project.

Murfey Co. partner Russ Murfey (center) addresses LJCPA on May 4 to discuss the Adelante Townhomes project.
Murfey Co. partner Russ Murfey (center) addresses the La Jolla Community Planning Association on May 4 to discuss the Adelante Townhomes project.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Upon re-review March 13, the PDO Committee determined simply that the project does not conform to the PDO.

The issue then went back to the DPR Committee, but it was unable to reach a decision on March 21 and asked the applicant team to return. The DPR ultimately gave its support April 11. ◆