La Jolla Shores Permit Reviewers recap

La Jolla Shores permit reviewer group rejects cell tower at Allen Field and revised Whale Watch Way plans

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC) — which scrutinizes projects within the La Jolla Shores Planned District and forwards recommendations to the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) for ratification and submittal to the city — once again rejected plans for a modern home at 8490 Whale Watch Way.

A motion that findings could not be made to recommend approval of site and coastal development permits for the project passed the PRC by a vote of 5-2-1 (with PRC members Laura DuCharme Conboy and Bob Steck in opposition).

The PRC majority found that the project — despite the latest revisions — is not compatible with its neighborhood in form, bulk and scale, and that the size, form and relationship of the project will disrupt the architectural unity of the neighborhood, based on drawings and information presented by Public Digital Architects during the Nov. 19 PRC meeting at La Jolla Rec Center.

The project will receive another full hearing before the LJCPA 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4.

Earlier this year, the LJCPA ratified (approved) the PRC’s January 2014 recommendation that the city deny permits for the project. After a city hearing officer approved the project in June, the LJCPA appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the San Diego Planning Commission. In October, the planning commission moved the item to a future hearing so the applicant would have time to make changes and resubmit plans to the PRC and LJCPA.

A concern raised by Planning Commission Chair Tim Golba was the amount of volume behind the perimeter walls of the structure that is not counted as gross-floor area but meets the technical description of a courtyard.

Architect Jim Brown of Public Digital Architects said the Planning Commission also asked him to significantly reduce the height of walls around the project. In response, the wall on the west (street) side of the project has been lowered by more than 
6 feet, he said.

“We really gave it our best effort. I think the design is still good, high quality,” Brown said, noting that he is considering building the home’s garden walls with a perforated material that allows some openness while retaining his client’s privacy. The rest of the walls will be textured, he said.

One neighbor said the house appears “more like a spaceship than it did before,” adding that after the 6-foot reduction in the wall, it would still be between 15-19 feet, and too tall for her taste.

However, PRC member Janie Emerson said she felt the revisions presented were only the tip of the iceberg needed to make the project an acceptable fit with the neighborhood. Emerson requested renderings that show how the project would fit in with homes on the east and west side of it.

“I need to have the whole picture to vote on a project as controversial as this project has become,” she said.

PRC member Dolores “Dede” Donovan said she wished the whale tail-evoking project — designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, first female recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize — were a little smaller.

“I really like what you’ve been doing,” Donovan said. “I think this is a tremendous step forward, but I need to see it in a more pictorial way (with finished landscaping plans).”

Cell tower plan rejected:

The PRC also rejected plans for Verizon Wireless to add a cell tower at 3908 Torrey Pines Road, within Allen Field.

The plans call for a new wireless communication facility consisting of two antennas concealed inside two 30-foot-tall, faux light poles, and installation of associated equipment.

Project representative Kerrigan Diehl said the facility is needed due to an urgent request for Verizon to expand coverage in the area and fill a gap in coverage along Torrey Pines Road.

Mike Wintringer, president of La Jolla Youth Inc. (the umbrella organization overseeing La Jolla soccer, baseball and lacrosse and a current tenant of Allen Field), said the group rents Allen Field through the city’s Real Estate Assets Department. If the Verizon plan is approved, La Jolla Youth, Inc. would receive half the payments flowing to the city, or about $19,000 he said.

“To us, it would be a boon,” he said. “The alternative would be to charge the kids more to play soccer.”

After much discussion about the location of the light poles and the potential impact of cell towers on youth at the park, a motion by PRC member Myrna Naegle (second by Donovan) passed by a vote of 5-0-1 that findings cannot be made for the requested permits because the project conflicts with the La Jolla Shores PDO (which takes precedence over San Diego Land Development Code).