La Jolla Planners hear issue with color, size of projects


Cindy Greatrex takes reins as La Jolla Community Planning Association president

During its July 2 meeting, La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) trustees were informed of several projects whose community character was called into question, involving issues such as street tree height and the bulk, scale and color of commercial and residential buildings.

The LJCPA meets first Thursdays at La Jolla Rec Center (615 Prospect St.) to make recommendations to the City of San Diego and other government agencies on development and land-use issues in La Jolla.

Officer elections: During last month’s meeting, then board president Joe LaCava announced he was stepping down as president to run for the District 1 City Council seat being vacated by Sherri Lightner (who will have completed her second term at the end of next year).

To fill the president’s position, on July 2 LaCava nominated trustee Cindy Greatrex to replace him. Her nomination was seconded by trustee Janie Emerson and approved unanimously by the board. Trustees also unanimously voted to appoint Bob Steck first vice-president (replacing Greatrex, previously in the role) and LaCava as second vice-president (replacing Steck in that role).

La Jolla resident and LJCPA general member Barbara Bry (pronounced like Brie cheese, she noted) also announced at the meeting that she is running for Lightner’s seat.

Bry, who was part of the founding management team of, which was started in 1998 on Girard Avenue, in what is now the La Plaza complex, has served on the boards of Planned Parenthood and the Jewish Community Foundation. She said she shares the community’s concerns with “short-term vacation rentals, McMansions, keeping our beaches safe and clean, and ensuring that we have a vibrant Village.”

Bonair Street bulk at issue: During public comment, Bonair Street resident Linda Van Zandt questioned whether three, three-story condos built behind her home meet building specifications approved by the LJCPA during its September 2013 meeting. (Read more at

The LJCPA’s Development Permit Review (DPR) subcommittee twice voted in opposition to the project, based on its bulk and scale, drainage issues, driveway access and lot layout — although LJCPA members lauded successive revisions to the project when it came before them months later.

Although in 2013 several LJCPA trustees initially suggested the project was so different from what was presented to the DPR that it should return there for further discussion, LaCava, who was the project representative, argued the changes weren’t significant enough to delay the project at the subcommittee level any longer.

Van Zandt said she believes the project was “fraught with what appears to be many procedural irregularities, from the time it left the DPR to what was ultimately constructed.

“I am humbly requesting that this board launch an investigation into this project,” she told trustees, adding, “You guys are the firewall for stopping what is happening in our community, and it didn’t happen in this case.”

LJCPA trustee Mike Costello, who also serves on the DPR and had issues with the project when it came before that group, brought his concerns to the attention of a City of San Diego hearing officer Chris Larson in 2013. “He was not particularly sympathetic to what the community had to say,” Costello recalled, adding, “I still feel very strongly that the variance was not warranted (and that) the project is out of community character.”

Costello said he would compare approved plans on file with the city’s Development Services Department with what was presented to the DPR and LJCPA and return to a future LJCPA meeting with a report.

‘Screaming yellow’ troubles trustee: Trustee Emerson shared photos of the Galaxy Taco restaurant under construction at 2259 Avenida de la Playa (in the space formerly occupied by La Jolla Shores Market).

She said the color scheme is too bright, and does not match what the applicant presented to the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA), on which Emerson also serves.

“The palette they showed at the meeting was a very subdued palette,” Emerson said. “I would call this yellow, ‘screaming yellow.’ The entrance is royal purple, the other side of the building is neon green (and) the appurtenances above the roof are just out there in the open. …

“This violates, not only the La Jolla Shores PDO (blueprint for design), but also the La Jolla PDO,” Emerson said, adding that when Rubio’s Mexican restaurant opened on Fay Avenue, the company had to divert from its corporate color scheme to adapt to the La Jolla PDO.

President Greatrex said she would investigate the matter further and report her findings during next month’s meeting.

Street trees vs. public views: Architect Paul Benton of Alcorn & Benton Architects presented plans for a home rebuild at 8389 El Paseo Grande in La Jolla Shores.

Although the project was approved 6-0-1 by the La Jolla Shores Permit Review committee (PRC), La Jolla Shores resident Peggy Davis pulled it from the LJCPA’s consent agenda last month for further discussion.

The applicant is seeking coastal and site development permits to demolish an existing house and construct a new, 5,499-square-foot, two story home with an attached garage on a 8,613-square-foot lot.

Davis was concerned that three street trees proposed for the project might block public views of the ocean. The PRC’s previous approval was contingent upon a provision that the trees must conform to the public view requirement.

Davis said trees or other landscaping in the public right-of-way should not block public views, as the city required for a property across from the project site. However, per the city’s interpretation of San Diego Municipal Code, LaCava said bushes or shrubs along the street should be a maximum of 3 feet, or the lowest point of a street tree’s canopy must not be lower than 8 feet — effectively creating a “5-foot view tunnel.”

Benton also argued that street trees — in this instance, deciduous, flowering Hong Kong orchid trees (like those by the parking lot of Union Bank on Girard Avenue) — should serve to frame the view.

In the end, trustees voted 12-0-2 that findings could be made to recommend approval of the project, as long as the trees’ canopy is now lower than 8 feet. (Abstaining were president Greatrex and trustee Dolores Donovan.)

Climate Action Plan approved: LJCPA trustees approved Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Climate Action Plan “in principle,” by a vote of 10-2-1, following a motion of support by trustee Helen Boyden, which was seconded by Alex Outwater (voting in opposition were trustees Jim Fitzgerald and Mike Costello).

The approval followed a presentation by Tommy Hough, a representative from the group Climate Action Campaign, which first presented to the LJCPA in May. The group says it is gathering public support for the existing plan, so its goals cannot be weakened.

The plan seeks to have the city relying 100 percent on clean and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydropower by 2035; to get more cars off the road; and to establish Community Choice Aggregation, as has occurred to the benefit of rate-payers in other California cities, said Hough.

Find the plan at and read coverage of the LJCPA’s earlier consideration of the project here.

Short-term vacation rental update: President Greatrex noted the city’s plan to respond to loud noise, traffic, trash and other impacts from the rental of houses for stays shorter than 30 days has been delayed.

“This was a motion by Councilmember Todd Gloria on May 28 to request the mayor’s office develop a budget for enhanced code enforcement to address the issues raised by the public,” Greatrex noted. “Direction is to city staff to draft an ordinance on short-term vacation rentals and home-sharing itself, based on feedback from the public and council members. …

“It will go through the normal review process, which includes, but is not limited to: the Technical Advisory Committee, Code Monitoring Team, Community Planners Committee, the San Diego Planning Commission (and public vetting).”

LaCava said draft language for the ordinance was expected to be finished early this month.