Muirlands-area home project draws neighbors’ ire and questions about La Jolla DPR board’s role

A model and renderings show the concept for a house planned for 812 Havenhurst Point in La Jolla's Muirlands neighborhood.
A model and renderings presented to the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee show the concept for a house planned for 812 Havenhurst Point in the Muirlands neighborhood.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Meanwhile, the Development Permit Review Committee votes to support developments in Lower Hermosa, The Village and the Country Club area.


A project planned for the Muirlands area that went before the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee during its March 21 meeting spurred a larger conversation about the committee’s role, mission and purview.

The project in question calls for demolition of an approximately 3,000-square-foot single-family residence and construction of a 12,979-square-foot, three-story single-family house at 812 Havenhurst Point.

But during a contentious presentation that drew neighbors opposed to the development, the board members found themselves asking about their role in the process.

In the end, the board voted not to support the development, citing inconsistency with the neighborhood.

Before that, applicant representative Jess Gonzalez said the proposed house complies with applicable height limits and largely would be within the footprint of the existing house but built down into the adjacent canyon.

He also argued that the neighborhood is “eclectic … with different types and styles,” including one-, two- and three-story houses, and that there is not “an organizing element that says ‘This is the type of community this is.’”

However, many people in attendance contended the house would be the largest on the block and inconsistent with existing houses.

Area resident Andy Micheletti said “there is a style to this neighborhood” that has been regulated by the community’s Neighborhood Committee, which he said is there to “make sure all the houses are in harmony with what we see.”

He showed images of houses on the block “that are significantly different from this [proposed] house.”

“This is the only project on the cul-de-sac that would have a second story above grade as well as a base story and bottom story,” he said.

Muirlands resident Andy Micheletti (right) shows photos of existing houses on Havenhurst Point.
Muirlands resident Andy Micheletti (right) shows photos of existing houses on Havenhurst Point to demonstrate how a planned development there would be different.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Neighbor Ben Schwartz added that he and others “are very concerned about the second story of this project. It will block views, it will set a precedent and will change the character of this neighborhood.”

The neighborhood has 57 houses, thus the applicant team argued that opponents were cherry-picking six or so homes to compare with the proposed development.

DPR Committee Chairman Brian Will said private views are not part of the board’s purview, and a discussion soon followed about what is in its purview.

DPR trustee Greg Jackson said the presentations made him question “what our role is. … What are the issues here and which of those issues are we supposed to look at?”

He said some of the issues raised — such as conflicts between neighbors — can be settled without the committee.

However, he said, the board’s jurisdiction includes issues related to the project’s conformity with the San Diego municipal code, such as “heights, setbacks, drainage and any number of attributes of the house,” along with issues that determine whether and how the house is consistent with community character. Jackson noted that the board “spent very little time on those issues” during the hearing.

“Our core job ... is to make judgments like that,” he said. “We are uniquely equipped to make judgments like that. … I think we have to be careful to not get distracted by other issues.”

Some trustees said focusing on the concept of neighborhood compatibility is within their scope. But discussion as to how to rule on it continued.

In areas such as La Jolla Shores, a design manual “has some illustrations that tell a better story about neighborhood compatibility ... [and] what the phrase ‘inconsistent with the neighbors’ means,” Will said.

However, Muirlands does not have that, he said.

After additional debate, a motion that findings cannot be made to support the project due to inconsistency with the neighborhood passed 5-1, with Jackson opposing without comment. Will customarily abstained as the chairman.

Will noted that “this is one voice of many directed to the city decision makers.” The DPR’s recommendation next goes to its parent organization, the La Jolla Community Planning Association, for ratification or further review.

LJCPA’s recommendation will go to the city of San Diego for consideration.

The Planned District Ordinance Committee changes its previous vote of support and the Development Permit Review Committee delays a new vote pending more information on a list of items.

Other DPR news

Three other projects that went before the board won its support:

Avenida Cresta: This project requires a coastal development permit to demolish a 2,035-square-foot residence and a portion of the garage to build a new two-story single-family home with an attached garage, a balcony and a patio for a total of 7,497 square feet at 6208 Avenida Cresta in the Lower Hermosa area. From the street, the height would be 24 feet.

The project was last reviewed in September. At the time, applicant representative Flavia Gomes of Offset Design said the new frontage uses wood and Brazilian cobogo (also known as breeze blocks) to create a contemporary design that brings “natural light, ventilation and beauty to the facade. This is basically a piece of art. Every block of this facade is handmade by designer Ana Paula Castro … and will be shipped to the United States.”

On March 21, she addressed board members’ concerns from previous hearings, showing how the height of each of the walls was measured, plus areas of encroachment and how the bulk and scale compare with surrounding houses.

With little public comment, the board voted 5-1 to support the development, with trustee Angeles Leira opposed, citing concerns about potential changes that could be made to the project when the city conducts its review.

Eads Avenue: A proposal to add a new garage, accessory dwelling unit and junior accessory dwelling unit to an existing single-family residence at 7443 Eads Ave. in The Village was approved during its first hearing.

Claude-Anthony Marengo shows plans for a remodel at 7443 Eads Ave. to the Development Permit Review Committee.
Claude-Anthony Marengo shows plans for a remodel at 7443 Eads Ave. to the Development Permit Review Committee.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Applicant representative Claude-Anthony Marengo said the planned renovations include a new garage with a unit on top and a new attached ADU onsite, with much of the development in the back of the property.

Any preliminary DPR review can be made final by a unanimous vote, which was the case for this project. A motion to support the development also passed unanimously.

Castellana Road: A plan to build a three-story, 10,120-square-foot house on a vacant parcel on Castellana Road in the Country Club area gained the committee’s approval.

During the project’s first review in February, applicant representative Jennifer Bolyn said the location is “a pretty narrow street” on a “challenging site.” But she added that only 6,292 square feet would be above ground and therefore contribute to the floor area ratio, or size of the house in relation to its lot. She said the frontage would have terraces and trellises to break up the project’s massing and that the proposal is within allowable heights.

However, neighbors expressed concerns about the height, the square footage included in the FAR measurement, how the size of the house relates to its neighbors, how excavation for the garage would affect surrounding houses and more.

At the March 21 review, Bolyn said the house would conform to FAR rules and that more landscaping with native vegetation was added to the plan to improve the frontage. She discussed drainage plans and said construction of the house would stabilize the surrounding hillside. She added that the house was designed with constraints of the site in mind.

La Jolla Realtor Patrick Ahern commented that some neighbors “have concerns with the bulk and scale of the project” and plan to plant large trees to preserve their privacy. Bolyn said the proposed house is “not the only one of this size” in the area.

A motion to support the development passed 4-2, with Leira and trustee Glen Rasmussen opposed, saying the planned size and dark color of the house are “dominant and overbearing.”

Next meeting: The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meets the second and third Tuesdays of each month, pending items to review. The next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, at a location to be determined. Learn more at ◆