Affordable housing proposed for former 76 Unocal site
Published - 11/26/19 - 12:00 PM | 3582 views | 1 1 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The vacant 76 Unocal gas station on Pearl Street in La Jolla. / Photo by Dave Schwab
The vacant 76 Unocal gas station on Pearl Street in La Jolla. / Photo by Dave Schwab
High-end condos are turning into something more affordable and more transit-oriented at the vacant 76 Unocal gas station on Pearl Street in La Jolla.

But the project’s new developer is encountering stiff neighborhood opposition.

Real estate developer David Bourne assumed control of the project at 801 Pearl St. from Mark Conger earlier this year. The project has since morphed from 12 condos, four retail spaces, and an underground parking garage into 26 smaller apartments averaging 600 square feet.

The new dwelling units would be fully furnished and start at $1,800 per month. The project includes two affordable units onsite going for under $1,000.

The previous Conger project was approved by the City Planning Commission in August. Bourne is arguing his new project is better all around than his predecessor’s.

“The proposed project will generate far fewer daily trips than the former gas station, and about the same as the previously approved 12-condo project (that included 50% more commercial space),” said Bourne on social media. “Parking will be available for 23 cars and accessed only from Eads. Compared to the previous gas station, no cars will be able to directly join fast-moving traffic on Pearl Street representing a significant improvement in traffic flow and safety.”

Added Bourne: “The target market tenant will live and work in the village, with 30% of tenants expected to use ride-sharing services and not own a car. Unfortunately, the person (Conger) who was going to develop the two-thirds bedroom condo project with 50% more retail space and $2 million underground parking couldn’t make it pencil, hence the new project.”

Contends Bourne, “This section of Pearl has too much traffic noise for $1.5 million condos to sell successfully, which is why so much of the nearby real estate is obsolete and unattractive. The proposed project is clearly the highest and best use for this shuttered gas station site. It will be a pride of ownership project for the developer and the community.”

Bourne said an expensive underground parking garage as previously envisioned “is completely unnecessary for this project.”

Previous Pearl mixed-use project owner Mark Conger said he was “set to go” after the City Planning Commission green-lighted his 12-condo project with retail in front and housing in the rear. But he said other aspects of his project presented an insurmountable obstacle.

“It was difficult to pencil out because of the alarming amount of parking that all had to be underground,” Conger said. “That would have cost $2 million by itself. So, right from the start, it put you in a big hole.”

Not a developer but the owner of three other gas stations, Conger added, “I never intended to build it. I marketed it to the developers, and David (Bourne) was the one who was interested, though he had different ideas on what he wanted to do with it than me.”

But Bourne’s new condo project is proving to be a hard sell, as more than a dozen neighbors turned out earlier this month to express their displeasure — and concerns — about it.

Neighbors complained about the project’s density, its perceived lack of parking and its potential adverse traffic impact to La Jolla’s downtown Village.

Adam Barno, owner of Dick’s Liquor across the street from the Unocal site, is adopting a wait-and-see attitude toward Bourne’s new mixed-use project there.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Barno admitted. “We’re always worried about parking here in La Jolla. At the same time, with increased units bringing more people, it could succeed and be good for business. We want whatever is best for our community, whether it be for the residents or the businesses.”  

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