The project plans to bring a high-end specialty grocery store to the vacant corner of Bird Rock Avenue and La Jolla Boulevard, with 11 residential units above the store and two levels of parking below.
Despite the popularity of turning a former gas station into a specialty market, the project won't be a breeze to push through permitting channels. The developer will need a special permit to build the three-story building since the boulevard's zoning regulations only permit two-story buildings, as outlined under the Planned District Ordinance (PDO).
Mechanisms for deviating from the code exist, however, if the structure can prove that it provides a benefit to the community. The developer is seeking to prove just that and receive the necessary Planned Development Permit to build his complex.
The benefits are obvious, according to developer Michael Krambs. The community would have a nearby supermarket. Eleven residential units would boost the boulevard real estate market. The surface and garage parking would provide 24 more parking spaces than municipal code mandates. Twenty-five feet of the oil plume-infested soil would be removed from the 10,000-square-foot lot. More importantly, building a three-story structure over a two-story one provides definite advantages, according to Krambs.
Three stories allow for "more architectural articulation," Krambs said. Instead of dividing the 20,000-square-foot lot into two blocks, three stories would give the building a smaller footprint with more view potential and landscaping.
Three stories also wouldn't increase the number of residential units the developer could build, according to project architect Mark Lyon. Density is based on the size of the lot, not on the number of stories, Lyon said. Twenty-nine dwelling units are permitted per acre in Bird Rock regardless of the number of stories.
"This is the crux of the matter," Krambs said. "This is the area where there is so much misunderstanding in the community. Intuitively people think that if you have more stories, you have more units, and that simply is not true. It's not allowed by code."
The developer also said that residential views would not be blocked by the station. Bird Rock Station plans to dedicate the first floor completely to commercial use and to develop eleven 1,000-square-foot residential units on the second and third stories.
Krambs has yet to decide whether to market the units as apartments or condos. The station is designed in a Spanish Colonial style. Spanish Colonial architecture is prevalent in the area, which modifies the original Spanish structure to accommodate the local climate of ocean views and salty breezes.
"It's a traditional style that people are comfortable with," Lyon said. "It's a style that has small masses; it's very human scale "¦ it's soft."
The project is estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $12 million. It will go before the local community planning groups within the next months before proceeding to the planning commission and likely on to city council.
"We want to be both expedient with the process but we don't want to rush it," Lyon said.
The project may encounter opposition as it navigates the community groups. The community is still reeling from months of campaigning against a proposal from Lyon and local architect Michael Morton to change zoning codes to allow three stories throughout La Jolla.
Lyon, who founded Architect Mark D. Lyon Inc. in 1987, has designed hundreds of projects in southwest California. His firm has offices in Bird Rock and Borrego, Calif. Krambs built eight homes in Windansea and has worked in commercial development in Sacramento for the past 30 years. He is in the process of relocating to San Diego.