“The office market has disappeared in La Jolla,” said Phil Wise of Colliers International. “There is an acute need for more office space in La Jolla.”
The issue of office versus retail space in the Village came to a head in June when the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) deadlocked, and therefore made no recommendation, on landlord Peter Wagener’s proposal to change zoning on the ground floor of his now-largely vacant building at 1111 Prospect St. to allow more office and less retail.
The building on the corner of Prospect Street and Herschel Avenue previously housed boutique Hotel Parisi and Victoria’s Secret.
Wagener came to LJCPA asking to deviate from development regulations in the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance (PDO) governing commercial development to increase, from 25 to 50 percent, the maximum amount of office space allowed on the ground floor.
“If you say no it’s (building’s) going to stay empty,” warned Wagener, noting he’s spent two years unsuccessfully trying to lease the building’s ground-floor space for retail. He said he has a prospective tenant, if more ground-floor space can be rezoned for office rather than retail.
Wise pointed out that La Jolla’s PDO guidelines are “dated,” given that they date back to the '80s.
“This is 2015, not 1975 or the ’80s when the PDO was last updated,” Wise said. “It was a different world back then without the Internet. A lot of retailers that used to exist back then don’t exist anymore. You have to change your (business) model.”
Wise said the Village of La Jolla has numerous problems in attracting customers other than that it has limited access and limited parking.
“There are all these restrictions in La Jolla, like, you can’t eat on the sidewalk in some places,” Wise said adding, “You have to lighten up on the archaic rules. They just don’t work anymore.”
Wise noted office use on ground floors isn’t a new concept.
“There have been a whole bunch of offices that used to occupy entire ground floors of buildings in the past,” he said.
The commercial Realtor said the problem with Wagener’s building on Prospect Street is that it’s “too big and too deep. It just doesn’t work in today’s market.”
A better plan, suggested Wise, might be to encourage “businesses of all types” to come to La Jolla.
“You have to modernize,” he said. “The best way to grow in La Jolla is to allow the office space in La Jolla to increase. And the only place to put that is on the ground floor.”
Wise noted office tenants “go to restaurants and buy in the retail stores. You don’t have a large enough consumer base in the Village,” Wise argued, noting “it’s a numbers game.”
Back in June, several LJCPA trustees objected to Wagener’s deviation proposal, arguing that trading off retail for office both violates the spirit of La Jolla land-use planning, as well as setting an irreversible precedent likely to be followed by others.