Park Prospect resident James Oehler voices concern that a restaurant proposed for the Tasende Gallery adjacent the five-story condo building where he lives (architectural sketch at right) would create noise, odor and traffic impacts.
Jose Tasende and his architect, Jim Alcorn (of Alcorn & Benton Architects), will make their case to add a 100-seat restaurant to Tasende’s gallery at 820 Prospect St. during a future meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA).
Alcorn stated their intention to proceed to the LJCPA during the April 14 meeting of the LJCPA’s Development Permit Review (DPR) subcommittee, which rejected the plans after a third presentation. DPR members were bolstered in their decision by vocal opposition from residents of the adjacent Park Prospect condominium building, many of whom attended the meeting last week at La Jolla Rec Center.
Residents expressed much of the same concerns they did during the March 17 DPR meeting — that the project would impact their quality of life by creating noise and cooking odors, and by increasing traffic on Prospect Street and in the alley behind their building (read more about their concerns at bit.ly/tasendeplans).
Discussion centered on whether the stretch of Prospect Street where Tasende Gallery is located — at the tail end of an area zoned for commercial uses — is appropriate for a restaurant, when the majority of it is comprised of residential uses and low-impact businesses. The 800 block of Prospect Street also buttresses La Jolla’s cultural zone, which features many historic buildings.
Park Prospect resident James Oehler noted that about 40 area residents have penned letters opposing the project, including 24 who reside in his building.
Oehler called the project a “contravention of the La Jolla Community Plan.”
“This is a residential neighborhood, and has been so since La Jolla was founded,” Oehler said, showing photographs of how the area looked in the early 1900s, before development of the Park Prospect condos (1963) or Tasende Gallery (1978). Oehler said a restaurant is out of character with the history of the block, and that the La Jolla Community Plan calls for prohibiting encroachment of new commercial uses into existing residential neighborhoods.
Former LJCPA board member Nancy Manno, who has known Tasende for nearly three decades, noted that Tasende will continue to live in a portion of the mixed-use building which, she said, should assure residents that noise and other impacts will be minimized.
“Mr. Tasende has lived in the building since it was built. It’s his home, and he is primarily concerned about it being a pleasant place to live,” Manno said, adding, “Your concerns about odor, light pollution and sound pollution are sensible, but I really believe that Mr. Alcorn would mitigate them. … It really isn’t a residential area. It used to be, but it really isn’t anymore.”
Although Jose Tasende did not address the group, his daughter, Betina Tasende, who also lives in the building, spoke on his behalf, noting that Park Prospect residents have never complained of impacts from outdoor catered events at the gallery, which she said have drawn as many as 40 people.
“These things have gone on until 10 or 11 o’clock at night and we’ve never had a problem — and this is with 36 years of being in this location,” she said. “We plan to be here for a long time. This is my family business. This is not something we are doing and then cutting and running to live up on the hill comfortably away from the noise. We’re not putting in a cantina; we’re not putting in a bar. We’re putting in a place where our neighbors can go have a nice, upscale meal in their neighborhood.”
Alcorn presented the results of traffic and noise studies his firm commissioned — working to assure the DPR and residents that any impacts from the proposed second-floor restaurant with outdoor seating would be mitigated. He said the remodel would include the use of glass on the ground floor, allowing the public a view through the building (though buildings on the other side would preclude an ocean view).
Both gallery and restaurant hours would be from noon to 10 p.m. with deliveries in the morning off Prospect Street, and trash pickup in the rear alley, where Tasende has 10 tandem parking spaces (he will be required to contract with the operator of a local lot or structure to obtain four more spaces).
Additional landscaping would be added to the front of the building and the sidewalk would be upgraded with patterned concrete. Most of the gallery’s existing sculpture will have to be removed, Alcorn said.
Alcorn said his sound consultant determined noise from the restaurant would not exceed that allowed per San Diego Municipal Code (65 decibels in the day, 60 decibels at night), and that sound tests would be conducted once the restaurant is open and mitigation measures taken to reduce any excess noise (such as the additional of sound walls or a canvas tarp on the outdoor patio).
DPR member Brian Will said he would be more comfortable approving the project if the patio had a “hard lid” to block sound, instead of canvas.
A pollution control unit that filters grease, smoke and other particulates from kitchen exhaust would be added, such as those used at other restaurants in close proximity to residential development.
“We haven’t scratched the surface designing the kitchen … or kitchen equipment,” Alcorn said, noting he is only seeking a coastal development permit for the building remodel, and is not designing the actual restaurant so he does not need to provide specific restaurant details at this time.
However, DPR member Angeles Liera said she wanted to see protective measures built into the design.
“I love the building,” she said. “I love the gallery (but) I’m not taking a leap of faith. I need to be convinced that the issues related to noise, fumes, parking and the valet are addressed totally by the design. I just don’t have the assurance that a lot of these esoteric problems, which are big problems sometimes, are going to be taken care of.”
The committee offered Alcorn a chance to revise the project and return at a later date, though he opted to have the DPR vote, and take his chances presenting the project at a future LJCPA meeting.
A motion that findings could not be made to approve the project passed by a vote of 5-1-1.