Plans to convert the Bird Rock “Piano Building” into a restaurant continue to vex members of the Bird Rock Community Council. After four hearings in the past year, the council has yet to make a decision on whether the support plans to encroach on the public right-of-way to accommodate outdoor dining, but its chairman said the council would consider the public feedback it gathered and come up with a recommendation soon.
The restaurant, which will be called Paradisaea, is set to open this summer at 5680 La Jolla Blvd. According to a press release, it will offer an “elevated yet approachable menu showcasing ingredient-driven, contemporary California cuisine grounded in classic techniques,” showcasing local seafood, handmade pastas, “ a signature burger and creative ice cream”.
Several menu options will be available in vegan or vegetarian versions.
The restaurant, owned by Bird Rock residents Eric and Zoe Kleinbub, will also offer a rotating menu of cocktails, wines and beers.
In addition to the restaurant, the property will feature Dodo Bird Donuts, an all-day cafe, and Tropical Punch, a collection of finds in the home, beauty and fashion categories from around the world.
But concerns about encroachment on the area maintained by the Bird Rock Community Council through a maintenance assessment district continued to be raised at the DCRO meeting on April 5. The City of San Diego asked the community council to intervene on the issue of the encroachment, not the design or operation of the restaurant.
Through MAD, property owners pay a membership fee for the upkeep of public spaces in Bird Rock beyond what the city can provide, including landscaping. To accommodate outdoor dining for Paradisaea, the concrete sidewalk along La Jolla Boulevard would be removed and replaced with landscaping and planters. An area that is currently vegetated and maintained by MAD would be removed and replaced with hardscape.
Noting that the development of the MAD took several years and countless hours of work, Bird Rock resident Mike Costello said the plan “achieved something [in landscaping] that we have tried so hard to obtain.
“There are plenty of spaces that already have outdoor dining. Giving landscaping is too much,” Costello said.
Costello, a member of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, suggested the project be submitted to other local planning boards for consideration.
Darcy Ashley, who lives close to the property, said: “The reason we have such an amazing place is because it has consistent landscaping and constant maintenance of that landscaping. It looks like the first step in dismantling MAD. We are starting to give away areas, especially prominent corners, we are moving in the direction of creating disparate types of landscaping and maintenance.
She also worried about setting a precedent and wondered why other groups weren’t looking at the project.
Other nearby residents said they supported the restaurant concept but opposed outdoor dining due to concerns about how it would affect foot traffic and noise.
Costello also raised concerns about the presence of an outdoor dining area off La Jolla Boulevard and said putting tables on that side of the property is “inadmissible” and diners do not belong. so close to the street.
Architect AJ Remen said security was taken “very seriously” and the safeguards include “reinforced bollards and posts in the fence all around the roundabout area…and the spacing of these structural elements so that there is more protection. But [it will] be designed so that it looks like a complete item.
Some spoke in favor of the project. Resident and CCRO member Arianna Opsvig said she was grateful for the work done to make Bird Rock “a beautiful space”, but said “one of the things that struck me when I moved here for the first time was the empty showcases on [La Jolla] Boulevard and lack of passers-by. … The commercial area needs energy. I think outdoor dining is an essential part of having a lively and energetic community.
BRCC Merchants Group Chairman Craig Bender said his committee had conducted a survey of what residents wanted, and more restaurants was the No. 1 response. “As merchants, we appreciate those who support the local…and I thank Zoe and Eric for putting their hearts and souls into it,” Bender said.
Others applauded the candidates for wanting to preserve the building and mitigate security risks.
BRCC Chairman John Newsam said: “We are extremely fortunate that Eric and Zoe have taken on this project. This is a marquee property in Bird Rock, and if any other developer had acquired this building, the outcome would have been dramatically different. … It is a blessing that they have accepted this task.
Eric Kleinbub called Paradisaea a “passionate project” and said it would be “a totally and beautifully restored building. We spared no expense to do this. …I want Bird Rock to look amazing, and we see this as something that will…. It will be the heart and soul of the neighborhood.
Although some landscaping would be removed, plantings would be added to the other side of the property to make it look like a “parklet”, he said.
Regarding the encroachment on the MAD, Newsam said that “reviewing this project has been a long process; they answered questions. … MAD has been transformative, let’s face it. We have a duty to preserve and protect this and to carefully consider anything that encroaches on MAD. We have reviewed this, and I believe that in this case the modest encroachment is warranted and justified for the benefits the community will derive.
Newsam said the board would review the comments received by the board and issue a recommendation “very quickly.”
The Piano Building got its nickname because it once housed Schroeder Piano Co. and the “Pianos” sign was not removed. In 2015, Peter Schroeder left the building after pleading guilty to four counts of theft from an elder in connection with pianos consigned to the store by people who were not fully paid for their sales.
Since then, the building has housed various retail stores, but when it was sold to Kleinbubs in 2019, it was closed for renovation.
The structure was designed by William Kesling, one of the few Southern California architects – including Frank Lloyd Wright, RM Schindler and Richard Neutra – who defined the shape of modernist design in the mid-20th century.
The next meeting of the BRCC will take place on Tuesday May 3 at 6 p.m. Newsam said the board hopes to resume the in-person meeting, but it’s not yet clear if that will happen at the May meeting. Learn more about birdrockcc.org.
Learn more about Paradisaea at paradisaea.com. ◆