New restaurants without parking spaces troubles planning association

By Dave Schwab

A theme is surfacing in La Jolla development projects seeking community planning approval — the intensification of building use without additional required parking.

“It’s an ongoing issue, especially with the wave of new restaurants coming in,” said Joe LaCava, a La Jolla Community Planning Association member entrusted with making land-use recommendations to the City of San Diego.

“It is a struggle because La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance (development blueprint) doesn’t talk about parking directly, but refers to the city’s municipal code, which is difficult to decipher in terms of what the parking requirements are.”

Upon close inspection of the code, LaCava said there’s a loophole in the city’s parking regulations governing restaurants. “If a restaurant is in a building classified as ‘mixed use,’ the parking requirements are actually quite less,” La Cava said.

That’s correct, said city senior planner Chris Larson. “In La Jolla, for a stand-alone restaurant, the PDO requires 5 parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of development,” he said. “But if it’s in a mixed-use building with retail, 1.7 spaces are required per 1,000 square feet.”

Restaurants permitted recently in La Jolla have been in mixed-use buildings, said Larson noting they are merging with existing retail, commercial service or office space, allowing them to be “grandfathered in” under regulations different than those applying to stand-alone restaurants.

The discrepancy is a problem La Jolla community planners want to address.

“Some members of the board would say that parking ratios we had originally intended in our PDO are currently being misapplied; that the city is choosing to interpret them differently than we’d hoped they’d be interpreted,” said Ione Stiegler, chair of La Jolla’s PDO Committee, which evaluates application of building development standards to colors, materials and signage. “It’s a disagreement between us and the city.”

Stiegler said the advisory group is presently drafting a letter asking for a dialogue with the city, arguing restaurants going into existing mixed-use buildings ought to compensate by providing additional parking.

Larson said it’s possible to change the rules applying to mixed-use restaurant parking La Jolla, but it will be a process.

“The San Diego Municipal Code would need to be changed,” he said. “Advisory board members need to make a request to their council person. Then we have staff in Development Services whose role is to make changes to the San Diego Municipal Code.”