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La Jolla Shores group moves ahead with action against UCSD project

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.
(Courtesy)

In the next chapter of the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) fight against UC San Diego’s plans for the Future College Living & Learning Neighborhood (FCLLN), the community group has started a petition and retained legal counsel in an effort to delay the university’s construction timelines.

Following up on a LJSA vote at its Feb. 12 meeting to take action by all means necessary, LJSA president Janie Emerson told the Light the association has retained law firm Chatten-Brown, Carstens and Minteer after repeated requests to UCSD for information that went unanswered.

FCLLN is a proposed several-building expansion of the campus, intended to house 2,000 students in five different buildings that range from nine to 21 stories tall. The buildings also include a conference center, a handful of hotel rooms, classroom space, a market and a restaurant. FCLLN will also feature 1,200 parking spaces underground.

Leslie Sepuka, associate director of communications at UCSD, indicated in an e-mail to the Light that FCLLN is part of UCSD’s 2018 Long-Range Development Plan, created in response to “state mandates to increase enrollment. This unprecedented growth places a responsibility on the campus to provide appropriate infrastructure and facilities.”

Furthermore, Sepuka claimed: “The two 16- and 21-story buildings are located at the interior of the site, to the east, and are necessary to accommodate student housing while increasing the amount of shared open areas.”

In March, UCSD agreed to a public forum with LJSA, the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation board, the La Jolla Town Council, and the La Jolla Community Planning Association, set for April 2, 2020. The meeting was canceled due to the shelter-in-place mandates, with no new meeting date scheduled at Light press time.

“In the interim, I have sent letters to UCSD representing The Shores and other community groups. We canceled the meeting and will reevaluate in mid-April if a May meeting is possible,” Emerson stated.

When asked if Zoom or other online platform would be a viable meeting host option, Emerson responded: “I don’t know if a video meeting would allow for healthy exchange of feedback between so many interested participants.”

With UCSD’s goals for FCLLN approval by UC Regents in July and set to break ground in September, LJSA’s concern is there won’t be enough time for the community to have full understanding — and thus input — on the project.

“We have repeatedly asked for them to back those dates out, to give us time to work together to get something that will work both for the community and the university. They have refused,” Emerson said. “We asked in good faith to delay due to the coronavirus crisis, with no response.

“The only thing we’ve received is an update within a UCSD newsletter that states all construction projects are going forward. That said to us they’re not willing to take the summer deadline off the table. The fact that they weren’t listening to us, the fact that we can’t meet in a big group and get the news out to the public, and the fact that they won’t take the deadlines off the table, led us to feel we had no choice but to hire a law firm.”

Sepuka confirmed construction is anticipated to begin in fall 2020: “in recognition of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 19 Executive Order,” and that UCSD has reached out several times to community groups to offer information about the project.

“As the result of our continual community outreach,” Sepuka insisted, “several design features incorporated into the FCLLN are a direct result of community input.” She mentioned the addition of extra parking spaces, orienting buildings along the public edge to reduce scale and mass, and incorporating pedestrian paths and other connections from the underground parking directly to La Jolla Playhouse.

“UCSD has not communicated to the community details of the project in a way that anybody understood the scope of it,” Emerson maintained. “You only have communication when I say something and the other person gets it and responds,” she added, reiterating earlier objections that UCSD has not released square footage details or other specifics that would lead to a better picture of the coming traffic and safety impacts.

Sepuka’s e-mail indicated: “All five of the buildings in Future College Living & Learning Neighborhood feature student housing, which represents 88 percent of the project’s square footage (approximately 900,000 square feet).”

Emerson went on to further detail LJSA concerns: “There are no 21-story buildings in La Jolla, none. And 1,200 parking spaces cannot service this number of buildings. Plus, this is the main artery from La Jolla to the hospitals — already a congested traffic area. We want more input, we want to meet with UCSD and see how we could work with them and make this project work for both the community and for the university.”

After raising the deposit fee, LJSA signed a legal counsel retainer April 2.

And it’s not the only group to oppose the FCLLN. Emerson said the nearby gated condo complex Blackhorse’s Home Owners Association (HOA) has also sought legal counsel, retaining the firm Delano & Delano to oppose or delay UCSD’s project. The Light reached out to Blackhorse HOA for comment, but did not received a reply by press time.

Emerson said LJSA has agreed to work “in tandem with the Blackhorse HOA attorney to save money for both groups; since we’re both doing the same thing.”

In addition to retaining legal counsel, LJSA released on April 9 a petition, via its e-mail contact list, to garner support “and show UCSD that more people care about this project,” Emerson said. “UCSD is not being a good citizen, it is not helping the local economy at all.”

— To read more about UCSD’s Long-Range Development Plan (including the FCLLN), visit bit.ly/ucsdldrp and for details about LJSA, go to lajollashoresassociation.org