La Jolla planners rescind approval vote on Adelante Townhomes project

A rendering depicts the proposed Adelante Townhomes at 5575 La Jolla Blvd., at Forward Street, in Bird Rock.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

LJCPA’s decision comes after it receives arguments against the approval from former City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner over the proposal’s review process and ‘misuse’ of a density bonus.


In a rare move by the La Jolla Community Planning Association, the board voted unanimously March 2 to rescind its previous approval for a townhouse project planned for the Bird Rock area.

Former San Diego City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner sent an email to board members and others arguing against the approval of the Adelante Townhomes development.

The board decided to retract its support because of “information that was not presented during the original review,” said LJCPA President Diane Kane.

Last month, the LJCPA board voted 9-2 to support the townhomes proposal, which calls for 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. The project would total 21,485 square feet. The townhomes are to be offered for sale, with one unit considered affordable for low-income residents.

In a change from normal procedure, the development got the support of the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee in December and the Planned District Ordinance Committee in January (proposals typically have to get the PDO Committee’s approval first).

The plan also was presented to the Bird Rock Community Council on Nov. 1, but the board did not vote.

During previous hearings, some speakers said the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance’s requirement for retail space 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 14-unit project has been facing criticism over its request for a waiver to a La Jolla Planned District Ordinance requirement that calls for ground-floor retail space.

The Community Planning Association voted to take back its approval and send the proposal back to subcommittees such as the DPR and PDO. The plan was not listed on the LJCPA agenda ahead of time, but any item can be added to an agenda with a two-thirds vote of those present.

“We look forward to another opportunity to present this great project,” Russ Murfey of project applicant Murfey Co. told the La Jolla Light. “Adelante Townhomes has been overwhelmingly applauded by community members as what is needed in Bird Rock.”

Lightner argued that the vote should be reconsidered “because the process for public review was flawed and the required findings for approval cannot be made.”

She added that the proposal “includes a misuse of the affordable and inclusionary housing density bonus, incentives and waivers” that would violate the San Diego municipal code.

La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane presides over the group's meeting March 2.
La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane presides over the group’s meeting March 2 at the La Jolla Recreation Center.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Lightner wrote that the typical approval process was not followed and there was insufficient public notice that the project was being heard.

Citing the LJCPA process for reviewing a project, Lightner wrote: “ PDO reviews ... projects requiring discretionary permits (coastal development permits, site development permits, etc.) [and] the recommendations are forwarded to the Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) for their consideration. The committee’s review is limited to whether or not the application conforms to the PDO. This was not done. The DPR approved the project prior to any review by the PDO Committee. …

“When the project was reviewed by the PDO Committee … the motion was ‘Project does not conform to the LJPDO; however, the PDO Committee supports the project.’ Had the proposed project been reviewed using the publicly stated review process, DPR would not have been able to make the necessary findings to approve the project.”

Murfey said “we respect the city of San Diego municipal code approval process. We also respect the LJCPA community group review process.”

Lightner also took exception to the project’s proposed use of a density bonus that would allow it to proceed without ground-floor retail.

“Since the Adelante Townhomes are a for-sale condominium development, they are allowed by the [San Diego municipal code] to have a 6 percent density bonus, resulting in an additional 0.54 dwelling units — for a total of 10 dwelling units — and one incentive for providing an affordable dwelling unit onsite,” she said. “[But] not the 45 percent density bonus with 13 dwelling units and the two incentives claimed.”

Murfey, however, said “the proposed project is correctly applying the state’s density bonus laws and is incorporating much-needed affordable housing as well as additional housing into a supply-constrained market.”

After LJCPA voted to send the project back to its subcommittees for further review, Murfey said he intends to present to the PDO Committee first. ◆


1:41 p.m. March 6, 2023: This article was updated with comments from Russ Murfey.