La Jolla Shores Association pushes forward in legal case against UCSD development plan

A rendering depicts UCSD's Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood.
A rendering depicts UCSD’s Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood, which is the subject of a lawsuit filed by two La Jolla community groups.

The La Jolla Shores Association has authorized its executive committee to make further decisions regarding a recently filed lawsuit against UC San Diego and the University of California challenging UCSD’s planned Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood.

The lawsuit was filed last month in San Diego County Superior Court by Escondido firm DeLano and DeLano on behalf of LJSA and the homeowners association of Blackhorse Farms, a gated residential community on the western edge of UCSD near the proposed site of TDLLN.

After months of opposing the project, the La Jolla Shores Association has joined with a local homeowners group and filed a lawsuit to fight UC San Diego’s planned Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood.

The project, planned for La Jolla Village Drive at North Torrey Pines Road, calls for five buildings ranging from nine to 21 stories tall and is designed to house 2,000 students. It also includes a conference center, hotel rooms, classrooms, retail and a 1,200-space parking garage underneath.

The basis for the lawsuit is the plaintiffs’ contention that the plans violate the California Environmental Quality Act. The groups also have long opposed the project’s scope and a perceived lack of community input.

The suit followed the September meeting of the UC Board of Regents, after which the project’s design and environmental impact report, including an addendum, were recorded with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research as approved by the Board of Regents on Sept. 17, though the recorded approval did not appear to match the wording of action taken at the regents meeting, surprising and confusing many in the La Jolla community.

The UC Board of Regents’ record of its Sept. 17 Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting states the group voted to give design and environmental approval to UC San Diego’s planned $645 million Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood, though it delayed approval of the project’s budget pending financial clarifications.

The regents approved $5 million for project-related expenses until UCSD returned with clearer financial numbers for full project approval, possibly at the board’s November meeting.

At the La Jolla Shores Association’s meeting Nov. 11, President Janie Emerson said the next step in the lawsuit is a mandated settlement conference “to see if [the parties] can settle [their] issues prior to going to a full court case.”

She said UCSD proposed a date that doesn’t work for either LJSA or the Blackhorse Farms HOA and that a new date will be determined.

She asked the LJSA board for a motion to ratify the Oct. 10 actions of the executive officers to join with Blackhorse Farms under one attorney to file the CEQA lawsuit.

Emerson also asked the board for a motion to “delegate the decision-making authority to the executive officers if something comes up” to avoid calling a full board meeting, as the board does not meet again until Jan. 13. “Things are moving quickly,” she said.

The scope of the executive officers’ authority, Emerson told the board, is all-encompassing with respect to the lawsuit. “Any decisions that need to be made relative to this action between now and our January meeting would be made by the five executive officers,” she said.

Both motions were approved, with board members Mary Coakley Munk and Andi Andreae abstaining. Coakley Munk, whose late husband, Walter Munk, worked at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, always abstains on issues related to the university, she said. Andreae, a visiting professor at SIO, told the La Jolla Light that he abstained because of “a conflict of interest,” though he did not elaborate.

The board adjourned to closed session, during which members “discussed details of the action” regarding UCSD, Emerson told the Light. No action was taken.

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During the regents’ meeting Nov. 18-19, to be held virtually and livestreamed, the CEQA lawsuit is set to be discussed in a closed session of the Finance & Capital Strategies Committee.

The agenda for the committee’s open session Nov. 18 includes an action item to “1) adopt the California Environmental Quality Act findings [supporting the project]; 2) approve the project budget of $565 million (reduced from $645 million in the September regents item), to be funded from external financing ($564 million) and housing auxiliary reserves ($1 million); 3) approve the project scope and 4) approve $564 million in external financing,” according to the document detailing the action item. ◆