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Home addition raises question on planning rules

The question of whether or not adding a third floor to a home is a minor addition has stirred up a hornet’s nest in La Jolla Shores.

Joe LaCava, La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) president, recently wrote to the city “to express our clear and strong objection” that a third-floor addition at 8341 Paseo del Ocaso was approved without going through the planning group for approval.

“It is obvious this project is not minor in scope and is an obvious violation of bulk and scale provisions,” he wrote. On behalf of the LJCPA, he asked that the permits be rescinded, that work stop on the home and that the project be sent to the planning group for review.

He also said it fails to comply with the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance, which provides guidelines for the area’s development.

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Neither the homeowner nor the architect who worked on the home’s addition, could be reached for comment after repeated attempts.

What’s minor?

Chris Larson, a senior city planner, said the city acted within proper bounds of the ordinance that allows the city to review minor additions and issue permits.

Noting that the definition of what constitutes “minor” in planning regulations is somewhat murky and is not defined in the city code or the Shores ordinance, Larson said, “It’s a legitimate view for people to think this (Del Ocaso addition) is not (minor).”

La Jolla architect Phil Merten has characterized the three-story Paseo Del Ocaso home addition as a PDO-buster, noting third-story additions in La Jolla Shores have never been considered minor, particularly, as in this case, when they’re located in the middle of a neighborhood of two-story dwellings.

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Changing the rules

At a special meeting of the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee on Sept. 29, the group adopted changes to the Shores planning ordinance “clarifying” what constitutes “minor in scope.” Much of the language was derived from the city of San Diego’s Municipal Code regarding land development reviews.

Improvements to a structure representing a third story at any height could not be deemed minor under the changes. Projects with subterranean basements would be exempt from being considered as part of a third story or deemed “major” under the change.

The committee opted to consider 10 percent or more of interior floor area, 1,000 total square feet and 24 feet in height, 26 feet for chimneys, as the benchmarks separating minor projects from major projects, which would trigger community planning review. Non-habitable structures such as patios, roof decks and pools and spas less than 16-feet high would be exempt.