La Jolla Shores committee approves cell tower fix, requests more info on home plans

By Pat Sherman

During the July 22 meeting of the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (LJSPRC) — which reviews projects within the La Jolla Shores Planned District — the committee approved changes to a wireless communications facility and asked two residential project applicants to return with additional information.

Verizon Wireless is seeking permits to replace existing cellular antennas mounted on an equipment enclosure with a new, 30-foot tall faux pine tree and antennas at 7650 Gilman Court (adjacent a “park and ride” lot just west of Interstate 5 off Gilman Drive). The company also wants to add an emergency generator to the enclosure to manage power outages, such as one in 2011 that affected large areas of the southwest.

Representing Verizon, Kerrigan Diehl said the existing cell facility, constructed in the 1990s, no longer conforms to development standards. AT&T has a similar faux pine tree tower further up the hill where Verizon is seeking to upgrade its facility, Diehl said.

The Verizon facility is located near SDG&E’s power substation in Rose Canyon, in an area less suitable for residential development, she said, adding that the antennas would be “re-imagined” into something that looks more natural, she said.

LJSPRC interim chair Phil Merten noted that Rose Canyon contains sycamores and eucalyptus, although “not a pine tree in sight,” adding that AT&T is proposing to build a faux eucalyptus tree in Cliffridge Park.

“If you guys felt a eucalyptus was more in line, we’d be happy to make that change,”  Diehl said, though noting that faux pine trees hide antennas better and last longer than faux eucalyptus towers.

Merten said he appreciated that Verizon will also add two natural pines behind the tower to help it blend in.

The committee approved the plans, on the condition that chain-link fencing on the equipment enclosure be coated with a natural, green plastic and include similar colored slats to make it blend with hillside foliage.

8352 La Jolla Shores Drive

: The LJSPRC also considered the McClelland family’s plans to demolish an existing home and build a new one of 4,060 square feet on a 5,500-square-foot lot. (The McClellands also own the house directly north, at 8360 La Jolla Shores Drive).

The committee expressed concern that the floor-area ratio (FAR) of the home was .89 (much greater than that allowed outside La Jolla Shores).

A FAR, defined as the ratio of the size of the structure on a parcel to the size of the lot, is used to manage density in residential and commercial development.

LJSPRC members asked that project applicant Richard Gomes return with a full account of FARs for homes within at least a 300-foot radius of the project site, not just those “cherry-picked,” including one with a .96 floor-area ratio (many of the homes in the community were built in the 1950s, and have much smaller FARs, it was noted).  “FARs are a sensitive issue in the Shores,” Merten said.

LJSPRC member Janie Emerson said she wants to assure that the McClelland’s neighbors are aware of their plans (none attended the meeting). She also asked for a board with samples of the home’s proposed paint colors and materials, and a photo or illustration of four or five adjacent homes on the street juxtaposed with the proposed rebuild to show how it would mesh with the neighborhood’s existing character.

Although Merten said the home’s front and side setbacks are “generous” and the articulation acceptable, he suggested discussion be continued at next month’s meeting to give the applicant time to return with the requested items.

2382 Via Capri Court

: Robin Felice presented revised plans to add a 702-square-foot, first floor addition and 580-square-foot garage addition to her 4,204-square-foot home in the Shores.

The project was approved by the LJSPRC in September 2012, and nearly received its building permit from the city, Felice said. However, the city’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) determined the house to be historic, putting a kink in her plans, she added.

With the assistance of architectural historian Scott Moomjian, Felice and husband Robert Lambert spent more than a year successfully proving to the HRB that the 1963 home is not historic (with supporting testimony from the home’s original architect, Bill Lewis, and Bruce Coons of the Save Our Heritage Organisation). However, by that time the city had assigned a new project manager to review the updated plans, who requested that the project return to the discretionary review process.

“We had to change the floor plan,” Felice explained. “We added 500 square feet because we had to (use) the original architect on this project in order to get it past the HRB.”

Considering the current plans, LJSPRC members expressed concern with a loss of setback area on one side of the home, and requested the footprint of adjacent homes be drawn into site plans so committee members can see how they relate to the proposed additions. They also requested more detail on the perimeter walls and deck.

“We know what (your first project) looked like from the outside — the colors, the design. All I have are pen-and-ink drawings here that tell me absolutely nothing, except that it’s changed,” Emerson said. “I can’t vote on that.”

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