"If I could tell you there was going to be a restaurant there, or an art gallery, an office, or a bank — I would. I will tell you there is no definite plan for it.”
That was Tom Voss, president of Manchester Resorts during an interview with a reporter from the La Jolla Light in March 2012.
The space that Voss was referring to is the former Simic Art Gallery inside the Manchester Financial Building, located at 1205 Prospect Street in the heart of downtown La Jolla. The building currently houses three art galleries and a small Opus Bank branch office.
Since 2011, neighbors living on Rosalyn Lane, a small one-way street that runs parallel to Prospect, have raised concerns that Manchester and company plan to use the space for a large outdoor restaurant.
In the March 2012 interview, Voss was quick to debunk those claims. “It’s a long, narrow space and we’re making some improvements on the walls, ceilings and floors to get it in better shape for whatever tenant we end up having,” he said.
What Voss didn’t say was that Manchester Resorts had already obtained permits from the City of San Diego in September 2011 to transform the Simic Art Gallery into the “Amaya La Jolla Restaurant.”
Shortly after obtaining those permits, contractors hired by Manchester Resorts began preliminary construction on a new dining area, building new interior non-bearing walls, and hanging a suspended ceiling, as well as all necessary electrical, mechanical, and plumbing work.
Recent documents obtained from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control also show that Manchester’s company had plans for a restaurant with “amplified music” and live entertainment, including a DJ or a jazz band playing onsite.
Once completed, the restaurant will measure 5899 square feet — 8362 square feet when factoring in two covered patios and the entry patio. The restaurant will feature a newly installed suspended ceiling and multiple skylights.
City documents show Manchester has spent $1,009,891 on permits.
Residents of Rosalyn Lane say they’ve known about the restaurant since construction began. During that time they have complained about the impacts from noise, traffic, and parking on their narrow residential street.
Leigh Hyman lives in a three-story duplex 60 feet away from the restaurant’s newly constructed stage. She worries that the noise from diners and from the house band will run through the suspended ceiling and through the skylights into her bedroom.
Hyman has complained about the potential impacts for months. She has called councilmember Sherri Lightner’s office. There was no return call. She has phoned the police about illegal parking on the small one-way street, but trucks and cars eventually return. She has even purchased generic parking tickets to place on windows of large construction vehicles and hung “no parking” signs.
“I heard over two years ago that they were planning a restaurant in there,” said Hyman. “I couldn’t believe it. There’s no space for deliveries — and not only that, there are restaurants all over the place. But, of course, they kept denying it. There’s no space for this. It’s downright ridiculous.”
And that’s only the beginning of Hyman’s concerns. At 76, she worries noise from the restaurant will keep her awake at night.
Hyman walks up a flight of stairs to her living room. She stands at a window that looks directly over the enclosed patio. Five openings can be seen in the ceiling where skylights will go.
“I’ve lived here for 18 years, and I can hear everything from my bedroom because I am right over the street. What am I supposed to do when a live band is playing? How is this not going to affect my quality of life? Why wasn’t this heard by the planning committee or city council?” she asks.
Those groups haven’t heard it because the city’s municipal code allows property owners within the La Jolla Planned District to change land uses without approval from the local planning groups.
Yet that doesn’t mean that Manchester is strictly adhering to all requirements. According to a city employee, Manchester’s plans for adding “outdoor dining areas” will need to be removed from the plans before proceeding. As for the covered patios, those areas will be used as “galleries.”
But Voss denies allegations that he or his company intentionally misled residents or the city. “Around the time that the owners of Simic [Art Gallery] told us that they were not going to renew the lease, we had to do some improvements to the building. I believe there was a leak that needed to be repaired. It was at that time that we began to consider putting a restaurant in the space.
“We did not decide to move forward until June of this year. There was always the chance that we would build a restaurant, but then we shelved it while we looked at other opportunities.”
And now that the decision is final, Voss looks forward to contributing to La Jolla’s culinary scene. “Putting a new restaurant there will be great. It’s such a lively area. I’m looking forward to joining the dining scene in La Jolla. Between Eddie V’s, the Herringbone, there is an amazing culinary movement in La Jolla. I’m glad to say that we are going to join that group.”
And as for the noise and the impacts to the quality of life for Hyman and her neighbors, Voss assures the residents that there will be no live band or DJ playing loud music late into the night.
“There will be a piano playing live at the back of the restaurant. There will not be any live bands, at least not that I am aware of.”
Amaya at La Jolla is expected to open in February 2013. ■