Panel OKs Whitney project; Development next goes to LJ planning board


Last week after an architect’s presentation and often testy debate over the proposed mixed-use, retail-residential Whitney development in the heart of La Jolla Shores commercial district, the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee voted 3-1 in favor of the controversial three-story project.

The project proposes demolition of a one-story residence/retail store and construction of 2,300 square feet of street-level retail with underground parking and two residential condos above.

The Whitney development next goes to the La Jolla Community Planning Association for review.

Longtime Shores architect Dale Naegle, who resides in the building adjacent to the proposed development along with wife Myrna who operates a clothing boutique there, was excused from voting as a review committee member because of his vested interest in the project. He was present for board discussion but left before the vote.

Architect Tim Martin representing the Whitneys, who own the corner lot at Avenida de la Playa and El Paseo Grande where a kayak business presently operates, showed aerial views of the site while defending the proposed project. He maintained it complies with the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance (PDO), the community’s blueprint for development. He also addressed concerns raised by project opponents that the project is out of character with the surrounding community.

“I would like to reiterate that this is in a commercial center which allows zero setbacks and 6,000 square feet of commercial on the ground floor and we have 2,300 square feet of retail,” Martin said, noting there are examples of three-, and even four-story developments nearby. “I’m just trying to show what else there is in the community, and that the PDO does not prohibit them (3 stories) but limits them to this four-block corridor in the community center.”

Noting his architectural firm is the fourth that’s been engaged in designing the Whitney’s proposed building, Martin said his design “is much more friendly at the pedestrian level and its design fits very well with the community.”

Martin added his client has been willing to share his “vision” with the community and has gathered 270 signatures from area residents supporting it.

Naegle said he didn’t share Martin’s vision, contending it’s out of proper perspective, showing the site from above and not from ground level.

“The whole problem here is the word pedestrian,” Naegle said. “You can get in a helicopter and take pictures but it doesn’t look right. You’ve reduced the bulk and scale by being up above. But what we (Shores) enjoy is the pedestrian feel of the sidewalks with the trees. This three-story building would not be compatible to our surrounding residential neighborhood.”

Opponents of the Whitney’s proposed mixed-use building are currently circulating a petition in the community asking that Whitney be required to place story poles on his property so residents can judge its bulk and scale.

Review committee member Michael Morton proposed approving the Whitney project at the Sept. 22 meeting without attaching any conditions. “I would like to make the motion to approve the project in that all the findings can be made that this building is in compliance with the La Jolla Shores PDO.”

Committee member Tim Lucas cast the dissenting vote. “I disagree that findings can be made,” he said. “This is another unfortunate case where the La Jolla Shores PDO has proved to be hopelessly inadequate in trying to preserve and protect the character of the La Jolla Shores business district.”