La Jolla hotel presents sidewalk café plans, ‘storybook’ rebuild gets DPR nod

The façade of La Valencia’s Café La Rue, which is undergoing a renovation and expansion. Pat Sherman photos

By Pat Sherman

Representatives from La Valencia Hotel presented plans to La Jolla’s Development Permit Review committee (DPR) for sidewalk seating that is part of the renovation and expansion of Café La Rue, which will take over space at the hotel formerly occupied by the Whaling Bar.

Though the Planned District Ordinance subcommittee gave the project is final approval Oct. 14, via a unanimous vote, DPR members expressed several concerns during their Oct. 15 meeting, which warranted the project returning to their committee for further discussion, mostly likely in November. The project would still have to be approved by the La Jolla Community Planning Association, which wouldn’t meet after that until Dec. 5.

“We’re hoping to open now in early December,” said Carey Algaze, a representative for the property owners. “I’m not trying to make things difficult; I’m just saying that that’s our goal.”

The project requires a neighborhood use permit for the 198-square-foot sidewalk cafe at 1132 Prospect St., located in Zone 1 of the La Jolla Planned District.

As a concession, the project will remove some indoor seating to make room for two Americans with Disability Act compliant restrooms that are accessible to the public. The main entry has also been widened.

Though an eight-foot-wide pedestrian path must be maintained on the sidewalk (per city code), DPR members expressed concern that the proposed café seating could still take up too much space and create a bottleneck on the sidewalk.

The hotel’s managing director, Mark Dibella, said the patio would be accessed from within the hotel, to avoid people stopping on the sidewalk to enter. In addition, café seating would more or less fit within the footprint of large planters that have always been adjacent to the building, he said.

DPR member Diane Kane suggested possibly altering window fenestration to open the restaurant up and avoid extending the tables out onto the sidewalk. A former member of the city’s Historical Resources Board, Kane said a case could be made for changing that aspect of the historical building.

DPR member Bob Collins expressed concerns that the proposed sidewalk seating and three-foot tall wrought iron railing could diminish the historicity of the building.

Dibella, who worked for the historic US Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego when it went through its renovation, noted that it also included the addition of an outdoor patio, causing no disruption or uproar.

Architect Dena Gillespie presents plans for the Guisti residence to the Development Permit Review subcommittee on Oct. 15

“Legacies of the front of hotels change,” Dibella said. “People may not like the change, but hopefully they evolve with respect to changes in the communities in which they sit.”

La Jolla Parks and Beaches member Sally Miller said the prospect of losing so much of the sidewalk on Prospect “makes my hair want to curl.” She said she fears the project will create a “domino effect” of restaurants demanding sidewalk patios.

“Are we a walk-able city and town, or are we going to be an eating town?” Miller posited.

The DPR also discussed whether a mature palm tree in front of the café space should be felled or relocated.

DPR approves WindanSea home design

DPR members also approved a coastal development permit for a residential home that would replace an existing duplex at 7062 and 7064 Vista del Mar in WindanSea.
Rendering of the Giusti residence, which is proposed to replace a duplex at 7062 and 7064 Vista del Mar in WindanSea.

The owners of the Guisti property are seeking to construct a 2,593- square-foot, two-story, single-family residence with 962-square-foot subterranean garage, pool, spa and rooftop deck. An existing backyard garage would be converted into a cabana.

Architect Dena Gillespie first presented the project to the DPR at its Oct. 8 meeting. The committee had questions about the home as it relates to the character and scale of the neighborhood, as well as a seeming lack of articulation on the north side of the house — both items the architect addressed during the Oct. 15 meeting.

In regard to the relatively steep driveway off Vista Del Mar (leading to the subterranean garage), the architect agreed to increase the size of visibility triangles on both sides to correct an apparent reduction in visibility, caused by garden and retaining walls in the plans.

Though Gillespie said her site plan had been approved by the city’s Development Services department, DPR Chair Paul Benton said view triangles must be measured 10 feet from the property line, not six feet, as in Gillespie’s original plans.

DPR member Phil Merten said that a driver must accelerate when backing out of a steep driveway to get up the slope.

“Suddenly it breaks away into a 10 foot slope. If you don’t have visibility, that could prove fatal for a mother pushing a stroller or a young child,” he said.