EIR ordered for Bird Rock Station project

Bird Rock Station developers may well have to “reinvent” their controversial three-story project now that a Superior Court judge is requiring a full-blown environmental impact report on the mixed-use development.

Judge Ronald S. Prager’s recent ruling found that Bird Rock Station, a proposed 20,507-square-foot building with residential and retail space planned at the corner of Bird Rock Avenue and La Jolla Boulevard, could have significant environmental impacts. His ruling reverses the city of San Diego’s determination that the project would not have any significant environmental impacts that couldn’t be compensated for, thus a full environmental report was not required.

Bird Rock Station developer Michael Krambs wants to build 11 condos on two stories above a gourmet grocery store/deli with underground parking in the heart of the community’s commercial strip.

“It puts us back at square one — we’re back at the drawing board,” he said. “We have to make some decisions on what direction we want to go.”

Krambs said he would be “unlikely” to push the project forward to do a complete EIR. “We’re thinking of making modifications, maybe come up with a project that has little public controversy and eliminates the threat of this kind of lawsuit in the future,” he said.

Asked whether he would consider modifying the design to change it from three to two stories as the community desires, Krambs said, “That’s certainly an alternative that we’re going to be looking at.”

The legal about-face requiring an environmental analysis for Bird Rock Station was applauded by La Jolla Community Planning Association Trustee Mike Costello, speaking on his own behalf, and La Jolla attorney Steve Haskins representing No Third Story, a grass-roots group opposing the project.

“It’s a victory for the residents,” said Costello, contending a third story for the project would have violated the community’s Planned District Ordinance (PDO), its blueprint for commercial and residential development.

Costello said the whole idea behind the ordinance was to create a transitional “buffer” between commercial and residential uses in Bird Rock.

“Some 20 years ago we all agreed on that, and now all of a sudden someone comes along and says they can make more of a profit if we just do away with this transition zone: It’s unfair for them to come along and change the rules,” he said.

Haskins said it was the third-story element and not the project itself that was objectionable.

“If they want to come back with a newly designed project that’s within the PDO rules that puts them on a level playing field with every other property owner, I think the community would be amenable to that,” he said.