Planning Association opposes Bird Rock Station


La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) voted 7-4-1 June 5 to deny approval of Bird Rock Station, a proposed mixed-use, retail/condo project on the corner of Bird Rock Avenue and La Jolla Boulevard.

The project was denied primarily because of the project’s third-story element, which many believe violates Bird Rock’s Planned District Ordinance (PDO), the community’s blueprint for commercial development.

The trustee vote came after 1 1/2 hours of discussion and debate. A room vote was also taken: Twenty-four of 30 audience members opposed the project.

The community advisory group’s recommendation will now be relayed to the city Planning Commission, which is scheduled to hear the Bird Rock Station project Thursday, June 12 at 9 a.m. in City Council Chambers.

Project owner/developer Michael Krambs, who lives near the project site, defended his proposal.

“We’re part of this community,” said Krambs, “we only want to enhance it.”

Krambs noted Bird Rock’s commercial corridor along La Jolla Boulevard has a substantial number of buildings that are deteriorating and in need or repair or replacement. “There is a shortage of quality, commercial space in Bird Rock that is consumer-friendly and will attract solid, well-capitalized businesses, and there is a shortage of parking,” he said.

Krambs said adding a Planning Association opposes Bird Rock Stationthird-story to the project will make it feasible to build, as well as provide additional parking for the community and serve as a model for future development.

Project architect Mark Lyon gave a presentation with maps detailing the project. He walked the audience though a series of calculations designed to demonstrate the project was not asking for anything special besides two notable exceptions: a third story and access via the street rather than the alley.

“We’re not asking for more density than is allowed, or for more than the 30-foot height limit or to exceed the allowable floor area ratio” Lyon said. “We’re providing 20 parking spaces in addition to what we’re required, and we’re meeting all the setback requirements.”

Lyon said the underground parking access deviation was needed because the alley behind the proposed site is substandard.

Lyon also pointed to advantages in constructing three stories, rather than two: “You get articulation ... with the third floor smaller than the second floor which is smaller than the first floor. A two-story building is bigger and has more mass than a three-story building.”

Local residents speaking in favor of the project noted 30 feet is 30 feet, regardless of whether it’s a two- or three-story structure. They added the stair-step architectural look allowed by three stories also is less boxy-looking.

Project opponents said the project violates the spirit and intent of the Bird Rock PDO, which they noted provides for a smooth transition of building types. This deviation for this building, they argued, would be an overly abrupt transition between commercial and residential zones.

They expressed concern about opening the floodgates to allow similar types of development.

“If your project is built, the PDO is dead,” said resident David Little.

“I’m not afraid of the big breadbox,” said trustee Tony Crisafi, an architect, referring to the possibility of making Bird Rock Station two stories rather than three.

Trustee Glen Rasmussen noted applicants were getting closer to making the project acceptable to him but added some refinements needed to be made with parking, use of solar panels on the roof and other project design.