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Neighbors band together against condos

Reaction to another proposed La Jolla development was familiar: Local residents objecting to it because it was too dense and bulky.

What was new about opposition from residents in Del Charro Woods to the 50-unit Palazzo condominium project at 2402 Torrey Pines Road, was that it was the first time they’d banded together to represent themselves collectively.

“The project woke us up,” noted Del Charro resident Nick Sauer, an attorney, who first heard of developers’ plans when he saw a fence in early March around the slightly more than one-acre site near the Throat intersection in La Jolla Shores.

Telling his neighbors in Del Charro Woods, a 53-unit condominium complex, and up the road in The Sand Piper, a 24-unit condominium complex, about the particulars of the new project “got everybody enthused,” said Sauer. “As we gathered information it was just terrible — traffic, bulk and scale — it bothered us.”

That led Sauer to join neighbors Marvin and Sandra Cohen, Denise McGuire and Gary Reisel to put together a formal presentation to oppose the project. When the ad hoc citizen group’s chance came to speak out against The Palazzo at last week’s La Jolla Community Planning Association meeting, the “Del Charro Woods Five” seized the moment.

Sauer talked about what they see as the project’s flaws — too many units, inappropriate site, insufficient setbacks.

Sandra Cohen, a Realtor, did a survey of similar condo projects in the area, which she said showed the Palazzo proposal was more dense than similar developments. Marvin Cohen, an architect, talked about traffic congestion and inadequate traffic light synchronization in the area.

McGuire attempted to punch holes in the developers’ argument that the project had more (34 percent) than the amount of project landscaping required.

Reisel noted, half jokingly, that a wall running the length of the project “would be higher than the 12-foot-high (former) Berlin Wall or the 20-foot-high Great Wall of China.”

Representatives for the developer, Intergulf Development Group, defended their project that was first introduced in 2005 and approved for 29 units stalled due to the slow real estate economy. They said they needed the additional, smaller units to make the project pencil out, adding it would be marketed to young and upscale professionals who couldn’t afford to live in more pricey sections of the Village. They estimated units would likely sell in the $700,000 to $800,000 range.

After formal presentations and public testimony, LJCPA trustees questioned developers about its details, then debated for several minutes before voting to deny the project for most of the reasons the neighbors complained about as well as a few others. The vote was 12-3-1 against the project.

CPA appeals: 1 dropped, 1 lost

A day after the La Jolla Community Planning Association appeal of a proposed condo complex on Nautilus Place failed to sway the city Planning Commission, the trustees backed down on their appeal of plans for a sidewalk cafe for Aroma/Barfly at 909 Prospect St.

Trustees had objected to the outdoor seating area because it had only 6 feet of clearance instead of the 8 feet required in La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance, which guides development in the community. But when a letter from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s office said exceptions were allowable, they changed their mind and voted 10-5 to drop their appeal.

President Joe LaCava said they had based their position on protecting “the integrity of the PDO. But with the conversation we’ve heard about this issue over the last few months, nobody said (less than 8 feet of clearance) was dangerous or hampered pedestrians’ passage.”

CPA trustees had also appealed plans to raze an existing, two-story, 19-unit apartment building at 6767 Neptune Place and replace it with a three-story, 24-unit project with underground parking. But on June 2, the city’s planning commission unanimously approved the project.

In April, a city hearing officer had sided with developers on their plans. The CPA trustees, who previously voted against the project, appealed the decision on grounds that the redeveloped project’s bulk and scale would be out of character with its surrounding neighborhood.