Planning association approves scaled-down Bird Rock project

By Pat Sherman

During its Aug. 2 meeting, La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) trustees voted 13-2-1 to approve a two- story, mixed-use development at 5702 La Jolla Blvd. It in- cludes 10 residential rental units and 7,726 square feet of commercial space.

In July, the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee approved the project, though the Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) rejected it, stating that findings for a coastal development permit and neighborhood devel- opment permit could not be made because La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance does not allow tandem parking for commercial uses (six of the project’s 26 parking spaces are tandem). DPR also rejected the project because there is only 21 feet on the alley for cars to back up or turn around.

Addressing CPA members, project architect Claude-Anthony Marengo said tandem parking is actually allowed via a neighborhood development permit, provided it is limited to assigned employee parking.

Several Bird Rock residents said they appreciated the concessions developer Michael Krambs has made in recent years, including use of flush balconies, a pleasing façade and removal of an initially proposed third story.

Two years ago, the development wound up in San Diego Superior Court, after the San Diego City Council approved the then three-story development in a two-story zone.

The earlier incarnation also provided street access to the parking garage, rather than from the alley behind the property.

In response to concerns about potential bottleneck situations in the dead-end alley, Marengo noted that the project would add 2.6 inches to the width of the alley. “It will be a much bigger alley once this development goes in,” he said.

Jane Reldan asked where customers would park if the six commercial spaces are all designated for employees.

“If you get the employees off the street, that frees up the public parking,” Marengo replied. “People aren’t leaving their cars for six and eight hours at a (time).”

Recessed balconies with planters will also add a measure of privacy for adjacent neighbors, Marengo said.

Darcy Ashley, who lives adjacent to the project, said she appreciates that the balconies no longer protrude, and other developer concessions, such as the appearance of an articulated roof. “This is a situation where we’ve had a lot of angst in the community,” she said, but after nearly two decades of looking at a dirt lot, “the neighbors I’ve talked to really seem to embrace having something built.”

In other CPA news

Ad hoc concerns:

CPA trustees discussed whether an ad hoc committee formed to address potential conflicts of interest when a trustee represents a project up for review by the CPA should include more non-professional representation from the community.

Its current ad hoc committee, chaired by trustee Phil Merten and vice-chaired by trustee Mike Costello, includes three architects and one attorney.

Architects and building professionals typically sit on community advisory groups and recuse themselves from votes involving their clients, though instances have occurred where trustees are representing projects in direct opposition to the CPA’s position on those projects.

In one example, Encore, a redevelopment project in La Jolla Farms, was represented by immediate past CPA president Joe LaCava, while current CPA president Tony Crisafi presented on behalf of neighbors opposed to the project.

Both Crisafi, an architect, and LaCava, a development consultant, volunteered to step down from the ad hoc com- mittee if it would allay concerns.

“Excluding myself, there would (still) be three members who have previously represented applicants or opponents” of projects before the CPA, Crisafi said, adding that the func- tion of the committee is more “operational” than “ethical” in nature.

Merten noted that the public may attend ad hoc committee meetings and take part in the discussions.

“Your comments will be recorded and passed forward to this body,” he said. “The idea is to be as inclusive in points of view as we possibly can.”

Costello said the committee requires “a certain level of expertise to really drive this thing forward.”

“Anyone else can be there and their voice will be heard just as loud, and anything you write we will read,” he said.

However, Darcy Ashley said she feels that it is often “really difficult for professionals to hold one another accountable.” “It’s one of the few committees that really doesn’t require technical knowledge,” she said. “It’s something that’s right or wrong, and that’s something that the community at large can really weigh in on.”

In the end, the current configuration of the ad hoc committee was approved, 9-2-3.

Residential parking elimination:

After considerable discussion, the CPA also approved a variance for the elimination of an on-site parking space, as well as a neighborhood development permit for a 5-foot-tall wall in the public right of way, at 475 Gravilla Street.

Noting that the project was unanimously approved by the DPR during its June meeting, Matt Peterson, an attorney representing the property owners, said he was surprised that the CPA pulled the item from its July consent agenda for further discussion.

Peterson characterized the proper ty as a “little, tiny cottage” of 600 square feet on a 2,000-square-foot lot. He said the driveway was so steep and short that it would scrape the underside of a car to pull it up into the garage. Parking a car in the short driveway causes it to protrude out into the sidewalk, he said, rendering both the garage and sidewalk unusable.

Though a few trustees suggested the property owners could build a submerged garage, Peterson said it would prove too costly for his clients. The retired property owners, having never used the garage, have set it up as a hobby shop, Peterson said. Elimination of a curb cut used to access the driveway, will also create an additional street parking space, he said.

Trustees Phil Merten and Laura DuCharme Conboy argued that ignoring the municipal code to remove the on-site parking requirement sets a bad precedent, even though other residents in the neighborhood have similarly converted their garages and removed outdated driveways without a city permit.

“Across the city, even a 300 square-foot studio requires one parking space,” Merten said. “Rather than create a contemporary parking space, money was spent to put in expensive retaining walls.”

Peterson said the property owners plan to file a voluntary deed restriction on their property, which prohibits them or a future owner from increasing the home’s square footage without adding an on-site parking space.

No Nautilus speed increase:

CPA trustees voted not to approve a speed limit increase on Nautilus Street, from 25- to 35-miles per hour. n New

CPA Trustee:

Bob Collins, who formerly served on the planning association and a number of other La Jolla advisory groups, was voted in as the new LJCPA trustee.