Bird Rock Station finally gets a green light
by Dave Schwab
Published - 08/08/12 - 03:32 PM | 4414 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Michael Krambs’ resurrected proposal to develop a mixed-use building in Bird Rock has met with far less drama the second time around since he’s dropped plans for constructing three stories, which previously provoked an adverse community reaction.

La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) on Aug. 2 voted overwhelmingly in favor of Krambs’ revised proposal to construct 10 for-rent residential units and 7,726 square feet of commercial in two stories on a nearly half-acre lot at 5702 La Jolla Blvd.

“We’ve basically put together a project that doesn’t require any deviation from the (La Jolla) PDO (Planned District Ordinance),” said Krambs following the CPA meeting.

The La Jolla Planned District covers commercial and multi-family development in the Village and along La Jolla Boulevard. The PDO is a community-approved blueprint specifying architectural and planning guidelines for development.

Both Krambs and project architect Claude-Anthony Marengo refused further comment on his new project. Marengo deferred comment to Krambs. In response to a press query on his new proposal, Krambs emailed, “I’ve decided not to avail myself of the opportunity to be interviewed for this project. All the questions will continue to be answered in public forums. I would rather address all these issues that way rather than through the press.”

The now-vacant lot in the heart of Bird Rock’s commercial strip at the corner of Bird Rock Avenue and La Jolla Boulevard was a gas station years ago. Failed attempts have been made since to convert it into a gas station/car wash and convenience store. Both ideas were scuttled by construction of the Bird Rock Avenue roundabout, which would have interfered with truck deliveries.

Bird Rock Station, Krambs initial proposal submitted more than four years ago to redevelop the site, called for a 20,507-square-foot, three-story building for a ground-floor gourmet grocery store/deli with underground parking and 11 condos on two stories above.

Krambs and then-architect Mark Lyon maintained two stories were needed for residential to make the project economically viable. They argued at the time that three stories would allow for greater design articulation, likening it to a “layer cake” precluding a box-like appearance.

The community response to the proposed three stories was largely negative, with local planners and neighbors insisting it violated the community’s PDO. A grassroots “no three stories” campaign ensued, replete with yard signs and lawsuits against the project.

Community opposition culminated in a 2010 ruling by Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Prager that Bird Rock Station could have significant environmental impacts, and that a full environmental impact report was therefore required.

Fast-forward two years to Krambs’ revised, two-story proposal, which thus far has met with mostly positive reviews — even from staunch opponents of Bird Rock Station.

“This is a far superior project to what was offered before,” said LJCPA member Mike Costello, an outspoken critic of the previous Bird Rock Station, who’d argued the intent of the PDO adopted 20 years ago was to create a transitional “buffer” between commercial and residential uses. Costello argued at the time that it was unfair for the proposed three-story Bird Rock Station “to come along and change the rules.”

“Before it was a rallying point for, ‘Let’s protect our community,’ ” said Costello. “This doesn’t violate any laws or codes. It’s a far friendlier project now, has nice appeal from the street.”

Costello, however, cast a dissenting vote on the project at the Aug. 2 LJCPA meeting. Though he mostly approved of the project’s redesign, he opposes the proposal to include tandem parking.

“Tandem parking saves space, but I have a problem with it because two cars share space, one pulls in and the other pulls behind it and the person in first has to be out first, requiring more than normal effort,” he said.

Costello’s solution would be to abandon tandem and sacrifice commercial building space in favor of creating standard on-site parking.

Another previous opponent of Bird Rock Station, Darcy Ashley, former La Jolla Town Council president who lives directly behind the proposed development, said she can support it now that it’s been redesigned.

“It’s getting good reviews, positive feedback — it has my stamp of approval,” she said. “It has a lot of articulation with higher ceilings and uses many different materials, making it highly desirable retail space.

“They are building to the letter of the law, in compliance with the PDO and the municipal code and they’re not looking for exceptions. There’s no variances or deviations,” Ashley continued. “This is as uncontroversial as they come.”

Ashley said going from three stories down to two in project redesign has made a world of difference in how the project is being publicly received.

“It was a huge sense of relief that we weren’t going to have to battle over three stories again,” she said.

Noting the community’s previous opposition to Bird Rock Station “was not about personalities, but about the project,” Ashley said, “If the project’s a good one, it’s a good one.

“I just hope they put something (retail) in I’d like to go to because of the convenience,” she concluded.
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