La Jolla planners split on Prospect care facility

La Jolla community planners’ recommendation on a proposal to allow a residential care facility for the memory impaired at 484 Prospect St. will go down in the books as no recommendation.

But that doesn’t begin to tell just how divided the La Jolla Community Planning Association trustees were on a conditional use permit for the project that would house up to 56 mostly early stage Alzheimer’s patients. The proposal calls for converting a now-dormant office building that was built in 1925 and which once housed nurses at the old Scripps Hospital.

The planning group, which advises the City Council on land-use matters, voted 6-8 on a motion to deny the project, then split 7-7 on a motion to approve the project. Chairman Joe LaCava, who only votes in ties, opted not to vote to break the stalemate, leaving no recommendation as the result.

Before the vote, Morris Nachtomi, who lives in the upscale complex at 464 Prospect St., said, “This will change our quality of life in an extreme way and make our lives completely different.”

He said the board was overly concerned with operating details while missing “the big picture.”

Trustee Dan Courtney said he was sympathetic to the increasing need in the community for care facilities for the memory impaired.

“There are a lot of worse uses this building could be put to,” he said. “They do a good job of keeping people inside and secure. Our job is to make sure the facility has the lowest possible impact on neighbors.”

“If it’s done right, I don’t have an objection to his type of facility,” said Ray Weiss, another trustee, while Jim Fitzgerald said he couldn’t support the project because it was an “intensification” of site use.

Diana Scheffler and James Alcorn of Alcorn & Associates Architects, representing Northstar Senior Living Communities, which would administer the care facility, told planners on Feb. 4 they would accept a number of conditions.

They have been negotiating with concerned residents at the adjacent upscale villa complex at 464 Prospect St. who have questioned the potential impacts of traffic, noise and visitor and staff parking, as well as terms of operation. Some have expressed doubt about the “enforceability” of any conditions that might be attached to project approval.

Scheffler said the agreed-upon conditions are not yet a formal agreement and are the byproduct of negotiations with four members of the 464 complex — not its homeowner’s association.

Phil Merten suggested a sunset clause might be added as a condition of project approval, to allow a review of permit conditions to ensure they were being met. Developers said such a condition would prevent them from getting project financing.

LaCava noted that unless the applicant opts to return, he will advise the city that the CPA tried but was unable to make a recommendation. The project will next be scheduled for hearing before the city hearing officer, although no date has yet been set. That decision can be appealed to the Planning Commission.