San Diego planning commissioner scolds La Jollans over failed appeal that ‘wasted ... time and money’

A rendering shows a plan for two new two-story homes with junior accessory dwelling units at 735 Nautilus St. in La Jolla.
A rendering shows a plan for two new 3,121-square-foot, two-story single-family homes with junior accessory dwelling units at 735 Nautilus St. in La Jolla.
(Provided by Stosh Podeswik)

The commission rejects the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s objection to a city hearing officer’s approval of a plan to build two single-family homes with junior accessory dwelling units on Nautilus Street.


A San Diego planning commissioner criticized La Jolla planners for appealing a decision in support of a planned home development across from La Jolla High School, calling the objection a waste of time and money.

The Planning Commission denied the appeal at its Aug. 3 meeting, paving the way for the project to move forward.

The plan would demolish a single-family residence at 735 Nautilus St. and build two new 3,121-square-foot, two-story single-family homes with basements that would include junior accessory dwelling units at each home.

In May 2022, La Jolla Community Planning Association trustees and applicant Stosh Podeswik disagreed on whether certain measurements were in line with San Diego city code, and the board voted against the project 12-3.

Two months later, LJCPA heard updates to the project but deadlocked, sending it to the city with no opinion.

The proposal later was approved by a San Diego hearing officer.

In May this year, LJCPA voted to appeal the hearing officer’s approval to the Planning Commission. However, at the time, some trustees were less than confident that appealing the project would be a good use of the board’s time.

The mayor’s office says it will not push for provisions of Senate Bill 10 to be part of the sweeping Housing Action Package 2.0 moving forward.

Aug. 3, 2023

At the Aug. 3 Planning Commission meeting, LJCPA President Harry Bubbins presented the grounds for appeal, which focused on the assertion that the project exceeds the maximum allowed plumb line height — a type of measurement that uses an invisible line to determine the vertical extremes.

While city staff determined that the project complies with coastal height limits and other applicable municipal code standards, locals continued to argue that it does not.

La Jollan Phil Merten, who contended the plan did not comply with allowed plumb line height measurements, said he sent the commission a nine-page letter outlining the project’s height issues and argued that an interpretation regarding how heights are measured was incorrect.

“It would be irresponsible to make a decision where structure height is a key issue in this appeal,” Merten said. “You need to understand those municipal code sections because staff findings are not consistent with the municipal code.”

La Jolla Community Planning Association President Harry Bubbins
La Jolla Community Planning Association President Harry Bubbins describes the San Diego Planning Commission’s Aug. 3 meeting during LJCPA’s meeting that night.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Countering, Podeswik told commissioners that “the goal with this project was to design not two skinny homes but provide two horizontal homes on the lot so the project appears to be a single-family home from the street view.”

He said he used provisions in San Diego building code that allowed for new ways of determining height beyond plumb line measurements.

He added that the project went through five reviews with La Jolla planning groups — “that’s a lot, to say the least” — and that despite efforts to appease local reviewers, there was no resolution.

Looking to “put this to bed,” Planning Commissioner Matthew Boomhower, who noted that he is a licensed architect and attorney, said everyone on the commission and city staff is familiar with the applicable codes and was interpreting them correctly.

“So once again, Mr. Merten is wrong in his interpretation of San Diego municipal code and has [participated in] another frivolous appeal which wasted the applicant’s time and money and staff’s time. I can make the findings and support staff’s decision [to support this project],” and he made a motion to that effect.

Commission Chairman William Hofman said he trusted that staff members “did their homework.”

Boomhower’s motion passed unanimously.

At LJCPA’s meeting that night, Bubbins said the experience was “embarrassing” and that he had “never heard such strong language in a public forum.” ◆