Struggling to land retail tenants, building owners seek OK to up office space
The owners of the building at Prospect Street and Herschel Avenue that once housed Hotel Parisi are seeking to increase the amount of office space they are allowed per La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance (PDO) document — or blueprint for design.
The majority of space on the second floor, which was occupied by the hotel before its May 2013 closing, is now leased by Morgan Stanley. However, on April 21, a representative for building owner PHP Management told members of La Jolla’s Development Permit Review (DPR) committee PHP has had difficulty leasing retail space on the ground floor.
PHP Management is seeking a planned development permit from the city to deviate from the PDO to allow 50 percent office use on the ground floor of its building, where a maximum of 25 percent would otherwise be allowed.
Representing PHP Management (of which La Jolla businessman Peter Wagener is owner and president), Marcela Escobar-Eck of Atlantis Group told members of the DPR committee that the space in the building formerly occupied by Victoria’s Secret has been mostly vacant since the women’s clothing store closed in 2013.
“Ironically, for one of the most prominent sites in that area, it’s been very difficult to find tenants,” said Escobar-Eck. Others in attendance agreed vacancies in the area are up, noting the array of empty commercial spaces on the same side of Prospect Street.
La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance committee — which reviews development projects for adherence to the PDO document — voted unanimously April 13 that PHP Management’s proposal for 50 percent office use is not in conformance.
PDO committee Chair Ione Stiegler said that by requiring a minimum of 50 percent retail and a maximum of 25 percent office space in the ground floor of commercial buildings in this area, La Jolla’s planning ordinance is vague.
“Why this leaves 25 percent unaccounted for is not known,” Stiegler responded, via e-mail. “Our PDO interprets this as technically leaving 25 percent up for interpretation. However, the store frontage requirements — 75 percent retail and 25 percent office — are not up for interpretation, so we were holding them to this.”
A follow-up motion stating that the PDO committee would “consider a condition where more than 25 percent of the ground floor area is office use, while no more than 25 percent of the linear street frontage is non-retail” was approved.
Much discussion during the DPR meeting centered on where an incoming retail tenant — such as a proposed café or wine bar — would be located, and how to maximize overall retail frontage in the building.
Escobar-Eck said the building’s depth makes it challenging to lease to retail tenants, who typically require less space than office tenants.
She said she has been in discussions with the La Jolla Village Merchants Association to lease the front portion of one of the building’s street-facing units, while an office tenant would lease the remainder of the space. LJVMA currently leases a small portion of a building at 1162 Prospect St. to run is Visitor Information Center.
“Apparently they’re going to be leaving that location and having to find a new location,” Escobar-Eck said. “We would be working with them to move all or some of their activities. We thought that there might be an opportunity in the first 10 feet of our space to actually create some areas where information about La Jolla tourism, trails, restaurants and other venues could be provided.”
(LJVMA Executive Director Sheila Fortune told La Jolla Light via e-mail she was not aware of these discussions).
PHP Management will continue its efforts to procure ground-floor retail tenants, Escobar-Eck said. However, allowing a greater percentage of office tenants will offer more flexibility marketing the property.
PHP will consider feedback from its presentations to the PDO and DPR committees and return to each at a later date.
In other DPR news: The committee unanimously voted to recommend the city approve permits to demolish a cottage-style office building at 7804 Ivanhoe Ave. (at Silverado Street) and construct a 4,104-square-foot, two-story, single-family home in a similar beach cottage style (the Brockett Residence). The city determined the building to be demolished is not historically significant.
It was noted that the project, which includes an elevator and stairs ascending to its roof, also falls within La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance boundaries and must still be vetted by the PDO committee.