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La Jolla Boulevard plaza renovation project revealed

rendering of la jolla boulevard plaza renovation reveals new corner cafe with outdoor seating and shopping center

The La Jolla Boulevard plaza renovation project in Bird Rock has begun making the rounds at community development groups, earning approval at one but prompting questions about building infrastructure at another.

Applicant representative Ryan Labrum spoke at the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance meeting Feb 12 and La Jolla Development Permit Review committee meeting Feb 13, seeking approval for a Coastal Development Permit and Neighborhood Use Permit from the city of San Diego to renovate the exterior of the existing 10,000 square-foot retail and office building at 5550 La Jolla Boulevard, enlarge the outdoor dining area of the restaurant space at the south end of the lot and provide pedestrian access to the building from the public right-of-way on the north side along Forward Street. 

The project is at a “pretty prominent location” in Bird Rock, Labrum told PDO, and the plans are just a shell as “there are ideas out there to potentially have multiple restaurant tenants within the same space like a food hall.”

Labrum noted, however, no specific tenants have been identified. 

The building’s facade will feature a cement fiber exterior building material, “which is a composite and extremely durable,” Labrum said, adding it mimics the appearance of wood.

The building will also include a digital print of aluminum siding as one of its “main focal points,” he said, with a bifolding glass door system to “turn [the building] into an indoor-outdoor space.”

There will be no change to parking spaces within the property or landscaping.

Stating the building’s restrooms and plumbing “have been big issues,” Bird Rock resident Craig Bender asked at PDO whether Labrum’s project will redo the plumbing. 

The renovation is a “proposed shell project,” Labrum said. “We’re not really getting into the plumbing systems or even mechanical.”

Those kinds of repairs would be left to tenant improvement plans once tenants are chosen, he said.

Plumbing issues notwithstanding, Bender praised the overall project: “This looks great. We are here to support you. We all want this.” 

PDO member Brian Williams said he hopes work will be done in a way to not harm existing tenants but also attract new tenants, as many spaces have stood empty for some time. 

The PDO unanimously approved the project, pending additional reports including screening for mechanical requirements.

“Everyone is excited about a project like this,” PDO member Joe Parker said.

A day later at the DPR preliminary project review, Labrum emphasized that once exterior work begins, if damage to drywall, whether termite or otherwise, is discovered, “we cannot walk away from that without raising the flag and saying, ‘Hey, this needs to be repaired.’”

“The building inspector won’t let me put something there that’s unsafe,” he said.  

DPR Chair Brian Will advised Labrum to return to a later DPR meeting after meeting with the building owner to “discuss possible infrastructure improvement plans … and articulate that.”

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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