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Focusing on dreams and reality in La Jolla

By Joe LaCava

President, La Jolla Community Planning Association

One part of the mayor’s State of the City address caught my attention: restoring Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park to its original people orientation. La Jolla has its coastal parks, but we lack a town square. Think about it.

What makes events such as the weekly farmers market, the annual art and wine festivals, Esther’s monthly cleanup events and your local coffee shop all so popular? I think it is the opportunity to come together as a community, to be part of something bigger; whether it is to watch an event or simply to share a common space as we eat, read, shop or socialize.

Real estate is too expensive to create such a space on private land; perhaps closing a street permanently or even temporarily might be a workable alternative. Applicants do it for their individual events — why not do it on an ongoing basis for the common good?

OK, back to reality.

Land-use issues on tap for 2010 include revisiting the exemption process for a coastal development permit (CDP). For now, preserving 50 percent-plus of your exterior walls avoids the costly and time-consuming process of a CDP. But measuring 50 percent has gotten so ridiculously complex that the city issues an eight-page guide.

The not-so-new idea is called a Categorical Exemption. Forget the 50 percent rule: Just make your project (new or remodel) 20 percent or so smaller than allowed by code, and you go straight to a building permit. It solves some problems, but potentially creates new problems — losing public notice of pending projects and measuring a project against the La Jolla Community Plan. In a big city like San Diego, where there is little or no connection between the city’s zoning and our Community Plan, it is extremely important to have a process to ensure building plans (whether discretionary like a CDP or ministerial like a building permit) conform. The CPA will be addressing categorical exemption over the next few months.

Forums continue on the La Jolla Shores Planned Development Ordinance (PDO). Should the PDO be updated, and if so, how? We urge La Jolla Shores residents, merchants and property owners to join in the conversation. More information at ljspdoreview@

gmail.com.

Last, don’t forget that Feb. 4 is a key date for your CPA. It is the last opportunity to avoid expiration of membership; the last day to announce candidacy for one of the six trustee seats; and, we will have a candidate forum at our regular 6 p.m. meeting. See www.lajollacpa.org.