San Diego City Council voted 6-3 on Feb. 9, 2015 to deny the Point Loma Summit project. The project is a subdivision proposal that calls for splitting the old Joseph Jessop estate at 414 La Crescentia Drive into four lots, including the Tudor-styled home built in 1926 by Joseph and Mabel Jessop.
The 2015 City Council decision affirmed local opposition to the project by the Peninsula Community Planning Board, which had voted 12-0-1 against the Jessop lot split on Aug. 15, 2012.
The Jessop project, however, was previously recommended for approval by the San Diego City Planning Commission on June 19, 2014. Point Loma planners then appealed the Planning Commission's support of the Jessop project to the City Council.
Jessop project opponents, a grass-roots group known as Preserve Point Loma (PPL), claims numerous problems with the project, including steep narrow access, concerns for fire safety and fears of a potentially unstable hillside. Detractors also allege the project is inconsistent with the Peninsula Community Plan, insisting as well that it deviates from the City Municipal Code.
These issues prompted a groundswell of opposition to the subdivision project by more than 900 residents citywide, including some members of the extended Jessop family.
The City Council voted March 15 in a closed-door session to appeal a Feb. 23 trial court decision by Judge Joel Wohlfeil. In his judicial ruling, Wohlfeil sided with property owner Carolyn Kutzke, who had accused the City Council of unlawfully rejecting the Jessop project over environmental issues she claimed had been previously adequately addressed.
In April of 2015, Kutzke filed a lawsuit against the city for inverse condemnation of her property. Her lawsuit alleges the City Council had overriden environmental documents to appease residents.
According to Kutzke's lawsuit, the City Council's decision had a "negative impact on plaintiffs economically and interfered with distinct investment-backed expectations."
In February, PPL sent a letter to City Council members enumerating its problems with Judge Wohlfeil's recent ruling and warning of the implications “such a ruling would have for the city in other similar cases.”
An excerpt from PPL's letter reads, “The trial court in overturning the Council's decision appears to have overstepped its authority. … Further, the trial court is not permitted to weigh the evidence — that is left solely to the Council. Instead, the court should have only determined that substantial evidence exists to uphold the Council's position. … Nevertheless, the court failed to meet this exceedingly low threshold notwithstanding the evidence before it.”
The next step is for the Jessop case to be brought to the Fourth Appelate Court, a judicial process likely to take between one and two years.
The law firm of Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire LLP, representing the plaintiffs in the Jessop case, Carolyn Kutzke and Karen Kapp, could not be reached for comment.
For more information about PPL and its views, visit www.preservepointloma.org.