Hillel Center addresses misconceptions about proposed student life building in La Jolla


By Michael Rabkin

Executive Director Hillel of San Diego

At the November meeting of the La Jolla Shores Planned District Advisory Board, the motion to approve the Hillel project failed by a vote of 3 to 2. Had board member Susan Starr, whose household has been a lead public opponent of the Hillel project, abstained, chairman Paul Benton would have broken the tie and voted in favor of the project. This kind of bias among the local planning group is unfortunately not new.


La Jolla Light

article on Nov. 22 highlighted several arguments against the Hillel project without providing the counterpoint. Since the Board did not permit Hillel to offer a rebuttal, we would like to call attention to just a few. Others are on our website at 


mike rabkin


“The project will result in significant environmental impacts.”


There are no impacts that cannot be mitigated to a level of insignificance.  For example, we need to have a paleontologist on site during grading activities to preserve any disturbed artifacts. This is a standard permit requirement for all projects in La Jolla regardless of whether a project has an EIR.

Myth: “

The development of the Hillel Center opens the door to fraternities in the neighborhood.”


This “slippery slope” argument is invalid. A fraternity would have no standing to receive a permit in a single-family zone. Furthermore, Hillel is not a fraternity; it is a Religious Corporation organized under the California non-profit law and is qualified as a religious charity under the Internal Revenue Code, just like a church or synagogue.


“If you’re a religious institution, there are established parking ratios: 30 parking spaces are required per every 1,000 square feet, or one space for every three pew seats.”


This requirement may work for churches with pews, but Hillel does not have pews. A Hillel Center is a unique religious use, and a parking study more accurately determines the parking impacts. We typically have three programs a week during non-peak hours, and most of these are small groups of 10 to 20 students. The opponents of the project are basing their argument on the maximum occupancy of the facility, not the actual number of people who would attend events. Hillel Centers typically provide limited student parking and have very low parking demand. Over 80 percent of students use alternate methods of transportation to access Hillel.

The UCSD Hillel Center for Jewish Life will provide a parking ratio of 3.7 per 1,000 square feet whereas other California Hillel centers surveyed provide fewer than two spaces per 1000 square feet. For example, UCLA Hillel, which is also located just off campus, is a 25,000 square foot center and provides 15 parking spaces. Our study concludes that 27 on-site parking spaces are more than adequate to provide for the regular parking needs of the facility.


“The buildings are out of character with the surrounding neighborhood, which largely features one-story, single-family homes.”


The three small structures that make up the Center fit well in the neighborhood, which has a mixture of architectural styles. There are quite a few two-story homes in the immediate vicinity including one directly opposite the proposed site of Hillel on the corner of Cliffridge and La Jolla Scenic.



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