La Jolla land use 101
by Mariko Lamb
Published - 05/10/13 - 01:28 PM | 3309 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For any newcomer to La Jolla, land use policies can be bewildering. The complex maze of acronyms, convoluted rules based on planned district boundaries and the never-ending stream of projects coming through the pipeline can be a difficult path to follow. While many residents and merchants believe in the importance of their community’s development — and have the ability to help shape it — many are simply befuddled by the process.

Land use guru Joe LaCava recently presented a primer of sorts at La Jolla Town Council’s April 11 meeting to help unravel the complex system for trustees and audience members. Here are some of the highlights covered in LaCava’s land use tutorial.

General Plan

“The General Plan is the document that really guides the vision of our entire city. It creates the aspirations of what we want our city to be — where we want our residential areas to be, how we protect the environment and how we deliver sewer and water and other services to our citizens.”

Community Plan

“From the general plan, which covers the entire city, the city introduced the concept many years ago of community plans. The city of San Diego has 52 community plans, and La Jolla is one of them.

“Those community plans are very specific to our communities. It is about a hundred pages of maps and texts and it describes what we want La Jolla to be. A lot of what’s in there really codifies what we already know and love about our community, but it also identifies what is particularly important about our community that we want to protect and ensure remains forever.”

Planned Districts

“The majority of La Jolla is subject to the same citywide zoning as other communities, but when we’re not happy with the General Plan, we create zoning regulations that tell you what you can and cannot do to your property in those zones. La Jolla has two planned districts with unique zoning. [The La Jolla PDO and La Jolla Shores PDO, see map].”


Applications for permits and approvals are reviewed through one of five decision processes. The zoning, conditions of the site and proposed project specs determine the process that should be followed. The higher the process number, the higher the project’s level of review by the city.

P1*: Application submitted, staff level review, staff decision to approve or deny

P2: Application submitted, staff level review, staff decision to approve or deny, appeal filed to Planning Commission, appeal hearing by Planning Commission

P3: Application submitted, staff level review, hearing officer hearing, appeal filed to Planning Commission, appeal hearing by Planning Commission

P4: Application submitted, staff level review, Planning Commission hearing, Appeal filed to City Council, appeal hearing by City Council

P5: Application submitted, staff level review, Planning Commission recommendation hearing, City Council hearing

* All processes except for P1 applications require notice to neighbors within 300 feet and community review through the LJCPA.

Joint and Standing Committees

PDO Committee: Reviews development applications within the portions of La Jolla related to the PDO.

La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC): Reviews projects within the La Jolla Shores Planned District.

Development Permit Review Committee (DPR): Reviews all discretionary permits in La Jolla outside the La Jolla Shores Planned District to ensure projects’ conformance to the La Jolla Community Plan.

La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board (T&T): Reviews all proposals affecting La Jolla’s streets, parking and special events that require traffic control or affect on-street parking.

“Land use is a very important function in La Jolla, but it is a very tricky thing,” said LaCava. “Nobody cares about our community more than us. In La Jolla, we fight harder for our community plan than probably any other community in San Diego.”

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