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Split vote on LJ Shores project means city won’t get a recommendation

La Jolla Shores Advisory Board members deadlocked on a 3-3 vote Wednesday on what to tell the city about the controversial Whitney project.

As a result, the group will report no recommendation to the city on the project that calls for tearing down a one-story residence at business on Avenida de La Playa and replacing it with a three-story structure.

On Tuesday, the board deadlocked 3-3 on two different votes on the proposed development that calls for two floors of condos above 2,214 square feet of ground-level retail space and underground parking.

The advisory board rules on whether the projects coming before it conform with guidelines addressing bulk and scale, community character and other building issues. The standards are outlined in the La Jolla Community Plan and the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance.

Project applicants Bob and Kim Whitney were represented by architect Tim Martin, who argued the project met each every Shores PDO condition, adding zoning rules in the Shores commercial core allow 100 percent of a site to be developed. He noted their project would cover 94 percent of its site.

La Jolla architect Phil Merten gave a presentation showing examples of architecture in the Shores commercial zone. He said the Whitney development, as proposed, is out of character with the existing commercial core which he characterized as “quite small, quite residential and very pedestrian-scale.”

After deadlocking twice, the advisory board asked the Whitneys if they would be willing to alter their project to increase setbacks on parts of the second and third stories to make its architectural spaces more “breathable” and its appearance more “pedestrian-friendly.” The board requested they make the changes and return before them in April.

Immediately following the advisory vote, Kim Whitney said they probably would not return before the advisory board adding the project had already been two years in development and it was time “to move on,” taking it next to a city of San Diego hearing officer.

The day after the advisory vote, attorney Lynne Heidel of the law firm Prairie Schwartz Heidel representing the Whitneys said her clients had changed their position. “We will come back to the advisory board at their April meeting,” she said, adding they would consider making the changes the board requested to their building’s east and west facades. “However, we will be continuing with the city process,” she added.

The City of San Diego’s Hearing Officer presides at public hearings and acts on permits, maps, variances and other matters relating to the Land Development Code. The Hearing Officer meets the first four Wednesdays of the month at the City Administration Building. A date for the Whitney matter has not been set.