La Jolla Shores board takes a stand on building-to-lot ratios


By Dave Schwab

A chorus calling for the city to tighten zoning regulations in La Jolla Shores, which some say allow larger dwellings here than are allowed elsewhere in San Diego, grew louder last week when La Jolla Shores Association board members chimed in.

Longtime La Jolla Shores resident Rob Whittemore led the July 13 discussion with a presentation on floor area ratios, or FARs, — the mathematical relationship between the total floor area of structures on a lot to the size of the parcel.

“The purpose of FARs is to protect the community from individuals overdeveloping,” he said, noting escalating property values over time have given local property owners added incentive to create so-called “McMansions” to maximize their investments.

He detailed the history of local community planners’ attempts to revise zoning regulations, focusing on the rules embodied in the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance PDO, which serves as a blueprint for development. It was enacted in 1974.

“That was an experiment that worked for 17 or 18 years,” said Whittemore, adding the ratios in the Shores were intended to restrict single-story developments to 60 percent of lot coverage — a 0.6 ratio.

Whittemore said the ratio is compounded with each additional floor. Consequently, a three-story structure on the same lot has a 1.8 ratio. Such a home is allowed now in the Shores because citywide FARs are presently not applied.

“That’s three times as large as lots are allowed to be developed elsewhere in San Diego,” Whittemore said.

Barry Graceman, head of the Long Range Vision Committee — a grass-roots group aiming to revise the Shores PDO — said they are seeking ways to preserve the community’s village character in the long term.

“Many people feel developments in La Jolla Shores are getting too large,” he said, noting the committee has determined limiting FARs in the neighborhood is one way of accomplishing the goal of “enhancing La Jolla Shores.”

Whittemore contends a rule requiring the citywide FAR of 0.6 to be implemented in the Shores has been on the books since 2000 but has not been enforced by the city as it should be.

After the discussion, the Shores board voted 9-3-1 to recommend that the city apply the rule in all land-use zones, including the La Jolla Shores Planned District.

Whittemore will repeat his presentation ahead of a possible vote on reforming FARs in the Shores at the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s next meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 4 at the La Jolla Rec Center.

The Shores association board will not meet in August and will next meet on Sept. 14.