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Judge gives Hillel Center in La Jolla green-light

The Beverly and Joseph Glickman Center, which will house the UC San Diego division of Hillel of San Diego for Jewish students, has overcome yet another legal hurdle. In its most recent legal challenge, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor ruled Nov. 9 in favor of the City of San Diego and Hillel of San Diego, upholding Hillel’s right to build the Beverly and Joseph Glickman Center across from UCSD.

The Hillel project would construct a religious facility at 9009 La Jolla Scenic Drive North to serve as a “center for Jewish life and Jewish students at UCSD,” Hillel executive director Michel Rabkin previously told La Jolla Light. “It’s an off-campus center for small group meetings, pastoral counseling, holiday celebrations, prayer services and a place for cultural exploration. So it’s a drop-in center where we will have professional staff work out of to work with students on a day-to-day basis.”

The Center has been challenged by Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use (TRLU) for more than a decade, largely based on the argument it would add traffic, take up parking spaces and add noise to the neighborhood.

The San Diego City Council approved the project in October 2017, and the latest suit, filed soon after by TRLU, sought to invalidate the approval. However, Judge Taylor denied TRLU’s latest petition and ruled the City proceeded in a manner required by law in issuing its approval, and that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) associated with the project was supported by substantial evidence.

TRLU lawyer Julie Hamilton told The San Diego Union-Tribune the group disagrees with Taylor’s ruling and still believes “there were some obvious flaws” in the approval for the project. She said it was not yet known what the next steps will be. “My clients have not made a decision yet on how they intend to proceed,” she said.

However, Hillel of San Diego Board of Directors president Joel Smith said: “This was a baseless lawsuit, and we are heartened that Judge Taylor confirmed Hillel’s lawful right to build.”

Rabbi David Singer, executive director of UCSD Hillel, added: “We are ecstatic that the court found that this is a good project and the approvals are legitimate. We are moving forward with the architect for final plans and … bringing the capital campaign to the broader public.”

The project will cost $15 million — $12.5 million has already been secured.

The public phase of fundraising will start with a celebration Dec. 2 — the first day of Hanukkah. Singer explained that “the word ‘Hanukkah’ means ‘dedication.’ It celebrates our ancestor’s dedication in the temples of Jerusalem and now celebrates our dedication to the Hillel project.”

As of yet, there’s no schedule for when construction will begin on the 6,479-square-foot, three-building center on the triangular parcel of land at the corner of Torrey Pines Road at La Jolla Village Drive.

However, Singer said: “The space there is a blighted eyesore of a property, right at the entry to La Jolla. We are building a beautifully designed center, adding a park-like space to facilitate pedestrian access, and beautify that area greatly. This is not just good for the students we serve, but for all of La Jolla. This project takes our community to new heights in terms of inclusivity.”

Previous battles

Hillel of San Diego purchased the land in 2000 and, in 2006, received permission from the City Council to build a 12,500-square-foot complex. However, a lawsuit asking for a redesign put the brakes on the project, and it was subsequently redesigned and reduced in size.

At community advisory group meetings, the project was overwhelmingly rejected. In March 2013, the La Jolla Permit Review Committee (PRC) and La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) voted against the project, largely because the EIR was based on a limit of 50 people, and the Center could house much more.

In February 2014, the LJCPA reaffirmed its position.

The EIR was vetted for years before the project went before City approval bodies. It was unanimously approved by the San Diego Planning Commission in April 2017, and then by the City Council in October 2017. The Council’s approval included provisions that prohibit future expansion of the Hillel facility, and the forming of an advisory committee to address noise, traffic and parking issues.

— To learn more about the UCSD Hillel Center, visit glickmancenter.org

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