Bird Rock Station put on hold, for now

Honoring the request of La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), the San Diego City Planning Commission voted unanimously last week to continue consideration of Bird Rock Station until June 12, to allow the local community one more opportunity to weigh in on the controversial proposal for a mixed-use development.

Bird Rock Station is a planned three-story development within the city-mandated 30-foot height limit, to include a specialty grocery store on the ground level. It will also include two floors of residential condominiums above, plus two levels of underground parking.

The project site is a vacant lot on the corner of Bird Rock Avenue and La Jolla Boulevard.

The project proposal deviates from La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance (PDO) by allowing three stories of development and by allowing access to its underground parking from Bird Rock Avenue rather than from the alleyway behind the site.

Bird Rock Station PDO deviations can be allowed by the city if it can be demonstrated the deviations serve the public good.

Project proponents contend that planning for the mixed-use project is being refined to allow a smaller building footprint and a more attractive design. They claim adding a third story allows the project to be financially feasible and allows more leeway in architectural design to largely conceal it from public view. They have also noted the project’s parking lot entrance deviation would benefit neighbors because the alley behind the site is too small and would be overwhelmed by public use of the new building.

Joe LaCava, LJCPA president, urged commissioners to grant a continuance. “We’ve never seen the new design,” he said. “In February ’07 we passed a motion denying the old design. We only saw conceptual designs of important changes. We invited the applicant to come back but that has not happened.”

Michael Krambs, owner and developer of Bird Rock Station, asked commissioners to deny the continuation request and to hear - and judge - the proposed project on its merits. “The only purpose for sending this project back to the CPA for further review would be that they could provide you with additional, relevant information that would enhance your ability to make an informed decision,” said Krambs. “Further consideration of this project by La Jolla’s CPA will provide you with no new information. It would only serve to further delay the ultimate adjudication of my project.”

Krambs contends LJCPA’s views are skewed on his project. “This is probably the most public vetted project of its size and scope that you’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “They would recommend a ‘no’ vote on my project simply because of the third-story element. I’m not going to change my proposal any more, and they’re not going to recommend approval of anything with a third story.”

Bird Rock Station architect Mark Lyon said project applicants have visited more than 35 separate meetings of local advisory groups, at all levels, to discuss their project.

He contended there is also nothing substantially new about the project as proposed. “It’s taken so long to get to you (commissioners) that they’ve assumed there is a new design,” Lyon said. “There is not. This has been a taxing journey over the last two and a half years. There is nothing to be gained from taking this project (once again) back to the community.”

Planning Commissioner Dennis Otsuji moved that the project be continued to allow one more opportunity for public comment.

Commissioner Gil Ontai asked Krambs if he would be willing to accept a continuance if it were made date-certain.

Krambs said he preferred the project be heard immediately, but added he could live with a short continuance.

New Planning Commissioner Tim Golba of La Jolla recused himself from sitting in on the Bird Rock Station issue because he has not yet left as LJCPA chair, which will now hear the issue one last time at its next meeting on June 5.