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Community preservation at core of debate against Hillel of San Diego facility design

La Jolla, CA April 18, 2017 More than 200 of La Jolla residents are rallying around a “Neighborhoods Matter” call for what they feel is an encroachment on their single-family residential neighborhood by Hillel of San Diego.

The student association is reintroducing plans for a 7,000-square-foot student center at the intersection of La Jolla Scenic Drive, La Jolla Scenic Way and La Jolla Village Drive.

“Hillel commands nearly universal respect,” says Dr. Oliver Jones, Professor emeritus at UCSD and President of Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use (TRLU), a non-profit 501(c)4 organization dedicated to maintaining the community of La Jolla. “And in a decade and a half of discussions regarding this proposed project, there has been little dispute of the desirability for UCSD students for a nearby Hillel student center. The only serious dispute is the location of the student center and its impact on the single family residential neighborhood of La Jolla.”

The organization and its supporters are planning to attend the scheduled April 27 City of San Diego planning meeting where the proposed student center will be on the agenda.

“Members of the La Jolla community and other neighborhoods in the City of San Diego should come out and show their support for preserving this and other single-family neighborhoods in the City of San Diego,” said Jones.

Please join the residents of this residential community at the Planning Commission or express your concern to the City of San Diego by email to [email protected]

Back in 2005, Hillel of San Diego first proposed a 12,100 square foot student center with 68 on-site parking spaces—a proposal that TRLU challenged. The California Court of Appeals halted the project by ruling in February 2009 that the project applicant, Hillel of San Diego, and City of San Diego, needed to fulfill California Environmental Quality Act guidelines and submit a full environmental impact report.

In October 2010, Hillel of San Diego submitted a new proposal, subject to an environmental impact report. The proposal reduced the size of the project to 7,084 square feet and only 27 on-site parking spaces. The chief architect of the plan, Mark Steele, said then “The facility really is primarily simply a student center, study center, some office space.” The La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) advised in June 2012 that site development and other permits should not be issued. The cited the student center not being a permitted use in the single-family zone of the La Jolla Shores Planned District and the project’s potential impact on traffic safety as chief reasons for their recommendations to the City.

Now, Hillel of San Diego student center proponents are back, this time arguing that as a “permanent religious building,” the student center is an appropriate use in this single-family zone. While the La Jolla neighborhood is zoned to allow churches, temples, or permanent buildings used primarily for religious purposes, opponents of the project counter that the proposed center is a university student social organization with a religious/ethnic affiliation only, not a building used primarily for religious purposes, and thus is not an allowed use in the single-family residential zone.

“We know that Hillel of San Diego is trying to be a good neighbor,” explains Richard Attiyeh, former Vice Chancellor for Research at UCSD and a concerned resident. “But the fact remains that their proposed student center—any proposed student center or facility of this nature—is simply not right for this neighborhood of single family residences.”

Core to their argument is encroachment on the single-family housing zone within the neighborhood. TRLU and its supporters further outline their opposition in five main elements:

  • This La Jolla neighborhood is characterized by single-story single-family residences less than 3,000-square-feet in size (with few exceptions). Hillel of San Diego is proposing a 7,084-square-foot student center with a soaring peaked roof that extends 30 feet above finished grade, which would cause a substantial alteration in the character of the area.
  • Further, the student center presents a modern institutional design. The size of the building in conjunction with the proposed building materials and architectural elements cause the student center to stand out from the existing single-family residential neighborhood.
  • In its proposal, Hillel of San Diego assumes one on-site parking space per five students, or 3.7 spaces per 1,000-square-feet for a total of 27 parking spaces. The code requires one space per three people. With a maximum occupancy of 140 people for the student center, this results in required parking of a minimum of 47 spaces.
  • Failure to provide adequate on-site parking, coupled with a narrowing of La Jolla Scenic Drive N., and other roadway changes due to the project that will remove 10 parking spaces and a cul-de-sac, significantly impacts traffic circulation and safety.
  • The Hillel of San Diego student center will create a traffic hazard by placing the entrance driveway excessively close to the intersection of La Jolla Village Drive and La Jolla Scenic Way.

TRLU is concerned for La Jolla and other communities due to the precedent set by allowing the student center in this residential zone. UCSD is currently home to some 500 student organizations, 54 of which are considered “spiritual” and which could potentially be allowed to locate in the area as “churches, temples, or buildings of a permanent nature used primarily for religious purposes” if the Hillel of San Diego center were to be approved and set precedent.

“We all know there’s no rolling back such a significant change to a neighborhood once it takes place, whether it’s here in La Jolla or elsewhere,” says resident Patricia Granger. “Our main concern is protecting the long-standing residential nature of our neighborhood, and not allowing the La Jolla community to fall victim to encroaching high-intensity uses that have consumed so many other neighborhoods in California and around the country. Neighborhoods matter!”

For more information on the meeting and to keep up-to-date with latest developments, visit TRLU on Facebook or at www.trlu.org.

Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use is a non-profit 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the community of La Jolla.

Paul June
Barrel O’ Monkeyz
(310) 503-1149
[email protected]