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La Jolla Shores group moves ahead on planning guideline update

Seeking to preserve and enhance La Jolla Shores’ character, a grass-roots group revising the community’s blueprint for development recently formed two subcommittees to study past development regulations and envision what the community should look like in 50 years.

Forming a documents and a visions committee was the next step in a continuing dialogue on how the community’s Planned District Ordinance (PDO), a document first drafted in 1973, can be updated.

Recent projects proposed in the Shores, ranging from a plan to build a commercial building with a residence above on Avenida de la Playa to large homes that some say are out of character with the neighborhood, have spurred the move for changes.

Tim Lucas, a La Jolla Shores Association board member who volunteered to lead a communitywide effort to update PDO guidelines, said it was time for the group to take the next steps in the process — organizing and broadening its appeal.

He said: “You have to have some sort of structure to tackle the issues one at a time. We have to get the whole community involved.”

To be effective, added Lucas, the Shores PDO group needs to reach out beyond its 17 or 18 core members to get a buy-in from the community at-large on the PDO update.

Lucas added that 1st District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner’s office is helping out in PDO revision.

“They’re researching, in a very detailed manner, the progression of how we evolved from having some basic protections and guidelines as far as floor area ratios and setbacks were concerned to 2000 when the municipal code came in and everything changed,” he said.

Floor area ratios govern the proportion of a building to the lot size.

Since the group’s last meeting to receive public input on how best to change the Shores PDO, a laundry list of 80-plus concerns has been compiled into a spreadsheet by retired city planner Diane Kane.

Newly elected La Jolla Shores Association member Barry Graceman likened that list to a business plan.

“You’re starting out with your mission, you’ve got your goals,” he said. “It’s a living instrument that can be changed.”

Kane urged the group to rework the language in the existing Shores PDO to make it user-friendly.

“It has all this lovely fuzzy language about community character, but it’s not definite,” she said. “It’s a free-for-all for what community character is. It’s whatever the last guy just built. They’re (houses) getting bigger and bigger — that suddenly becomes community character.”

Architect Phil Merten suggested that it might be necessary at some point to create an architectural review board to scrutinize development projects for compliance with the regulations.

Architect Michael Morton suggested that the group might be best served by defining the unique character of each of the Shores neighborhoods: the commercial strip, the beach, the hillsides, etc.