OPINION: La Jolla resident says 30-foot building limit under attack

By David Little

Resident, La Jolla

The 30-foot building limit is under attack. This limit was initiated as a grass-roots initiative that was approved overwhelmingly in a citywide vote in November of 1972.

This voter-approved ordinance was appealed and ended in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal, saying that a community can zone itself as it sees fit, thus approving the 30-foot height limit. After Proposition D was approved by the voters, the City Council added a complementary ordinance to accommodate sloping lots but still keep the 30-foot limit. There is no question that the complementary ordinance is an adjunct to Prop. D and the two ordinances cannot be separated. Had Prop. D not been approved by the voters, there would not be a second ordinance and therefore no 30-foot height restriction. The purpose of Prop. D was to prevent our beaches from being walled off by high-rise buildings and buildings higher than three stories.

The La Jolla community groups are currently being asked to approve a “variance” to the 30-foot height limitation ordinances. Granting such a “variance” to a voter-approved ordinance places the community groups in an untenable position - that is, they would be granting exceptions to an ordinance passed by the people. The community planning groups are ill-advised to start acting as a deity and deciding who can exceed the ordinance and who can’t.

Furthermore, they have no approved threshold for the amount of additional height. Is 2 additional feet OK but 3 feet too much? If 2 or 3 feet is OK, then how about an 8-foot “variance”? That would be another story.

It is my opinion that the planning groups invite a lawsuit if they begin to issue variances to a voter-approved ordinance that has been tested in court. I have been on the CPA board of trustees for nearly six years, and I cannot remember ever being asked to grant a variance to Prop. D or its companion ordinance. I am also not aware that any other Coastal Community group - Pacific Beach or Mission Beach, etc. - has been asked to approve a height “variance.”

Please come out to the La Jolla Community Planning Association meetings and help maintain the coastal zone building-height limit approved by the voters. The meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at the La Jolla Recreation Center at 6 p.m.