Addressing a standing-room-only crowd at its Jan. 14 meeting, La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) reviewed and approved language regarding religious institutions to be inserted into the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance, its blueprint for development, as part of the ninth update to San Diego’s Land Development Code. The language was needed to clarify regulations on large assemblies.
Presenting as “a friend of La Jolla Shores,” Joe LaCava, chair of La Jolla Community Planning Association — which reviews land development issues and makes recommendations to the city — explained the city’s proposed language for the Shores, a community that is largely single- and multi-family residential zones.
The recommendations include striking “churches, temples or buildings of a permanent nature, used primarily for religious purposes” from the list of permitted uses in the residential zones.
For the visitor zone (limited in the Shores to the area around Torrey Pines Road near Hotel La Jolla), and the commercial zone (primarily confined to the business district along Avenida de la Playa), the city suggested language defining the permitting process.
It reads that within the visitor and commercial zones, “no building or improvement or portion thereof, shall be erected, constructed, converted, established, altered or enlarged, nor shall any premises be used except for one or more of the following purposes ... assembly and entertainment uses, including churches and places of religious assembly as a conditional use subject to a Process Three Conditional Use Permit (requiring a higher level of scrutiny) in accordance with Land Development Code.” The assembly regulations were one of several items on a list.
At the December LJSA meeting, when this item was initially brought forth, it was unknown what defines a “large assembly.” At the January meeting, LaCava said the city considers any gathering of 300 or more to be subject to these regulations.
Of the visitor and commercial zones, La Cava said, “If the (planned) attendance is over 300, they would need a Conditional Use Permit, which includes regulations on capacity, hours of operations and parking, and discretionary permits.” As such, any proposed project in the Shores would have to present to LJSA as part of the permit process.
“The key thing that binds them is large numbers of people coming together in one building for some kind of activity,” he said, adding that the new language regulates religious gatherings and large assemblies with the same rules.
LaCava explained that the city updates the land development code annually to reflect changes in policy or to correct errors. “In the seventh update, the City of San Diego recognized La Jolla Shores is the only place in the entire city where you could build a religious facility in single-family zones,” he said, and the update incorporated language prohibiting religious assembly in the residential zones. However, the regulatory language was missing in the eighth update — likely due to litigation accusing the city of regulating religious activities, which violates separation of church and state.
Supporting the language, LaCava added that this verbiage is “better than what was used in the seventh update.”
The board voted to support incorporating the new language into the La Jolla Shores PDO, 11-1-1.
The proposed language will now go before the Planning Commission for a vote next month, and proceed to the San Diego City Council a few months after that, and finally to the California Coastal Commission, LaCava said. It would likely be enforceable in 2017. Projects already in the works would not be affected by the new guidelines, for example, the Hillel Center for Jewish Life, proposed to serve students at UCSD at a center off La Jolla Village Drive off Torrey Pines Road.
LJSA chair Tim Lucas added that even if a future project meets regulations to build a religious gathering place in the Shores, petitioners would have to accommodate existing parking requirements of 30 spaces for every 1,000 square feet, a challenge given available space and cost of land.
In other LJSA news:
■ Business closes for construction
In light of the heavy construction along Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores to replace sewer and water lines, Café Solange (formerly Voulez Vous Bistro) will be closed Monday-Thursday until March or April. Hopeful that the work will be completed by then, several La Jolla Shores merchants are planning a beautification project afterward. “We want to make the area nicer than it was before,” said Terry Kraszewski, owner of Ocean Girl surf attire shop.
■ Streetlights need attention
Several residents commented that streetlights in the Shores — some along Paseo del Ocaso, La Jolla Shores Drive and Calle Frescota — have been burned out for some time, requiring city attention. One resident reported that a few nights prior to the LJSA meeting, a vehicle under a non-working streetlight was broken into.
“The problem is that they get fixed and then burn out again quickly, so there seems to be an undergrounding issue,” said LJSA secretary Dolores Donovan.
Justin Garver, representing the office of City Council President Sherri Lightner, said the likely cause is damage to the underground conduit, in which case, the lights come back on and burn out again a few nights later. Should that be confirmed, San Diego Gas & Electric would need to be involved in the repair, and that adds time to the process. Garver also said having an address is helpful to city staff, when residents report non-working lights.
■ Next meeting
La Jolla Shores next meets, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11 at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Building T-29, 8840 Biological Grade. firstname.lastname@example.org