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Golden Triangle : Council Denies IDO Exemption for 354 Condos

February 05, 1988|RALPH FRAMMOLINO | Times Staff Writer

Faced with its largest single request so far for an exemption under the Interim Development Ordinance, the San Diego City Council on Thursday voted to deny building permits for a 354-unit condominium project in the Golden Triangle area.

The developer of the project, called La Jolla International Gardens, asked the council to overturn a ruling by the city attorney's office that the condominiums should not be exempted from the IDO, although the project received its initial approval in 1980 and more than $600,000 in public improvements already have been built.

Paul Robinson, an attorney for the developer, conceded there was no legal basis for exempting the project from the IDO, but appealed for the exception all the same on the grounds of "fairness."

"If it were strictly legal, we would not be here today," Robinson said.

Buildings Redesigned

Robinson told council members that the condominiums--almost half of what was to have been a 754-unit project--could have been built in 1983, but the developers withdrew their application to redesign the buildings at the request of the community planning group. It took the city Planning Department from August, 1986, to July, 1987, to approve those design changes, he said.

Meanwhile, the city in June, 1987, enacted the IDO and placed an 8,000-unit citywide cap on the number of building permits that could be handed out. Under the IDO formula, La Jolla International Gardens recently received permission to build 20 condo units--instead of the 354 it had planned.

Robinson told council members that a $23-million construction loan from Great Western Savings for the project would expire March 23 if an exemption was not granted, and he said the developer is paying $110,000 a month in interest during the delay in building the last phase of the project, slated for Lebon and Nobel drives.

But Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer argued against granting the exemption because doing so would not benefit the general public in terms of new streets, sewers and traffic signals.

Traffic Alarm Sounded

"The public doesn't get anything unusual," said Wolfsheimer, warning that exemptions might compound traffic woes in the University City area.

"Everything the developer has proposed placing there on the property is mandatory and is essential for approval of his final map. Nothing new flows into the community, therefore we don't find a public benefit."

Wolfsheimer's colleagues concurred, and voted 6-3 to deny the developer's appeal. Those voting to give the developer an exemption were Wes Pratt, Bruce Henderson and Judy McCarty.

Following the hearing, Robinson said the developer would consider a lawsuit against the city and has already filed an administrative claim for $315 million in damages because a previous request for a variance had been turned down. Robinson said the $315 million figure represents how much the developer would lose over the 30-year term of the loan if the 354 units are not built.

Robinson said his client is now stuck with the parcels of land where the condos would have been built.

"How can you sell them if you can't develop them? What market would there be?" Robinson said.

Special Meeting

The council's denial of the project came during a special meeting to hear a batch of requests from landowners seeking exemptions from the IDO based on hardship.

Large, controversial variance requests in La Jolla amounting to 368 units were delayed until Feb. 18; two large Mira Mesa projects--including a 579-unit request--were put off until early April.

That left significantly smaller projects for the council on Thursday, projects ranging from 25 down to three dwelling units. Each came forward to the council because they had not been given permission to build under the IDO formula, which allots a specific number of building permits to be handed out in each community.

The only project that won a variance from council members on Thursday was a nine-unit building to be built on West Point Loma Boulevard in Ocean Beach. In contrast, a request to construct three single-family residences in Rancho Bernardo was turned down.

So far, council members have granted variances from the IDO and given additional building permits for 281 units, according to Ron Smith of the city Planning Department.

Kept Within Ceiling

But even with the extra units, the council has kept within its 8,000-unit citywide ceiling, Smith said. So far, there have been 4,325 building permits given out under the IDO, he said.

Smith said building permits for an additional 1,075 units will be issued in the next 60 days. Competing for those permits have been requests totaling 14,648.

Smith also said the IDO--initially passed in June, 1987, but made retroactive to April, 1987--appears to be working because the number of building permits granted by the city dropped last year. There were 11,900 issued last year, compared with 19,840 in 1986, he said.

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