La Jolla review committee lends support to latest design for La Casa de los Amigos replacement

Matthew Segal shows a model of the planned replacement for the La Jolla house known as La Casa de los Amigos.
Project applicant Matthew Segal shows a model of the planned replacement for the La Jolla house known as La Casa de los Amigos as the new home would be viewed from the ocean and in relation to the houses on either side.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The street frontage would stay the same, and the planned new home’s size has been reduced by about 800 square feet.


After months of hearings and meetings, proposed alternatives and revisions and heated debates, a controversial proposal to tear down the century-old blufftop La Casa de los Amigos in La Jolla’s Lower Hermosa neighborhood and build a new three-story, nearly 10,000-square-foot house in its place got the support of the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee during its June 13 meeting.

Trustees voted 5-1 to support the project, which they decided is consistent with the La Jolla Community Plan. Trustee Angeles Leira cast the lone dissenting vote, and Chairman Brian Will customarily abstained.

The project now proceeds to the La Jolla Community Planning Association for ratification of the DPR decision or further review.

Applicant representative Matthew Segal said the latest design — a revision following meetings with local preservationists — would keep the street frontage at 6110 Camino de la Costa the same “in its entirety … including the garage structure, and the house would be secondary to that” to preserve the existing public view.

The design of the new house was slightly altered to open up a wall and create a line of sight to the ocean from the street, and the home’s overall size was reduced by about 800 square feet from the original 10,567.

Matthew Segal shows the Development Permit Review Committee a model of the replacement for La Casa de los Amigos.
Matthew Segal shows the Development Permit Review Committee a model of the planned replacement of the house known as La Casa de los Amigos as it would be viewed from the street.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Having reviewed the project several times as the design evolved — both in public and private meetings — much of the DPR discussion centered around the process being used to allow the development to proceed.

Segal said the applicant team is creating an environmental impact report as a precursor to a San Diego Historical Resources Board hearing, which he called “the final stop before the Planning Commission.”

The Historical Resources Board designated the property as historic in January.

Leira questioned whether the DPR should be reviewing the project without the environmental document, but Will noted that DPR decisions often come before higher levels of review and before completion of such reports.

After some discussion about some of the revisions, such as the use of glass and the eaves holding up a chimney, a motion to support the development passed. Leira was opposed because of her procedural concerns.

After the vote, Segal’s father and business partner, Jonathan Segal, who plans to live in the new house, told the La Jolla Light, “I’m just happy everyone is happy.”

The background

Matthew Segal said in November that La Casa de los Amigos’ footings and foundation are failing, making it unsafe.

He said he and Jonathan Segal originally wanted to remodel and preserve the “Friends House,” which dates to 1924. However, the Local Coastal Program adopted in the 1970s, which serves as a planning document for coastal communities, requires a 40-foot distance between a structure and a bluff. Matthew Segal said 60 percent of the house — including the living room, dining room, basement, two bedrooms and the dormer — is in the setback area and would need to be removed as part of any renovation.

At the time, Alexander Llerandi, a California Coastal Commission coastal program analyst, said “non-conforming segments should be removed.”

Though the Coastal Commission did not expressly require that the entire house come down, the Segals argued it didn’t make sense to keep it. Thus, they proposed to tear down La Casa de los Amigos and build a new residence.

The Segals sought historic designation for the old house in hopes of getting clear guidance from the Coastal Commission and the city of San Diego on what they could do there.

In March, two months after the Historical Resources Board designated the property, the Segals decided to move forward with their plans for demolition and new construction, saying possible alternatives had not panned out.

Matthew Segal has said the applicants would provide historical documentation about La Casa de los Amigos and take other measures to help record its notable features. The documents would be saved in an archive likely connected to city historical resources.

On March 14, the Development Permit Review Committee tied in a vote on whether to support the Segals’ project.

The following week, rather than vote on the project itself, the DPR voted to send the Historical Resources Board a list of possible alternatives to demolition:

• Lift the house to build new footings and put the house back in place
• Move the house to a comparable lot
• Preserve the north wing of the house
• Move the whole wing to the front of the house and rebuild on the rest of the available lot

A fifth option, to proceed with the project as presented, also was considered and is ultimately what is being sought.

On April 5, the HRB’s design assistance subcommittee said it was not yet able to make an informed decision about the viability of the alternatives, pending city staff’s review of an engineering report the Segals needed to submit.

Matthew Segal said “we are rapidly trying to get [the document issue] resolved [but] there is a lot more documentation that needs to be completed,” which he said could take months or even a year. ◆