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UCSD withdraws expansion project presentation scheduled for La Jolla community planning meeting

A rendering depicts UC San Diego's planned Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood.
(File)

UC San Diego has pulled a presentation and Q&A scheduled for the Sept. 3 La Jolla Community Planning Association meeting to discuss its planned Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood, and community leaders aren’t happy.

“What is it they don’t want the community to know?” said Janie Emerson, president of the La Jolla Shores Association, which has long opposed the project over concerns about lack of community input and the development’s size and potential traffic impacts.

UC San Diego’s Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood project appears to be progressing as scheduled, despite continued opposition from the La Jolla Shores Association.

The Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood, a proposed UCSD expansion as part of the university’s 2018 long-range development plan, or LRDP, was formerly called the Future College Living and Learning Neighborhood. It is planned for La Jolla Village Drive at North Torrey Pines Road and calls for five buildings ranging from nine to 21 stories tall. TDLLN is designed to house 2,000 students with space for a conference center, hotel rooms, classrooms and retail and includes a 1,200-space parking garage underneath.

After UCSD held an open house in January to explain the project, there were several meetings among LJSA, other La Jolla community group leaders and UCSD representatives during which UCSD was asked to hold a public forum to garner community input, Emerson said.

“We talked about the fact that La Jolla needs to know about this,” Emerson said. “Having these little groups on campus [like the UCSD open house] doesn’t get the word out to the public. There are plenty of meetings down in La Jolla where you can come and present this to the community.”

In March, UCSD agreed to a public forum set for April 2 with LJSA, the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board, the La Jolla Town Council and LJCPA, according to Emerson. The coronavirus pandemic scrapped the event, however, and another forum was never set.

In the months since, Emerson said, LJSA has asked UCSD repeatedly to pause its timeline for the development “so the public could get together. [UCSD] absolutely refused,” she said.

Leslie Sepuka, UCSD associate director of communications, said in an email to the La Jolla Light that the university welcomes community feedback.

“As the result of our continual outreach to the community, several design features incorporated into the Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood are a direct result of community input,” Sepuka wrote, citing open spaces, extra parking and other elements.

LJCPA President Diane Kane said UCSD approached her a few times during the spring and summer to present to the Community Planning Association, but the group’s agenda was heavy with other time-sensitive issues.

Eventually, Kane said, “we tried to set up a 15-minute presentation, [after which UCSD] would take questions from interested parties.”

“We were looking to find out what are the community issues,” Kane said. “What we were asked to do [by UCSD] was craft a letter on the project to the [University of California] regents on behalf of the CPA. To be able to do that, it has to be an agendized item under the Brown Act, open for public discussion.”

UCSD plans to present the TDLLN project to the Board of Regents during its meeting Sept. 15-17 for approval to begin construction.

LJCPA invited the university to present at the planning group’s Sept. 3 meeting. Emerson said in an email chain among her, UCSD community liaison Anu Delouri and CPA leadership that UCSD agreed to a presentation and Q&A format. CPA trustees would then deliberate before sending a formal communication to the regents with their feedback on TDLLN.

Delouri withdrew the planned presentation Aug. 21.

“I’m disappointed,” Kane said. “We tried to come up with … a neutral space where the entire community could participate and get a conversation going with the university. It just didn’t seem possible.”

Kane said that during a conversation with Delouri on Aug. 27, the UCSD representative said she will present a brief update at the Sept. 3 meeting, including changes “based on community comments to date.”

But since the update will not include public comments or discussion, Kane said LJCPA is “not going to respond formally as an organization. … We can’t do what we are intending to do.”

Sepuka said “the university does not have any new project design updates to share with the community on the project.”

“As previously shared,” she said, “the next update will be when the addendum (consistency analysis) to the 2018 LRDP environmental impact report (EIR) is posted on the PlanDesignBuild website, plandesignbuild.ucsd.edu, in September.”

Sepuka encouraged those interested in receiving updates to email commplan@ucsd.edu. ◆