Group seeks common ground in PDO revisions

Terms like “bulk and scale” and “creeping incrementalism” filled the air at the Rec Center last week at a workshop on the rules for development in La Jolla Shores.

Chaired by Tim Lucas, the session allowed people to get their thoughts on the table about what should be included in revisions of a document first drafted in 1973 called the Planned District Ordinance.

Recent projects proposed in the Shores, ranging from a plan to build a commercial building with residence above on Avenida de la Playa to large homes that some say are out of character with the neighborhood, have spurred the move to make changes in the lengthy document.

Diane Kane, a retired city planner, captured the feeling of many when she said, “I don’t have a neighborhood anymore.” Instead, she added, she is surrounded by massive homes that act as “destination resorts that are vacant most of the time.”

Lucas, a member of the La Jolla Shores Association board who volunteered to lead a communitywide effort to update the guidelines, told the group it wasn’t about “reinventing the wheel every time.”

In 2003, a similar process was undertaken, he noted, that ended up with everyone at odds and “a deadlock in our community.”

He told the of audience of about 25 residents, architects and Shores business owners, “We want good development and want to enhance our community.”

After everyone had a chance to say their bit about concerns ranging from new homes being built as close to lot lines as possible to what potential impacts could be on the Avenida de la Playa merchants, Lucas asked for help on the next steps.

Volunteers signed up for committees to look at what other communities are doing, why the city has apparently not enforced some of its own rules, the history of the PDO, and legal issues that could affect any suggested changes.

Eventually, Lucas said, there will be a group to write the changes.

One volunteer, architect Phil Merten, who has been a member of the Community Planning Association (the only group with authority to make formal recommendations to the city on La Jolla developments) said, “We don’t want to take out our ability to make intelligent discretionary decisions.”

Some were concerned that too many ideas were bandied about — a list on the wall compiled by CPA and Bird Rock Community Council chairman Joe LaCava neared 20 items when the meeting ended.

Ideas included having different rules for different types or sizes of property, getting the city to do a better job of enforcing design standards and better defining the ratio of building size to lot size.

Architect Michael Morton, who has served on community boards including the planning association, noted that some of the rules in the existing PDO are “very good, some you’ll want to adjust and change.”

But he added that it was important to define and focus on what really needs to be changed and find common ground.

“The PDO can be set up to be restrictive,” he said, citing the current rules as having only one sentence that talks about how far a building should be set back from the property line.

Another speaker, Vaughn Woods, said the document is well done but “can be exploited by lack of definition.” He too cautioned that it was important to stay positive during the process.

No time was set for the next meeting. Those with ideas or interested in helping can contact Lucas at