Despite strident appeals from some neighbors, it looks like Zaha Hadid is coming to San Diego.
The city’s planning commission on October 20 approved a request to have Hadid and San Diego firm Public demolish an existing house on 8490 Whale Watch Way in La Jolla and replace it with a 12,700 square foot residence with four bedrooms, six bathrooms, and an indoor pool.
The project, which has been described by the firm as an “introverted sculptural structure,” displays Hadid’s trademark focus on elegant plasticity. Sitting on a tight half-acre site, its roofline will curve up like the prow of a ship, making it easily identifiable and marking the boundary between inside and outside. Hadid’s office has posted renderings of the project on its web site while London-based Rove Gallery has posted an artwork by Hadid called “La Jolla Residence.”
The La Jolla Community Planning Association, which advises the city on local land matters (and which Public principal James Brown calls the “anti-Zaha coalition”), had appealed the owners’ application for a Coastal Development permit. Members of the association claimed that the project violated the local planned district ordinance and worried that the house was, as member Ed Furtek put it at a meeting, “significantly different from other neighborhood homes.” Another member, Dale Naegle, went further: “If we approve this we might as well as abandon our La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance…It is a beautiful house, but it doesn’t fit.”
But the planning commission unanimously denied the appeal and upheld the project.
“I was quite taken with the design,” said Planning Commissioner Eric Naslund, who is also a principal at San Diego firm Studio E Architects. He noted that the house did not violate FAR or setback rules and was “respectful” of its surroundings. “There are certainly houses of that size and scale in that neighborhood,” he added.
The La Jolla Community Planning Association would not comment on whether it planned another appeal, but if that were to happen the next step for the project would be approval by city council, an environment that Public Brown admits is much more challenging. “There’s nothing about city council with a design attitude,” said Brown. “It’s 100 percent politics.”