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Neptune site could face wrecking ball

A plea by La Jolla community planners and neighbors to spare Neptune Apartments at WindanSea Beach from the wrecking ball fell on deaf ears last week.

“This is a tough one, but I’m inclined to OK this project,” said city Hearing Officer Kenneth Teasley, siding with developers in granting coastal and site development permits.

His action paves the way for razing an existing, two-story, 19-unit apartment building at 6767 Neptune Place. Plans are to replace the complex with a three-story, 24-unit project with underground parking that could later be turned into high-end condominiums.

Teasley told the audience of more than a dozen people that he could not find that the issues, environmental and other, “couldn’t be mitigated in some form or another.” He added he believed that the underlying development criteria for the project could also be met.

Teasley’s decision overrode objections by La Jolla residents who complained that the bulk and scale of the project would be excessive. They also argued that the project had significant environmental problems and would be out of character with surrounding beach cottage-style development.

Opponents of redeveloping Neptune Apartments have until April 21 to appeal Teasley’s decision to the city Planning Commission.

La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), the community’s advisory group making land-use recommendations to the city, previously voted 8-3-2 against the plan.

La Jollan Claude Anthony Marengo, the project architect, said redevelopment plans were “misunderstood,” noting that they call for reducing the building’s footprint and terracing it back to “open up new views that goes beyond what is required.”

Dale Christiansen, co-owner of Neptune Apartments, said the apartment complex built in 1953 had “outlived its physical usefulness” and needs to be “revitalized.”

Devin Burstein, a recently elected La Jolla CPA member who currently resides in the complex, warned that redevelopment plans calling for digging 33 feet to create underground parking there would put the building right in the water table and “run a huge risk of polluting WindanSea.”

Landlord Neville Rich, who owns a two-story apartment complex across the street from the Neptune complex, noted that it is right in the middle of a natural drainage path from Mount Soledad to the ocean. He said the planned redevelopment is “too big, too high.” He added that he also felt the project would take too long.

“Projects here take one year per unit to finish,” he said. “This guy wants to build 24 condos. We’re going to be dead by the time they’re finished.”