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Whitney project gets ‘no recommendation’

Unable to resolve a tie vote once again on the proposed mixed-use, three-story Whitney building, the La Jolla Shores Advisory Board will not be issuing a recommendation on the project.

The board deadlocked a second time at its April 20 meeting on the controversial project, which some insist is out of character with the La Jolla community. John Fisher of the city’s Development Services Department urged the group to take a position one way or the other, but the board voted 4-0 to issue a “no recommendation.”

The project will next go before a city hearing officer at a date yet to be determined. That decision can be appealed to the city Planning Commission.

The project, proposing three stories of development on a street corner on a double lot at 2202 and 2206 Avenida de la Playa, envisions ground-floor retail with underground parking and three-bedroom condos on the second and third floors. The property is in the commercial center zone of the La Jolla Shores Planned District.

Last month, the board deadlocked 3-3 on approving the project and continued its hearing to allow developers time to revamp their plans.

Project architect Tim Martin gave a brief presentation on April 20, noting that architectural plans had been redrawn to increase setbacks on the two top floors of the building an additional 5 feet to make the building appear less imposing from street level.

But that concession wasn’t enough to appease a strident, grass-roots opposition group, La Jolla Shores Tomorrow. Vaughn Woods, a spokesman for the group, said increased setbacks wouldn’t “cure” the project, which he claimed would destroy visibility on the block.

“This project will remove the view corridor and create a large dead zone for an entire block,” he said. “We want this dead zone gone.”

“This is a nice building — it’s just in the wrong place,” Julie Hamilton agreed. “This project isn’t consistent with the Shores PDO (Planned District Ordinance). It’s a large building in a small-scale area.”

Longtime Shores architect Dale Naegle, who lives next to the Whitney property and did design work for the project early on, said the La Jolla Shores PDO and its associated design guidelines were created specifically to oppose bulky projects greater than one story in the Shores.

“We spent a lot of time developing those guidelines, and they work,” he said. “Design guidelines are never old-fashioned.”

Asked by one board member whether the La Jolla Shores community’s view of the Whitney project was divided, Joe Dicks, president of La Jolla Shores Association, replied: “My constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to it without exception. We intend to petition the city to vote against it.”