Planning Commission denies appeals favored by LJCPA

LaCava confirms candidacy, steps down as LJCPA president, ‘McMansion’ group meets July 1

During the past month, San Diego Planning Commission ruled in favor of two projects previously opposed by the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) and its Development Permit Review (DPR) subcommittee — both final outcomes.

The LJCPA, which meets monthly at La Jolla Rec Center, makes recommendations to the City of San Diego and other government agencies on development and land use issues in La Jolla.

Fight over Whale Watch Way home design concludes

On May 14, the Planning Commission denied the LJCPA’s appeal of a controversial, ultra-modern courtyard home planned for 8490 Whale Watch Way in La Jolla Shores. For years, the LJCPA and La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee have rejected the project as being too large for its lot, bulky and out of character with the neighborhood.

During the Planning Commission hearing, Prestwick Drive resident Gilda Corengi, who said she shares the east property line with the proposed “two-story, compound-shaped house,” argued that its design had been altered little since it was last presented, and is still 106 feet in length along the 136-foot east property line.

“The building pad is being raised three feet,” Corengi said. “Even though they’re now telling me that the courtyard wall is being reduced six feet, actually the wall will now have a visual view of 18 feet if you add the three feet of dirt they’re adding below. This is what we will be looking at from all the rooms, my garden and patio facing west. The proposed house will block my sunlight, skyline and make my house very dark.”

Planning Commission chair Tim Golba, one of two votes against the project, also voiced strong opposition to the project, as it was presented that day.

“It’s a brilliant piece of architecture, but I’m not sure that it’s a brilliant location for this brilliant piece of architecture,” Golba said. “This strikes me as something that wanted to be on a bigger piece of land, more isolated, set up in a nice green field. It would have its setting (there) as a sculpture, as a piece of art.”

Golba said within the La Jolla Shores Design Manual, part of the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance (or blueprint for design) — which the commission references in making its decisions — “there does appear to be language that can encourage this type of architecture, but also discourage it as something that’s so different from its context.”

820 Rushville

On June 11, the Planning Commission voted 6-1 to deny an appeal of a home rebuild (the Hansen residence) at 820 Rushville St. and Bishops Lane.

In December, the LJCPA’s Development Permit Review (DPR) subcommittee voted 5-4 that findings could not be made to recommend the city issue permits for the project. During two presentations to the DPR, members of the public and five opposing DPR members found the flat-roofed house to be bulky and out of character with the neighborhood.

“This came through (the DPR) about the time we had at least five other projects that we also turned down for incompatibility with our community plan,” said DPR member Diane Kane, addressing the commissioners June 11. “In four other cases, the applicants worked with us and we got much improved projects.

“That didn’t happen in this case,” she added of architect Dominique Houriet at [oo-d-a] studio, who she said opted not to accept the DPR’s invitation to return and discuss the project further. “The community really didn’t get a good opportunity to go over this project and refine it to where we think it will be a wonderful addition.”

Commissioner Theresa Quiroz — the lone vote against the project — also argued that the applicant missed an opportunity to work with the community.

Although DPR member Mike Costello told commissioners he and some of his DPR colleagues preferred a reduction in the project’s bulk and scale, more articulation and a sloped roof — possibly comprised of red tile like La Jolla High School is using in its athletic facilities remodel — Golba argued that the DPR should not be trying to dictate architectural style.

Commissioners ultimately disagreed with arguments that the neighborhood is dominated by single-story cottages, and that the proposed rectangular, two-story home — to be built across from the La Jolla High School athletic fields — is not in compliance with the La Jolla Community Plan.

Voicing opposition to the appeal (and support for the project) commissioners noted the area is impacted by the “controlled chaos at La Jolla High,” a neighboring convalescent home and other, larger two- and three-story structures in the immediate area — including a mix of smaller and larger homes on Rushville Street, Eads Avenue and Bishops Lane.

Golba said Houriet designed a much smaller home than its building envelope and city code allow on that site.

“The architect really consolidated and pushed this building together to create a compact footprint,” Golba said. “Rushville is much more of an alley than Bishops Lane is. ... It’s mostly used for pick-up and drop-off at La Jolla High, I would argue. It’s just a very strange context and what they’ve done is probably the appropriate use for this.”

In other LJCPA news

Retaining wall to be redesigned: LJCPA president Joe LaCava said city staff has decided to revise plans for a retaining wall rebuild on Torrey Pines Road that the LJCPA took exception to during its May meeting (read more here). “I’m proud to say the city is listening. They’re going to look at engineering options for that wall and what they can come back with in terms of alternatives,” LaCava said, adding, “I did get some apologies from the project manager. There was some misconception that this had already been decided a long time ago.”

‘McMansion’ group meets July 1: The LJCPA also voted to confirm the formation of an ad hoc committee to discuss the perceived proliferation of “McMansions” — large, boxy homes that maximize the density of a lot and, as some argue, detract from a neighborhood’s character. The group will hold its first public meeting, 5:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, July 1 at La Jolla Library, 7555 Draper Ave.

The committee, which includes DPR member Angeles Liera, LJCPA trustees Diane Kane, Jim Ragsdale and Glen Rasmussen, community member Sharon Wampler, and architect Eric Lindebak (with the office of Safdie Rabines), was created to gather public input on issues regarding residential, single-family development in La Jolla, and craft proposed solutions for submittal to the city (read more at

Both residents and those in the building industry are invited to participate in discussions on any proposed changes to current zoning or the La Jolla Community Plan — particularly regarding what some consider an abuse of a categorical exemption allowing project applicants to sidestep the community review process and requirement to obtain a costal development permit.

“The committee is charged with building community consensus,” LaCava said. “If we don’t have the community consensus, City Hall’s not going to listen to us and they’re not going to carry that conversation any further.”

To send feedback to the ad hoc committee or for more information, e-mail:

LaCava confirms candidacy, steps down as LJCPA president: During the LJCPA’s June 4 meeting, board president Joe LaCava confirmed his already-publicized plan to run for the District 1 City Council seat being vacated by Sherri Lightner in 2016. As such, he handed over his presidential gavel to first-vice president Cindy Greatrex. LaCava said he would remain on the LJCPA board during the campaign, as well as that of its parent group, the city’s Community Planners Committee, which he chairs.

LaCava said he stepped down as president due to a “possible conflict between what you do campaigning and what you do running the organization,” adding, “I am not leaving (the LJCPA board) because the transition is going to be a little bit slow and painful, so I want to make sure the organization is well taken care of.”

LaCava’s disclosure followed a similar announcement during public comment period by Carmel Valley resident Ray Ellis, who is also running for the District 1 seat (Ellis ran unsuccessfully to unseat Lightner in 2012). Both Ellis, a member of the Del Mar Mesa Planning Group, and LaCava, opposed the controversial One Paseo mixed-use project in Carmel Valley.

Last month the San Diego City Council rescinded its previous 7-2 approval of One Paseo. Following a legal settlement, developer Kilroy Realty will work with the community to design a smaller project that minimizes its bulk and scale, and impacts such as traffic congestion.

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