Plans for Jewish student center in La Jolla rejected again
By Pat Sherman
Scaled-down plans for the Hillel Center for Jewish Life near UC San Diego were shot down again by the community — this time by the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance Advisory (LJSPDO) Board, which failed to grant its approval of a site development permit and public right-of-way vacation for the project during its Nov. 20 meeting.
Approval of the center — proposed for a pie-shaped parcel on the south side of La Jolla Village Drive, between Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Scenic Way — was also denied by the La Jolla Community Planning Association in June.
A draft environmental impact report (EIR) on the project, issued Oct. 31 by San Diego’s Development Services Department, found project impacts to be negligible. LJSPDO members and residents, however, still expressed concern about potential traffic impacts from the project, as well as Hillel’s design and scale, and the question of whether the project is primarily intended for religious or student use.
The 7,084-square foot center would be comprised of three buildings positioned around a central courtyard. The surrounding area would include some parkland and a meandering bike path.
There would be an estimated 12 to 15 gatherings at the center in a typical week and about 20 cars traveling to and from the center per day, said Hillel Director Michael Rabkin. About 80 percent of traffic from the center will be pedestrian, he said.
There are about 2,000 Jewish undergraduate students attending UCSD.
“We need a space that will allow the students to gather and allow for religious expression,” Rabkin said.
Hillel project attorney Bob Lapidus said the kitchen would only be used to enhance religious observances, such as Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah, and not for catering or regular on-site food service.
The center, which would include 25 parking spaces for vehicles and two for motorcycles, would primarily be used for religious study and observance, Lapidus added.
Julie Hamilton, an attorney representing Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use, a group of La Jolla Shores residents opposed to the project, said structures intended for religious use are required by the city’s land development code to have 30 parking spaces per every 1,000 square feet, or one space for every three pew seats.
“They’re providing one space per every five people,” Hamilton said. “It’s going to require 47 parking spaces. They’re providing 27.”
Hamilton said the project would also remove as many as 10 existing street parking spaces, including seven on a cul de sac that would be vacated for conversion to parkland, and three that would be lost on La Jolla Scenic Drive North.
“If you’re a religious institution, you’ve got established parking ratios,” Hamilton said. “If you’re not a religious institution, you’re not allowed in this zone.”
Several people who spoke during the LJSPDO meeting said the buildings are out of character with the surrounding neighborhood, which largely features one-story, single-family homes.
La Jolla Community Planning Association trustee Mike Costello said the environmental report failed to delve into the center’s impact on residents’ property values and quality of life, as well as the potential for the project to open the door to approval of other student centers or fraternity houses in the immediate area.
Hamilton said the project setbacks — between 10 to 14 feet from the street — are also inadequate per the Shores’ Planned District Ordinance.
As the La Jolla Traffic and Transportation Board determined, Hamilton opined that findings could not be made for a street vacation on the cul de sac, because cars are still using it.
“You have to be able to say that there is no present or prospective use of the public right-of-way,” she said. “I provided pictures of cars parked there last Friday.”
The project also would reduce the width of La Jolla Scenic Drive North by two to four feet to accommodate setbacks and a sidewalk.
“That’s not traffic calming, that’s jamming up an already difficult situation,” Hamilton said, adding, “the draft EIR is not adequate. It doesn’t meet the requirements of CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act). … They never even mention the La Jolla Shores Design Manual — and that needs to be a consideration in every project that’s approved in the Shores.”
The environmental report on Hillel found the project would only result in “significant environmental impacts” to the site’s biological and paleontological resources.
Lapidus, as well as an associate city planner who worked on the report, maintained that there are no impacts that can’t be mitigated to a level of insignificance.
The report found that the Cooper’s hawk could potentially be found on or adjacent to the site, which would require mitigation to avoid impacts to the species during construction. Measures have been applied to ensure the recovery of paleontological resources (primarily fossils) that may be uncovered during grading.
LJSPDO advisory board member Nate Fisher, who expressed approval for the center, said he’d always viewed the proposed site as an “undeveloped eyesore.”
In the end, Fisher’s motion to approve the project failed 2-3, despite an addendum to the motion that the width of La Jolla Scenic Drive North not be reduced.
The project should go before the San Diego Planning Commission and City Council for ultimate approval sometime before April, Rabkin said.
Representatives from San Diego’s Human Relations Commission recently resolved to send a letter in support of the project to the mayor and city council.
“The council has endorsed this project on multiple occasions,” Lapidus said. “I think our expectation is that we’ll get the majority (city council) vote for approval of the project.”
In other LJSPDO news
• Second-story home office: Board members voted 3-2 that a second-story addition to a single-story home at 7904 Roseland Drive would create only minimal impacts, and thus did not require the applicant to pursue a coastal development permit.
The office would add 500 square feet to the 4,340-square-foot home. The dormer-style pop-up additions would include a deck and interior elevator for access. Built into the home’s pitched roof, it would add only about five feet of elevation to portions of the structure, said a representative for Golba Architecture.
The La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance Advisory Board meets 9 a.m. the third Tuesday of every month at La Jolla Rec Center, 616 Prospect St.
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