La Jolla Shores Association pushes back against expanding UCSD

This artist's rendering shows UCSD's Future College Living & Learning Neighborhood. Proposed for La Jolla Village Drive by North Torrey Pines Road, the La Jolla Shores Association has raised serious concerns about the project.

The La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) played David to UC San Diego’s Goliath at a contentious Feb. 12 meeting at the Martin Johnson House.

By unanimous vote, the board delegated to its executive officers “all means necessary to take appropriate measures to deal with the expansion at UCSD called the Future College Living & Learning Neighborhood.”

With buildings ranging from nine to 21 floors, this complex — proposed along Torrey Pines Road near La Jolla Village Drive — is intended to house an estimated 2,000 undergraduate students, contain classrooms and space for retail and conferences, and offer 1,200 underground parking spaces. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall — when construction on the similar North Torrey Pines Living & Learning Neighborhood is scheduled to finish — and take three years. The university hopes to have its permits in place by July.

“My concern is that the university feels they’ve reached out and done everything they can to communicate to the community,” LJSA chair Janie Emerson said, “and the community feels — me included — that we’re used to having items brought to us in detail to take a look at and to interact with.”

Emerson said the bulk and scale of Future College “has come as a huge shock to everybody in the community I have talked to — including people who are involved with UCSD.”

Emerson went as far as threatening UCSD with a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit to try and change or halt the mixed-use living and learning community, which is proposed for what is currently a 10.9-acre parking lot for 850 vehicles.

“When you’re looking at traffic and congestion, in order to decide its true impact on an area, you need to have square footage and use,” Emerson said. “Right now, all we have is 2,000 students and the number and the height of the buildings.”

Emerson called a CEQA lawsuit “a very viable” option, identifying herself as “very involved” in a similar lawsuit against the One Paseo Project in Carmel Valley, which resulted in a redesign at half its original size.

“The CEQA provisions were set up specifically so that community groups can push back against development they feel is overbearing and too much for their community,” Emerson said. “It would be nice to just say, ‘Great, let’s sit around a table,’ and I hope that’s what happens. But in the meantime, we need to take a stand for the community and move forward.”

Furious residents

Comments from the public were fierce and fearful. A woman identifying herself as Maria from Inverness Drive asked: “When is this expansion going to end? I’ve heard rumblings of eminent domain. Am I going to get up in the morning and get slapped with an order? When is it going to end?”

Only La Jolla Shores resident Dave Gordon, a former LJSA board member, defended UCSD.

“They are communicating with us,” he said, noting university representatives have presented the project to the La Jolla Community Planning Association and to LJSA. “Please don’t say we were never told. They’ve been trying to work with the community.”

Emerson shot back: “At no point in time was it mentioned that there would be a 21-story tower.”

The tower, which will be topped by a conference center, was a particular sore spot for the board.

“A number of us are guessing that the majority of that building is hotel rooms for the conference center, but we don’t know,” Emerson said. “It has not been reported to us. A market plaza that has retail and restaurants generates a lot of traffic and trips, and those are the types of things that are really problematic for us.”

UCSD responds

Longtime UCSD community liaison Anu Delouri stated her employer’s side. Future College is necessary as part of its UC Regents mandate to increase the university’s population from 39,000 currently enrolled students to 42,400 in the next three years, she said, adding that although undergraduate applications increased 100 percent since 2012, enrollment has only grown by 26 percent in the same time.

Longtime UCSD community liaison Anu Delouri (standing) represents UC San Diego's plans to the La Jolla Shores Association board.

“We have an obligation to the State of California and, as stewards of the land, we have a duty to maximize our resources in a sensitive manner,” Delouri said.

Delouri also said that most of the details of the expansion were spelled out by the university’s Long-range Development Plan unveiled in 2018, which was accompanied by an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and traffic studies.

In addition, Delouri reminded the group, UCSD director of campus planning Robert Clossin spoke at LJSA’s June 12, 2019 meeting. (According to the Light’s report on that meeting, he mentioned that the then-unnamed college “will be on the south end of college and house 2,000 beds, and would be located near the Theater District.” He also said that the complex was “very conceptual at this time.”)

UCSD also held an open house on Jan. 22, Delouri noted, for members of the community to express their concerns and have their questions answered. She said that 400 invitations were mailed and 150 people attended.

“There were a few people who were concerned about ingress and egress and safety,” she said, “but most of the people we interacted with were interested in learning more about the project.” (Emerson disagreed with Delouri’s assessment of the open house, calling it an expression of “community outrage” that was interrupted several times. She also noted that she didn’t receive an invitation.)

As for communication, Delouri had her own complaint to lodge. She referenced a letter, published in the Feb. 6 Light, in which Emerson wrote: “In the beginning, UCSD stated it wanted to be a part of the community to fit in and to enhance La Jolla. Now its goal seems to be how dense can this area become for UCSD’s benefit.” The letter included Clossin’s e-mail address, which it encouraged concerned citizens to use.

Delouri shared a part of one of 15 e-mails she said Clossin received because of the letter: “Shame on you! If you had children … they must be ashamed to have you as their father. I certainly would be.”

“Are letters such as these reflective of your community?” Delouri asked Emerson. “I’ve been coming to these meetings since 2003. I believe I engaged with you in a civil, cordial fashion. The university does the same. For us, it’s kind of heart-wrenching to call out the director, you’ve called out the chancellor in a very derogatory fashion. It’s become personal.”

Looking beyond Future

Emerson also mentioned rumors of plans for four more UCSD buildings on the soccer field adjacent to the J. Craig Ventner Institute.

“Nobody that I know has seen any of these,” she said. “All of those impact the same traffic area that we’re talking about.”

Delouri replied that there would be two buildings “and we don’t have any future plans at the current time — none that our office is aware of.”

In other Shores meeting news ...

Who pays for Kellogg Park bollards? Updating the board on Kellogg Park construction work, City Parks & Recreation manager Dan Danieri quoted the cost for 64 cement bollards, previously approved by LJSA to prevent cars from driving through the turf after the parking lot closes, at approximately $22,000. The cost of boulders to prevent driving through the planter bed would be $8,000, he said, and redoing irrigation would cost $4,000.

However, Danieri also noted “it’s really likely” that this project would require permits from Development Services, which can cost up to $30,000 and take six months to be approved. This sparked a disagreement about who would pay.

“I was told that the community was going to be funding it all,” Danieri said. “I don’t really think that Park & Rec has funding for the next several years to do this.”

Emerson replied: “It was our understanding that it would be a collaborative effort.”

Danieri responded: “Our understating was that the collaborative effort was that we put this together for you.”

Undergrounding hours changed: LJSA unanimously voted to recommend SDG&E change its undergrounding shift from its current schedule of 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Insurance dropped: LJSA unanimously approved dropping its liability insurance policy for a roundabout at Senn Way and Via Carpi due to lack of funds.

Candidates declare: With elections in March, six candidates declared their candidacy for the LJSA Board: Charlie Brown, Mary Coakley-Munk, Joe Dicks, John Shannon, Dede Donovan and Harper Keys Allan.

— La Jolla Shores Association next meets 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11 at the Martin Johnson House, 8840 Biological Grade.