La Jolla Community Planning Association OKs public café for Alzheimer’s facility

Community planners pleased with compromise that preserves retail connectivity on Fay Avenue

During a Jan. 5 special meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), trustees voted 8-2-1 in favor of modifications to the Monarch Cottages Alzheimer’s care facility proposed for 7630 Fay Ave.

The community was at first torn on the project, with the LJCPA and its Planned District Ordinance subcommittee opposing it due to an initial absence of a ground-floor retail component required by the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance — the community’s blueprint for development. (The LJCPA’s Development Permit Review subcommittee recommended approval).

Per state and federal law, the city granted the applicant an exemption from the retail requirement early on, due to its beneficial use as housing for disabled persons — leaving some La Jolla community planners feeling left out of the decision-making loop.

Although the applicant had already obtained a building permit from the city, following the LJCPA’s December motion to deny the project was modified to replace a private outdoor dining area for Monarch residents with a café that is open to the public.

“This is somewhat of an inconvenience to their operation,” said LJCPA president Joe LaCava, “but they’re willing to do it in response to the issues we raised. … If we’re not interested, then they’ll take it off and go back to a private patio dining (area).”

Project representative Matt Peterson, who recommended his client add the café, said the outdoor dining space would comprise about 40 percent of the building’s frontage.

“It’s a pretty nice, sizeable chunk in terms of trying to activate it for pedestrians,” Peterson said, noting city staff has approved the café, which would likely serve coffee, tea, snacks and light lunch, though not sit-down dinner service.

The café would not encroach into the required eight-foot width of sidewalk, Peterson said. Monarch residents would access the café via the memory care facility’s secured front entrance, while the public would enter via the sidewalk.

Some issues broached by trustees yet to be ironed out include whether customers will be able to access restrooms at the facility, specifics about the landscape plan, whether the kitchen would now be large enough to feed both residents and café patrons, and whether there would be enough parking.

Peterson said the project’s conditional-use permit defines the number of units (24), beds and required parking. “We’re well above the city standard for parking,” he said.

Although it’s expected that a cinema complex under construction across the street and La Jolla Music Society’s proposed concert hall next door will generate enough customers to sustain the operation, Peterson said if there are fewer than expected patrons, his client would likely lease the space out to a coffee cart operator. “I still think there’s going to be a demand … (if only) the theater happens,” he said.

Although trustee Mike Costello said he felt the “substantial changes” presented warranted the project’s return to LJCPA subcommittees for further review, fellow trustee Phil Merten disagreed. “I commend you and your client for offering up this space for some public activity,” Merten told Peterson, noting that a coffee cart would probably be a more realistic fit for the space.

LJCPA trustee Janie Emerson made a motion to approve the revised project, which was seconded by trustee Fran Zimmerman (and opposed by Costello and trustee Cindy Greatrex).

“Please thank your client for being responsive,” Emerson said, lauding the compromise. “This is the way we like to work on things.”