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Residents troubled by restaurant plans at adjacent gallery in La Jolla

Architects to consult client, present project again at a later date

Project architects to consult client, present project again at a later date

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Tasende Gallery at 820 Prospect St. (designed in 1978 by La Jolla architect Bob Mosher) is less than 10 feet from the historically designated Park Prospect condos (designed by master architect Russell Forester in 1963). Gallery owner Jose Tasende wants to add a restaurant with outdoor seating to his building. Due to the close proximity of the buildings (right) Park Prospect residents are concerned noise, traffic and cooking smells will diminish their quality of life.

Residents of a historically designated condominium building on Prospect Street are concerned that a 100-seat restaurant proposed for Tasende Gallery next door could disrupt their quality of life by generating loud noise, increased traffic, odors and other issues.

Residents of Park Prospect condominiums — designed in 1963 by master architect and La Jolla High School graduate Russell Forester (1920-2002) — attended the March 17 meeting of the Development Permit Review committee (DPR) to voice their concerns, following a second presentation by project designer James Alcorn of La Jolla-based Alcorn & Benton Architects.

The plans call for 70 indoor seats and 30 outdoor seats, and a 650-square-foot addition to accommodate gallery owner Jose Tasende, who will continue to reside in a portion of the building. Alcorn said the restaurant would most likely serve alcohol and probably include indoor “ambient music,” though not live music.

Jim Alcorn of Alcorn & Benton Architects (right) presents plans for a two-story restaurant that Jose Tasende wants to add to his gallery at 820 Prospect St.
Jim Alcorn of Alcorn & Benton Architects (right) presents plans for a two-story restaurant that Jose Tasende wants to add to his gallery at 820 Prospect St.
Pat Sherman

He assured that the restaurant’s ventilation system would include a “scrubber,” or an air pollution control device that removes particulates and/or gasses from exhaust streams.

The proposed “high-end” restaurant would require valet parking and an agreement to secure at least four additional, off-site parking spaces within a 600-foot radius, Alcorn said. (There are 10 tandem spaces at the rear of the property, though the city’s parking requirement for a mixed-use project is 13 to 14 spaces, he said.)

Bena Fisher, who resides at Park Prospect, read a letter in opposition to the project signed by 22 of 30 condo owners in her building, citing concerns with potential cooking smells, traffic and noise from conversations on the restaurant’s outdoor patio. “I firmly believe that permitting a restaurant use at Tasende Gallery will have a very negative impact on the value of my home,” she said.

Architect Jennifer Luce, who rents a unit at Park Prospect, said that while she “adores” Alcorn and admires his work, she feels the “almost entirely residential” area at the end of the Prospect Street commercial strip where the gallery is located is the wrong place to open a restaurant.

Architect Jennifer Luce, who rents a unit in the Prospect Place building, said that while she admires James Alcorn’s work, she feels Tasende Gallery next door is the wrong place to open a restaurant.
Architect Jennifer Luce, who rents a unit in the Prospect Place building, said that while she admires James Alcorn’s work, she feels Tasende Gallery next door is the wrong place to open a restaurant.

Because Park Prospect owners receive a Mills Act tax break (afforded to the owners of historic properties for maintaining original design features) they are not allowed to replace single-pane windows with newer types that more effectively block sound. Air conditioning, not an original feature, is also not allowed, so residents cool their units in summer by opening windows to the coastal breeze, Luce said.

“You can hear everything that happens outside and many of the units of the building will end up literally feet from the restaurant,” she said, noting that the rear alley dead ends, meaning valet staff will have to back out of a tight space to retrieve vehicles. “I’ve designed many restaurants; I think they’re important to the community. I am just not sure this is the right place for that use,” Luce added, noting that Amici’s restaurant across Prospect Street is now restricted from having outdoor dining due to similar concerns.

Although Alcorn said some of the restaurant’s patrons would likely be “all the good people living right next door” and wouldn’t require parking, Park Prospect resident James Oehler countered that any potential restaurant tenants should know they are coming into a “hostile situation,” and that adjacent residents “have a vested interest in seeing this thing fail.

Russell Forester
Russell Forester
File photo

“I respectfully ask that you consider having some other use that we can all agree on and continue to have a neighborly relationship,” he said.

Although also praising Alcorn’s body of work, DPR member Angeles Liera said a 100-seat restaurant was “quite an intensification of use over what is there now.”

The amount of parking planned for the restaurant (13 spaces) is woefully inadequate, she said. “I think if the restaurant were smaller and if you would take out the outdoor dining, it may be something manageable,” she said, noting that the project “penetrates into a strong residential area.

“The property is not big enough to put in all the safeguards that it needs,” she said.

In lieu of removing the outdoor seating, Alcorn said a canvas tent could be placed over the patio.

In the end, DPR member Jim Ragsdale made a motion to table the project discussion until Alcorn has had time to discuss feedback from the DPR committee and residents with Jose Tasende and present studies on the ventilation system, acoustics, parking and other issues. Alcorn agreed to present the project again at a later date.

Other DPR presentations

DPR members recommended approval of a coastal development permit for a Bird Rock home rebuild that they found boxy and out of character with the neighborhood when presented in February.

The project involves demolishing an existing, one-story home at 5664 Abalone Place and Bird Rock Avenue and constructing a modern 3,101-square-foot, two-story home with a rooftop deck.

Project architect Scot Frontis said he took a closer look at some older homes in the neighborhood to see how the project might better fit in with the area. His revisions include moving a stone element to the lower portion of the structure, lowering the maximum height from 26 feet to just over 24 feet, reducing glazing (particularly at the entry) and using siding that blends better with the neighborhood.

Although DPR member Mike Costello questioned how the home would appear when viewed by residents living uphill, and Liera was concerned with the appearance of rooftop solar panels and the flatness of the roof in relation to nearby homes with pitched roofs, DPR member Diane Kane called the design “a real improvement on what we saw last time.”

DPR members also voted that findings could be made to approve permits to construct a 962-square-foot, second-story addition to a home and duplex at 447-453 Westbourne St. (near La Jolla High School), and for a 1,069-square-foot addition to an existing home at 7404 Monte Vista Ave. in the Beach Barber Tract area.

—The Development Permit Review committee meets 4 p.m. the second and third Tuesdays of the month at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. Meetings are open to the public. More at lajollacpa.org