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Permit reviewers OK condo/retail plans for 76 gas station

During its final review in front of La Jolla’s Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) Sept. 8, the Conger Project — a redevelopment of the 76 service station at 801 Pearl St. at Eads Avenue into a mixed-used project consisting of four retail units and 12 residential units — won near unanimous approval. DPR chair and Alcorn & Benton architect, Paul Benton, recused himself from the vote, and acting chair Mike Costello abstained.

The Conger Project is proposed for 801 Pearl St. at the corner of Eads Avenue, where there is currently a 76 service station.
The Conger Project is proposed for 801 Pearl St. at the corner of Eads Avenue, where there is currently a 76 service station.

The board determined findings could be made for a Coastal Development Permit and tentative map to remove an existing service station and construct a new mixed-use project with a subterranean garage for a total development of 23,340 square feet. With the approval comes the request the city complete the environmental study and initiate a traffic study to consider establishing designated left-turn lanes on Eads Avenue and Pearl Street.

The committee’s recommendation proceeds to La Jolla’s Community planning Association for ratification and then to the city’s Development Services Department. The Conger project was the only item on the Sept. 8 agenda.

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The project was introduced more than a year-and-a-half ago under a different architect, and met with concerns that the plans were too bulky for the corner of Pearl Street and Eads Avenue. Since then, Alcorn & Benton architects assumed the project’s design and the size has been reduced, along with other concessions to calm neighbors’ nerves.

“From the first time you saw this to now, there have been a number of improvements, basically made by changing architects and listening to the neighbors,” Jim Alcorn said.

Earlier reductions included increasing a setback to 15 feet between the property and its adjacent neighbor (up from 8 feet), decreasing the height of the residential property from three stories to two, and reducing its commercial space by 22 percent.

To ease visual impacts, Alcorn said additional efforts were made, including foliage and color selection. “There will be lots of plantings going here (in front of) the homes along the street and the commercial part of the facility,” he said, noting that jacaranda trees will be recommended for Pearl Street and trees to-be-determined along Eads Avenue.

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The townhouse-style homes would have bedrooms upstairs, shielded by trees that, along with a six-foot concrete wall and setback, divide the property from its neighbors, to address privacy.

The exterior of the facility will be painted an off-white color to conform with La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance (PDO), the blueprint for design. Alcorn compared the color to the exterior of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library and the La Plaza La Jolla shopping center.

Project architect Jim Alcorn shows renderings of the condominium/retail complex.
Project architect Jim Alcorn shows renderings of the condominium/retail complex.

Other concerns, such as trash and traffic impacts, were raised at the meeting.

DPR member Angeles Liera noted that with 12 residential units, a total of 24 trash bins (one for garbage and one for recycling, at each unit) would have to be placed on the street every week for pickup. As a remedy, benton said the designs could integrate a dumpster for the entire residential complex. A dumpster would also be provided for the retail space.

to reduce traffic impacts on pearl Street, the entry and exit to the subterranean garage would be off Eads Avenue. There would also be a level plane for exiting vehicles to transition between the ramp and the sidewalk, for the safety of pedestrians.

A traffic study was conducted in June 2015, which found there would be 288 fewer trips with the Conger project than the current service station. Because of the reduction, additional traffic studies are not warranted, Alcorn said.

Still concerned, residents in attendance theorized that with the increase in residents and retail employees, there would be more traffic on and onto Eads Avenue. They ultimately requested the city explore the possibility of installing designated left-turn lanes on both sides of Eads Avenue and both sides of Pearl Street.

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“Between Dick’s Liquor delivery trucks that will be there, students that use that street to walk to school, employees that will be parking on Eads, I really think we have a safety issue,” opined resident Debbie Pennell.

Others in the audience agreed a designated left-turn lane would ease potential traffic generated by the facility, so DPR members included it in their affirmative supporting motion.