La Jollans voice opposition to remodeling projects at planning association meeting

By Pat Sherman

The Aug. 1 meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) drew a room full of people opposed to two separate projects being considered by the city advisory group.

‘Vacation rental’ home remodel not approved

The first item involved the proposed remodel of the Henely residence at 615 Wrelton Drive, just northeast of Tourmaline Surf Park. The owners are seeking a coastal development permit for an interior and exterior remodel of the home. It would involve demolishing and rebuilding an existing 1,733-square-foot, one-story house and adding an additional 4,064 square feet, plus various site improvements such as walls, a second jacuzzi and new driveway. The project would be a five-bedroom, five-bath residence of more than 6,000 square feet.

In July, the Development Permit Review (DPR) committee was divided on whether to approve the project — as some DPR members felt the existing residence is being illegally used like a hotel and would continue to be used as such after construction. The DPR committee ultimately voted to table the project until code enforcement and the city attorney could clarify issues related to the property’s use.

Residents near to the home voiced such strong opposition to the property’s use as a “vacation rental” during the LJCPA meeting that board president Tony Crisafi more than once threatened to end the meeting if attendees couldn’t control their passions.

One resident close to the property, who attended with her husband, repeatedly cried out that the property is and would continue to be used for “one night stands!” Others noted existing noise and parking problems from the property, which they said would be exacerbated by increasing its size and occupancy.

Project architect Claude-Anthony Marengo voiced frustration that the conversation before the DPR and the LJCPA was centered around the property’s use as a vacation rental — an issue not under the purview of the groups — instead of its architecture and design. “The city cannot deny the project based on (its use) as vacation rental,” Marengo said.

Because the project is located on a steep slope, several trustees, including Nancy Manno, questioned whether Marengo was comfortable with the geological aspects of the project, and whether there were potential erosion issues. Marengo said the project would include removing 15 feet of soil and re-compacting it to make it more stable.

Neighbor Dr. Nathaniel Rose of Pacific Beach Urgent Care called the project a “planned debacle.” He said he hired a soil engineer who told him the grade of the proposed home was not consistent with that of neighboring properties on either side.

Wrelton Drive resident Alex Jvirblis showed a slide of the existing property as it is advertised on an online vacation rental website. He said the existing home is already being rented out like a hotel, and that the owners will use the new, larger home for the same purpose.

Former CPA trustee Mike Costello, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, said he and his neighbors have constantly watched houses being torn down and rebuilt as two-story homes. However, he said he felt the proposed project ultimately thwarted the La Jolla Community Plan, and would constitute a “de facto change in zoning” from residential to commercial-visitor, adding that there is not enough space on the lot for what is proposed.

“We are not strangers to construction. We have nothing against it, we’ve all done it,” Costello said. “What’s going on here is quite different. It is a commercial enterprise in a residential neighborhood.”

LJCPA Vice-Chair Joe LaCava asked why there was no additional parking factored in for a project being considered in a beach overlay zone, though Marengo assured the project meets the city’s requirement for parking.

Trustee Manno said that while she is “enormously sympathetic” to residents’ concerns about vacation rentals in their neighborhood, such concerns are not within the purview of the LJCPA, which is tasked with evaluating projects based on architecture, geology and city code.

In the end, the LJCPA voted 7-5-3 that findings are not sufficient to grant approval of the required development permit. The motion was made by trustee David Little, and seconded by Bob Collins.

WindanSea home

rebuild denied

About 20 people spoke in opposition to the proposed remodel of the Biddulph residence at 7106 Vista del Mar in WindanSea, just steps from the beach.

The owners are seeking coastal and site development permits to demolish a 3,321-square-foot, two-story residence, process a lot line adjustment, and construct a 2,875-square foot, two-story residence above a 2,129-square-foot basement (which would not be counted as part of the home’s floor-area ratio, or FAR).

Despite some attendees and trustees noting the unattractive design of the existing, rounded house, most said they felt the new home, though an improvement in design, was too large and bulky for its lot size, and out of character with the neighborhood.

Project attorney Matt Peterson noted several two-story homes in the neighborhood, which he said is comprised of “a variety of character and designs.”

“This is not going to be a blockbuster,” Peterson said. “There’s already a pattern of two- and three-story homes around the area.”

The strongest objections were with the first story being labeled a “basement,” when it will be used as living space, with some attendees calling the FAR exemption a “loophole” in the municipal code.

Several people also noted that, from an adjacent path leading down to Little Point Beach, the proposed home would rise above the allowable 30-foot height limit, creating a visual impact.

Following a motion by trustee Patrick Ahern, the LJCPA voted unanimously not to approve the project, which they said complies with the municipal code, but deviates from the La Jolla Community Plan in terms of its bulk and scale.

“The basement is like Comic-Con, not the real world,” said trustee David Little, noting that the “architect was given an impossible task to stack three stories up and convince us. He did a good job, but not good enough for the real world where we have to operate.”