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Planning group rejects Shores project; Trustees, public voice concerns

By Christopher Michaels

Contributor

Responding to significant concerns from its trustees and from the public about the scale and aesthetic value of the project, the La Jolla Community Planning Association last week nixed the controversial Whitney redevelopment.

The 14-1 vote on Oct. 1 to deny architect Tim Martin’s permit request to proceed ran contrary to previous advisory actions on the project.

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee late last month voted 3-1 in favor of the three-story project in the La Jolla Shores business district. The project proposes demolition of a one-story residence/retail store and construction of 2,300 square feet of street-level retail space with underground parking and two residential condos above.

Martin, representing the Whitneys who own the corner lot at Avenida de la Playa and Paseo Grande where a kayak business presently operates, did not comment on the vote or whether the Whitneys might wish to redesign the project.

Voting against the motion Thursday was Trustee Tom Brady. Brady said his “no” vote was in opposition to the way the motion was worded. He said he hopes to see Martin come back with a revised plan.

For community members who came to comment on the proposal, arguments on both sides were similar to those raised in earlier forums.

Proponents cited the economic opportunities the project would create for the Shores commercial zone, adding needed parking spaces and serving to modernize and unify the street.

Martin, in outlining his project, noted that the multistory structure is “not a new trend” in the zone and that the Planned District Ordinance, which sets the rules for development in the Shores, allows for this type of development.

Opponents, however, questioned whether the project was in compliance with the document. Using terms like “bulk and scale” and “bulk creep,” they argued the project is oversized for its location, out-of-scale with the rest of the neighborhood and disruptive to the character and architectural unity of the street.

Longtime Shores architect Dale Naegle, who lives next to the property, said aerial photos presented by the architect distort the building’s size and that it consumes too much of its lot.

His sentiment - shared by several others who spoke including trustees - was that the project goes against the intent and purpose of the PDO.

The La Jolla Recreation Center meeting room was packed with people, with both sides claiming to have wide support and citing

petitions signed by several hundred people.

In the end, however, the association decided it had too many concerns, including groundwater and stormwater runoff issues, to give the proposal its blessing.

A key tenet of opposition was that the building not be set back far enough for its height, creating a canyon-like effect and an uninviting facade to pedestrians.

“I’m really scared that this is going to set a bad precedent for the business district,” said Trustee Tim Lucas, who cast the lone dissenting vote at last month’s review committee meeting.

The CPA’s recommendation will next go to the city’s development services department for further review and public hearing. A hearing officer will then render a decision, said LJCPA President Joe LaCava.

That decision can be appealed to the city planning commission.