Acting chair Joe LaCava introduced the item on 7755 Sierra Mar’s proposed redevelopment, noting, “The background on this goes back years.”
“This project was denied previously and the applicant went back and worked with neighbors to resolve issues and reduced the project and now they’re back because we had not seen the revised plans,” LaCava said.
Land-use attorney Robin Madaffer and architect John Oleinik, representing Sierra Mar developers, presented a redesign for a project addition on the home site that LJCPA had previously denied in December 2008 because they believed its bulk and scale was inappropriate for the neighborhood and detrimental to its character.
“The project’s been significantly revised, reduced almost 6,000 square feet and the entire second story removed except for one small portion over a garage,” said Madaffer. “We think we’ve made significant modifications and the historical folks at the city have approved the revise.”
A tenant living in the residence noted it’s not designed for a modern lifestyle, as it lacks both a breakfast room and a den.
Heather Riley, an attorney representing a nearby Sierra Mar neighbor, Barbara Levi, saw it differently.
“The new project does not alleviate nearby property owners’ concerns. It’s still too large,” Riley said, noting the original project would have tripled the home’s size and that the revise still doubles it.
“This so-called revision still has significant adverse impacts on the home’s historical resources,” she said.
Architectural historian Diane Kane was called forth to assess the impact of proposed redevelopment on the Sierra Mar site.
On the question of historical authenticity, Kane said a litmus test involves answering two questions: “When [the remodel] is done, would you recognize it as historical, and would the home with the addition be historically designated,” Kane said.
Kane said another standard for judging historicity is that an addition to a designated home “must in size, scale, proportion and mass be compatible with the original structure.”
“By and large, this home’s addition is not overly bulky and is sympathetic in its use of materials,” Kane said, though she questioned whether the new addition differentiates enough from the original structure to “diminish its historicity.”
From the audience, resident Mike Costello said he didn’t like the idea that historically designated homes are given huge tax breaks. LJCPA member Dan Courtney questioned whether a trend was emerging in La Jolla for homes to be historically designated and then resold, passing along tax benefits to new buyers.
LaCava said tax breaks given as an incentive to have homes historically designated was “not at issue here.”
After LJCPA voted to reconsider the project, group member Jim Fitzgerald moved to approve the project as revised noting the developers have “done a lot with the bulk and scale making every effort to integrate the historical building [into the remodel].”
The group vote was 11-3-1.
The advisory group also unanimously approved a proposed amendment that would require the city to automatically notify City Council members, advisory groups and other interested parties if a development project is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner updated the group on a new proposed ordinance going through committee that would reduce use of plastic bags citywide. Lightner also discussed public hearings on proposed water rate increases for the city scheduled for Nov. 21. The council has discussed raising the cost of providing water to the city’s 1.3 million customers by 7.25 percent next year and 7.5 percent in 2015.