La Jolla planners support home project in Country Club area after nearly six months of hearings

A rendering of a proposed home project shows areas (in green) that have been removed to reduce the overall size.
A rendering of a home project proposed for La Jolla’s Country Club neighborhood shows areas (in green) that have been removed to reduce the overall size.
(Photo by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

A proposal to build a ‘spec house’ on a vacant lot on Castellana Road gets approval from the Community Planning Association after the project was modified to address concerns about size and more.


After five hearings in recent months, a project to build a “spec house” on a vacant lot in the Country Club area got the support of the La Jolla Community Planning Association after the plan was modified to address concerns about size and other factors.

Trustees voted 13-1 to endorse the development during their meeting Aug. 3, reversing a vote in May that opposed it.

Applicant representative and architect Jennifer Bolyn said changes had been made to reduce the proposed house’s size, setbacks and view impacts from the street following feedback from neighbors and local planners.

Areas throughout the home were scaled down and pulled in to cut the size by about 200 square feet from the original 10,120, she said. She also added landscaping and modified the color palette to have “a more natural character.”

The project has bounced between LJCPA and the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee for nearly six months.

During the plan’s first review by the DPR Committee on Feb. 21, Bolyn said the location on Castellana Road is “a pretty narrow street” on a “challenging site.” But she added that only 6,149 square feet (reduced from 6,292) would be above ground and therefore contribute to the floor area ratio, or the size of the house in relation to its lot.

The DPR voted to support the project in March, despite neighbors’ concerns about the height, the square footage included in the FAR measurement, how the size of the house would relate to its neighbors, how excavation for the home’s garage would affect surrounding houses and more.

At the LJCPA meeting in May, residents who opposed the development cited its size and said the aesthetics would be different from the neighboring houses. The board voted 8-3 against the project.

Rather than proceed to the city of San Diego with a “no” vote in La Jolla, the architectural team revised the plan to reduce the size and setbacks and returned to the DPR in June, where the project received unanimous approval.

During the Aug. 3 LJCPA hearing, Bolyn argued that the project is in line with the La Jolla Community Plan and would improve the hillside by removing unstable soil.

However, during public comments, area resident Lesley Henegar contended the project does not align with the Community Plan because it doesn’t protect natural features. “It excavates the vast majority of the site,” Henegar said.

Others argued that the excavation requires additional review.

Henegar also expressed concern about the home being a speculative, or spec, house. Such a house is designed to be move-in-ready and is built on speculation that it will sell easily by being what a wide range of buyers are looking for.

Henegar argued that means “a developer is going to build the largest home possible to extract the largest profit possible.”

Echoing the concern about the soil removal, LJCPA trustee Ray Weiss said: “I’m concerned about the geology. … It seems to me that excavation of that [area] would be asking for issues for houses further up the hill.”

Bolyn said everything was being reviewed by a geological engineer.

“Our house is … going to improve the stability of the lot,” Bolyn said. “Right now, the area [on which the house would be built] is all soil that is subject to failure.”

As a solution, she said, caissons, shoring and retention basins would be integrated into the design to protect structural stability on the property and for surrounding houses.

In the end, the board gave the development its support, with trustee Patrick Ahern, who was representing neighbors who still had concerns, opposed. LJCPA President Harry Bubbins customarily abstained.

“I voted in favor of this project before it was altered; I thought it was in compliance then,” trustee Brian Will said. “But I think the improvements the architect has made since to appease some of the neighbor concerns only benefited the project more.”

Other LJCPA news

Project list: LJCPA joined the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group in unanimously endorsing a list created by the leaders of four local planning groups for capital improvement projects they would like the city of San Diego to execute.

In the past, the groups would submit separate lists and the city would pick one or two projects based on priorities and funding availability. Looking to present a united front, representatives of LJP&B, LJCPA, La Jolla Shores Association and Bird Rock Community Council got together to produce a list of requests. The groups are voting on this year’s list at their respective monthly meetings before submitting it to the city.

Widening and rebuilding the sidewalk in Scripps Park next to Coast Boulevard is the No. 1 item on the list.

A close second is resurfacing the La Jolla Shores boardwalk and replacing crumbling walls.

Steve Hadley receives a retirement gift from the La Jolla Community Planning Association from trustee Diane Kane.
San Diego field representative Steve Hadley receives a retirement gift from the La Jolla Community Planning Association from trustee Diane Kane on Aug. 3.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Cheers for Hadley: As Steve Hadley, field representative for San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, prepares to retire in September, LJCPA thanked him for his 20 years of service with the city.

“You have been a wonderful friend to the La Jolla Community Planning Association as well as to all the community groups in La Jolla,” trustee Diane Kane said. “We would keep you on forever if we could. Thank you for your service, your wisdom and your calmness in a crisis.”

She presented Hadley with a wrapped gift from the board; it was not opened during the meeting.

Coastal resilience: San Diego Senior Planner Melissa Garcia said the city is beginning work on its Coastal Resilience Plan.

“That plan will identify specific climate resilience and conservation needs on the coastline to reduce the risk of sea-level rise,” she said.

Public engagement is expected to start this winter.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, at a location to be determined. The agenda will be posted 72 hours in advance at ◆