Bird Rock home project again gets La Jolla reviewers’ approval, though proposed roof deck proves problematic

A rendering of a home development proposed for 5646 Chelsea Ave. in Bird Rock
A rendering of a home development proposed for 5646 Chelsea Ave. in Bird Rock is presented to the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee.
(Photo by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Neighbors and some DPR trustees voice concerns about noise, privacy and other issues, but the committee reaffirms its vote in June to support the plans.


A discussion about a Bird Rock home project spurred a larger conversation at the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee’s Aug. 8 meeting about a certain feature that tends to give local planners pause.

The project at 5646 Chelsea Ave. would demolish a two-story house and build a new two-story house with an attached garage, a basement and a roof deck, along with an attached accessory dwelling unit. However, the roof deck generated questions and concerns about privacy, noise and more.

Additional decks are planned for the second floor next to two bedrooms and on the ground floor.

During previous hearings, some DPR trustees and members of the public said they had a hard time visualizing the home and landscaping based on what was presented. However, the committee endorsed the project 4-3 in June. It went before the La Jolla Community Planning Association on Aug. 3, when the board decided to send it back to the DPR for additional review.

At the Aug. 8 DPR meeting, Rick Kruse, who lives near the project site, expressed concern that use of the deck would create noise and privacy problems for neighboring properties. “This house looks right into our master bedroom and our home,” he said.

Neighbor Greg Wadsworth said “this is a different type of project … and a huge house.”

Should the house be built as designed, neighbors might plant large hedges to preserve their privacy, Wadsworth said. “That is something that, in general, we need to figure out,” he added.

DPR trustee Mike Costello, a Bird Rock resident, said removing the roof deck would solve many of the issues.

“There have been many houses built in La Jolla with decks that are used once and probably never used again,” Costello said. “Decks are, in my opinion, a waste of money, a source of drainage problems. … I wonder what is the sense in [building the roof deck] if it is going to be used once. It might help the neighborhood to get rid of that deck.”

He added that “anything you can see from the roof, you can see from the second-level decks.”

Fellow trustee Angeles Leira said “decks do not work in La Jolla.” She has one and said “it’s horrible … and never used.”

She also questioned whether the sound from people talking on the roof deck would spill into neighbors’ yards.

“That [deck] is the biggest problem this project has right now, and I would suggest the applicant would do well in substantially reducing it or taking it out,” Leira said. “The decks on the lower floors should suffice.”

Homeowner Daniel Magy said the lower decks would be accessed through bedrooms, “which limits the ability to use them.” The roof deck creates “an unobstructed view of the ocean,” he added.

Neighbors also raised questions about the orientation of the proposed project and its impact on the views from their houses.

Trustee Greg Jackson called the discussion a “messy situation” in which neighbors unhappy with the proposal are seeking a reason to oppose it that falls under DPR purview. Past concerns included size, construction impacts, whether the house would be used as a short-term vacation rental and that renderings were not made available publicly outside of DPR meetings.

“Sometimes it seems we are talking about something when we are really talking about something else,” Jackson said. “What I sense in this case is that there are questions about whether this fits in the neighborhood … and I think reasonable people may disagree. But there is disproportionate heat about this. There are a lot of neighbors that don’t want things to change. But neighbors being unhappy isn’t a criterion for whether a project is approved, unless that outrage relates to something in the code.”

Jackson made a motion to reaffirm DPR’s original position in favor of the project, and it passed 4-2, with Costello and Leira opposed.

Other DPR news

The board also held a review to determine whether a revised set of plans for a project in the Muirlands area substantially conforms with the project’s previously approved permits. The proposal would demolish most of a single-family residence and renovate it to create a new house at 1028 Muirlands Drive.

Architect Mark House presents revised plans for a house at 1028 Muirlands Drive.
Architect Mark House presents revised plans for a house at 1028 Muirlands Drive, with red lines representing what was previously approved and green representing a new design.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The DPR lent its support to the project in September 2021.

Since then, in “going through the city [of San Diego] process,” the project was reworked, architect Mark House said.

The original proposal was an 8,425-square-foot, two-story house with a three-car garage. The revised project is 5,847 square feet with changed access from the street. Some aesthetic changes also were made to the design.

There was some confusion about whether the design changes meant the project did not substantially conform to the original permit, but DPR Chairman Brian Will said city planners focus more on other factors.

“I compare it to a termite tent,” he said. “If the modified design fits under the same termite tent as the original design, that quite often satisfies the city’s definition of substantial conformance.”

Trustees voted unanimously that the project substantially conforms and gave it the committee’s support. ◆