Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use is a non-profit 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the special community of La Jolla.
TRLU opposes Hillel of San Diego’s proposed development of a massive student center on Site 653 in the community of La Jolla. Site 653 is a 3/4-acre triangle of land near the intersection of La Jolla Village Drive and Torry Pines Road across the street from the south-west corner of the U.C. San Diego Revelle College campus in La Jolla. The proposed development is located in a residential zone in a community characterized by low profile single family residences. TRLU’s opposition to the project is based on potential impacts to aesthetics, community character, land use, traffic, parking, and growth. This residential area is simply not an appropriate location for a massive student center.
Site 653 has a long history, characterized by community opposition to development of the site. In 1977 the City received an inquiry into purchase of the project site. In response to this inquiry, City staff stated the site was not suitable for development due to its location and size. It was opined that the City should retain ownership and maintain the site as a landscaped traffic island. Another member of the City staff recommended against the proposed street vacation associated with the request, stating the site had access problems due to narrow streets and high traffic volumes. Indeed, the La Jolla Community Plan and the La Jolla Shores Precise Plan both showed the site as open space.
The City reviewed the project site for possible sale in 1991-1992, and again determined the site should be designated for open space. In 1995, the City considered the site for a “Construction Lay-down Site” and determined the site was inappropriate due to the high volume of traffic along La Jolla Village Drive, interference with adjacent traffic signals, and displacement of street parking for UCSD students.
Hillel of San Diego contacted the City in 1999, expressing an interest in purchasing the project site. Despite the fact that the site had long been shown as open space in the La Jolla Community Plan and La Jolla Shores Precise Plan, the City issued a Request for Proposals for the potential sale of Site 653. Hillel responded to the request, and in November 2000 the City entered into exclusive negotiations with Hillel to purchase Site 653. In 2002, a donor to Hillel purchased the adjacent residence at 8976 Cliffridge Avenue for Hillel’s use. Hillel began operating its administrative offices out of the residence at 8976 Cliffridge Avenue without benefit of the necessary approvals.
In 2006, the City Council approved a Site Development Permit, Planned Development Permit and Street Vacation to allow the construction of a 12,100 square foot student center with a 17,000 square foot underground parking facility on Site 653. The City also approved a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Hillel Project. Represented by attorney Todd T. Cardiff, Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use successfully challenged this approval for failure to follow the California Environmental Quality Act, failure to follow proper procedures in selling City land to Hillel of San Diego, and for selling City land at a price substantially below fair market value. In 2009, the Court of Appeal required the City to prepare an Environmental Impact Report relating to potential impacts of the project on traffic and parking, biological resources and aesthetics and community character.
Hillel submitted a new proposal in October 2010 subject to an EIR (Environmental Impact Report). Hillel requests a site development permit and public right-of-way vacation for phased construction. Phase I is the continued use of a single-family residence at 8976 Cliffridge Avenue for administrative offices. This home has been used for the past 4-5 years as a multiple office building in violation of residential code. Phase II is construction of the student center on Site 653, a total of approximately 6600 square feet.
The new proposal represents a reduction from the approximate 12,000 square feet project submitted previously. TRLU remains opposed to development of the site, as this residential area is wholly inappropriate for a massive student center with significant impacts to aesthetics, community character, land use, traffic, parking, and growth.