Planning Association denies amendment on stalled La Jolla Shores home project


By Pat Sherman

Two residential projects on a slope near Pottery Canyon that have remained unfinished for several years experienced another setback last week.

In perhaps one of the lengthiest motions the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) has ever issued, LJCPA trustees resoundingly denied amendments to a site development permit for a residential development at 7940 Costebelle Way.

The property owner, represented at the meeting by Claude Anthony Marengo of Marengo Morton Architects, purchased the partially constructed and abandoned home from the bank. The new owner is seeking to add a third story above the garage, to include an art studio, bedroom, living room and kitchen complex. The applicant is also seeking modifications to the lower level and mezzanine.

Marengo said that while he agrees that the site has been a mess for the past five years, he noted that Marengo Morton was not the project’s original architectural firm. “We picked up this lot because our client wished to purchase it and we hope that someone purchases the second one soon, too, so that we can clean up that hill and get out of there,” he said.

During its January meeting, the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee approved the project due to the “difficult nature” of the sloped site, finding that it complies with “the spirit and intent of the underlying regulations.”

However, LJCPA trustees and several residents who spoke at last week’s meeting said the third floor above the garage would block coastal views and not conform to the character of the neighborhood.

At the conclusion of Marengo’s presentation, LJCPA trustees found that the proposed addition deviated from the applicable land use plan and land development code.

The LJCPA specifically found that required measures were not in place on the building façade to reduce the project’s bulk and scale from the adjacent Pottery Canyon Park open space.

The LJCPA also found that the height of the third-floor guest quarters above the garage exceeded the maximum allowable structure height of 21 feet, and would disrupt the architectural unity of the area.

The height limit for a flat-roofed structure in La Jolla Shores is 21 feet, and 30 feet for a sloped roof. The addition being sought includes a sloped roof, though the trustees had some issue as to whether the sloped roof complied with regulations, or was merely a workaround to gain additional height.

Caminito Bello resident Irwin Belcher, one of several residents opposing the project, said the project would block his ocean view.

“That is a massive structure, sir,” Belcher said. “It’s simply ginormous. ... All the surrounding houses are being devalued by the loss of this view.”

James Kelley, who resides above the project on La Jolla Scenic Drive North, recommended that new studies on the site be conducted. Kelley maintained that the area where the project is being constructed is prone to landslides.

“The fact that this structure was permitted on this slope is fascinating,” Kelley said. “Good luck to whoever buys that house.” Marengo argued that the questionably threatened views are not “dedicated public views,” and that property owners have the right to build to the maximum allowable height within their building envelope, as long as they meet the criteria for bulk and scale.

LJCPA President Tony Crisafi reminded those in attendance that private views are not projected in La Jolla. Citing the La Jolla Shores Design Manual, one meeting attendee argued this might not hold true for the Shores, citing a passage that he believes calls for protecting private views.

There was also discussion about whether the proposed third story qualified as a guest quarters, as Marengo considers it, which does not require an additional street parking space, as would a companion unit.