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Bird Rock project hits a wall

A two-hour debate over whether the design for a project planned for the southern entry to Bird Rock is appropriate turned on whether partially uncovered trellislike “lanai” structures proposed on its rooftops constituted a third story.

In the end, that was only one reason the La Jolla Community Planning Association voted 14-3 on Feb. 5 to deny the mixed-use Lofts at Bird Rock. They also expressed concerns about the ratio of the buildings to the lot size and the transition from commercial to residential spaces.

The project envisions two-story buildings, with retail on the bottom and 11 residential condo units on the second story, on less than half an acre. The lot, vacant the past few years, previously housed restaurants.

Design explained

“This is the community entrance to the south end of Bird Rock’s commercial district,” architect Dann Linn said. “We felt a sense of responsibility, and obligation, to create an iconic entry element notifying people they’re coming into Bird Rock, not a hanging sign, but a public plaza.”
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He and developer Jeff Eldon detailed the specifics of the project that they want to build across from the new Longs drugstore.

After defining “story” as the area between a finished floor and a roof, planner David Little commented, “It (city code) doesn’t say the roof has to be open or closed. There is no (provision for) lanais in the codes. We are being led to believe this is not a third-story structure because it is open. It has gas, it has windows, it has plumbing. By definition it is a story.”

Third-stories within the city-mandated 30-foot height limit are prohibited in Bird Rock’s Planned District Ordinance governing development.

‘It’s our job’

Planning board member Toni Crisafi said it is the job of community planners to help developers get through the review process while protecting the community.
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Another board member, Ray Weiss, said, “It’s not our job to tell them (developers) how to modify it (project) so that we would support it. It’s our job to tell them why we don’t like it, if that’s the case.”

The planning group members also questioned two proposed car elevators planned for the underground garage, wondering aloud about handicapped accessibility and fire safety.

There is a lot about the proposed project which is perceived as being harmful to the area,” said John Berol, one of three planners who voted against denying the project.

“But I don’t see that these (building specifications) are prohibited under the code. And the remedy would be to change the code.”