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What happens when you allow a 7,084 square foot student center to be built in a residential zone filled with single family residences adjoining the University of California at San Diego?

That’s a possibility the residents of the La Jolla Village Shores Neighborhood have been fighting for years and continue to oppose with the latest proposal by Hillel of San Diego to locate a student center at the intersection of La Jolla Scenic Drive, La Jolla Scenic Way, and La Jolla Village Drive.

“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 La Jolla resident Patricia Granger. “Our main concern is protecting the long-standing residential nature of this 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!”

Rejected twice before—first as a 12,100 square foot project by the California Court of Appeals in 2009, and later in 2012 when the La Jolla Community Planning Association advised the City of San Diego against issuing necessary permits for a scaled back version of the project—area residents feel the student center encroaches on their single-family residential neighborhood, which is characterized by single-story single-family residences less than 3,000-square-feet in size (with few exceptions).

Hillel of San Diego’s student center proposal features a soaring, peaked roof that extends 30 feet above finished grade, a modern institutional design, and building materials and architectural elements that will alter the character of the area.

Such a precedent—allowing the student center to be built in a residential zone under the guise of being a church, temple, or building of a permanent nature used primarily for religious purposes—is a top concern for residents, especially with UCSD currently home to some 500 student organizations, 54 of which are considered “spiritual.”

While the La Jolla neighborhood is zoned to allow churches, temples, or permanent buildings used primarily for religious purposes, the Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use (TRLU), a non-profit 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the community of La Jolla, counters 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 in the residential zone. This is something the chief architect of the plan, Mark Steele, seemed to concur with back in 2010 when he said, “The facility really is primarily simply a student center, study center, some office space” and thus not an allowed use in the zone.