Mixed-use Village projects gain support at DPR

Development proposed for lot adjacent Vons, 76 gas station site

During its June 9 meeting, the Development Permit Review committee (DPR) was given a fresh look at two projects that could add to the revitalization underway at the southern edge of the Village or — as some have feared — add unwanted density.

An upscale cinema complex is already under construction at 7611 Fay Ave., while plans for La Jolla Music Society’s performing arts complex across Fay Avenue are in motion and 18 luxury town homes at Silver Street and Eads Avenue are set to break ground Aug. 1.

The mixed-use projects under consideration June 9 were rejected by the DPR when first presented in 2013, and again in 2014. Both have since been redesigned and reduced from three to two stories. One would be built at Eads Avenue and Pearl Street (currently a Unocal 76 gas station), and the other on land serving as the rear parking lot of Vons supermarket on Girard Avenue (adjacent the future cinemas).

801 Pearl St.

The developer of the project at 801 Pearl St. has hired a new architect — La Jolla-based Alcorn & Benton — since it was last presented to DPR, in November 2014 (read more here). As currently proposed, it would include four ground-floor retail spaces fronting Pearl Street (two measuring 1,000 square feet, one of 900 square feet and the largest at 2,500 square feet). Three of its 12 condos would be above the commercial units, and the remainder located on the south side of the property, accessible from an interior courtyard. An underground parking garage with about 42 spaces would remain accessible from Eads Avenue.

“An earlier scheme suggested a restaurant use in part of this, but we’re suggesting that might not be such a wise idea, and maybe a Sprouts Market or some other amenity that would serve the community (would be a better fit),” said architect Jim Alcorn during last week’s DPR meeting, noting that about 2,000 square feet of commercial space has been shaved off, while residential space has been slightly increased.

Other changes include adding variation to the side of the project facing the alley (Bishops Lane) by recessing residential facades and planting vegetation. A 600-square-foot loading zone off Bishops Lane was also added so trucks won’t block the alley when making deliveries.

City staff approved the previous design, finding it met city code, although the city has yet to review the current design.

Some residents have lingering concerns with its bulk and scale, potential traffic impacts and the unearthing of soil that may still be contaminated, during excavation for the garage.

During the DPR meeting, City of San Diego senior planner Lesley Henegar lauded Alcorn & Benton and property owner Mark Conger for addressing many of residents’ and DPR members’ concerns since the project was last presented. “This design seems to be very consistent with the La Jolla Community Plan,” Henegar said. “I don’t have issues with this project. I think it’s quite exceptional.”

However, Doug and Karen Moranville, whose single-story Eads Avenue home abuts the southern edge of the project, still fear the project may diminish their privacy.

The project would be built on several adjoining parcels, with those facing Pearl Street located within Planned District Ordinance Zone 4 (neighborhood commercial) while the southern parcels are zoned for medium-density residential.

Leslie Gaunt, an attorney representing the Moranvilles, again took exception with the project redistributing the higher density allowed in the commercial zone along Pearl Street to the south of the property — effectively doubling the density the city would otherwise allow there.

“They are taking the absolute maximum density they can use at this location,” Gaunt said, noting that if the southern portion were built in accordance with existing residential zoning, it would require an 18-foot buffer from the Moranvilles’ property line.

However, Henegar said she believes the currently proposed, 8- to 12-foot buffer between the project and the Moranvilles’ home — which would include trees and landscaping for privacy — is sufficient.

DPR member Angeles Liera said she thinks the project’s latest incarnation is “pretty decent” and “solves the issues much better than the previous (design),” though added, “I have heard loud and clear that this project is taking something from the neighborhood. … I want to see the list of what this project is giving back to the community. … To me, that’s very important.”

Alcorn will present the project again to the DPR in the near future, with several items it requested, including noise and traffic studies.

Following city and community review, the San Diego Planning Commission will vote to approve or deny the project. Its decision can be appealed to the City Council or via the terms of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

7610 Girard Ave.

After having his initial, three-story design roundly rejected by both the DPR and La Jolla Community Planning Association (read more here), Philip Quatrino of PQ Design Studio submitted entirely new plans for his mixed-use project at 7610 Girard Ave., to be built on a parking lot just north of Vons. The current, two-story plans call for seven residential condos of between 1,333 and 1,426 square feet, and 5,125 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

Quatrino said the project’s footprint is largely the same, minus an entry courtyard and a third, partially subterranean commercial level. A 27-vehicle underground garage would be accessed at the rear alley, while commercial loading would take place on Girard Avenue. A storm-water easement between the project and Vons would serve as a walkway.

The project would include a rooftop deck with fire pits and swimming pool, interior courtyard, solar panels, and, at the front of the building, a 26-foot-tall garden wall and 8-foot-tall “green screens” between entrances to the ground floor commercial units.

Much emphasis was placed on the building’s front aesthetics, as it is located near the terminus of Torrey Pines Road — a major vehicle entry to the Village.

“This is a major improvement from what we saw before,” DPR member Diane Kane said, suggesting proposed, frosted glass doors be made transparent, as called for in La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance, or blueprint for design. “We want whoever is in there to be successful; it’s in all our best interests,” she said.

To make the building pop, Liera suggested Quatrino look at ways to “play up” the materials, including a light brown, faux-wood façade with stucco recesses. She also asked that Quatrino return to a future meeting with visuals showing the proposed building in relation to surrounding structures — particularly Vons — so committee members can see how it would fit in.