Community View: Acknowledging errors leads to improving the process

By Tony Crisafi

President, La Jolla Community Planning Association

The proposed home at 1912 Spindrift consists of a 3,610-square-foot, three-bedroom home with an attached two-car garage. It will replace an existing 3,172-square-foot, four-bedroom home with no garage on a 13,511-square-foot, blufftop property. The existing nonconforming structure will be removed.

The owner originally requested a subterranean garage with driveway access from the street. This became impossible because of Native American archeological and paleontological resources. There were many other site constraints, including the required 40-foot bluff setback, a recommended 50-foot fault offset; required front, side and rear yard setbacks, and a city- and California Coastal Commission-requested 8-foot oceanview corridor along the northeast side of the property.

As such there was only 3,380 square feet of development area on which to build a house and pool, most of which was severely constrained with archeological resources. The new home will conform to all codes and the La Jolla Shores PDO, and the La Jolla Community Plan in every aspect including size, architecture, design and placement.

Regarding the public review process, I have full respect for every aspect of review and input by any and all joint committee members, trustees, neighbors and members of the public. It is not a perfect process, but I believe it works. Because of my contractual and professional responsibility to my client and the clear mandate of the LJCPA Bylaws, I recused myself from any participation in the recent LJCPA meetings when the project and the possible appeal were being discussed and considered. At both the LJCPA appeal meeting, and the meeting on the redesign, I recused myself and left the room.

Mr. Matthew Peterson, Esq., worked with the owners and my office to revise the design. He met with Mr. Merten to review the changes and then he presented the design to the La Jolla PRC who recommended approval. Mr. Peterson requested and reserved a Planning Commission hearing date of Sept. 8 for the appeal. A process was set to obtain PRC and LJCPA recommendations, neighbor review and ultimately review at the Planning Commission on the appeal. It appears that the redesign and proposed attached garage met with widespread approval and addressed the concerns that would have been stated within the LJCPA appeal; however the appeal should have still been filed as a “place holder.”

There have been allegations that I had private communications with Phil Merten after the Aug. 4 LJCPA action to file the appeal, or that I somehow circumvented the LJCPA appeal process. Neither allegation is true. No discussion or conversation took place between me and Mr. Merten or any other trustees, and I took no action to prevent the appeal from getting filed.

I did communicate with Vice President Whittemore, (who was incorrectly directed to abstain from voting on the project at a prior meeting when the home was recommended by the LJCPA for approval), and I indicated to him that I would direct Mr. Merten or Mr. LaCava to file the appeal. I have no further communication on the matter and no appeal was filed. Even though I was conflicted, and per the bylaws could not participate in any way, I should have remembered to follow up with Mr. Merten and/or Mr. LaCava, and I did not. I accept responsibility and apologize for that oversight.

The events of the past cannot change. However, lessons learned can result in changes to the appeal procedures so that this does not happen again. After the Sept. 1 meeting, the LJCPA officers met to review the facts and develop a procedure for filing appeals which will be presented at the October trustee meeting. As president, I take responsibility and again apologize for not following up to assure that someone filed the appeal.