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UCSD’s Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood scheduled to break ground Jan. 4

A map shows areas to be affected during construction of the UC San Diego Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood.
(UC San Diego)

Despite an ongoing lawsuit against the project, UC San Diego plans to begin construction on its Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood on Monday, Jan. 4, according to a notice dated Dec. 22 from the office of Eric Smith, associate vice chancellor of capital program management.

The development is planned to open in fall 2023 near La Jolla Village Drive and North Torrey Pines Road. It includes 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.

“Design features include pedestrian and bicycle improvements, a significant amount of open space and outdoor gathering areas,” the notice states.

It also notes that parking availability, street traffic and pedestrian access will be affected during construction.

“Sections of Scholars Drive South and Revelle College Drive will experience reduced lane widths but will maintain two-way traffic during construction,” according to the notice. “Intermittent lane realignments and slow zones will … continue through the spring of 2021. Ridge Walk will be reduced in width during construction. Pedestrian and micromobility travel is encouraged along the alternate pathway on the east side of Galbraith Hall.”

In addition, campus parking Lots P103 and P102 will be closed starting Jan. 4. “The new Scholars parking structure at North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood will open over winter break, fully replacing the spaces that will temporarily be offline until the Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood parking structure is complete,” the notice states. “Additional parking is also available at the Osler parking structure located at the intersection of Gilman Drive and Osler Lane.”

The UC Board of Regents Finance and Capital Strategies Committee approved the project’s design and environmental impact mitigation in September and approved its budget, scope and external financing in November.

But in the midst of it all, La Jolla planning groups asked that construction be put on hold until the public could review the project in more depth and weigh in.

UC San Diego's planned Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood (area shown in color).
UC San Diego’s Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood (area shown in color) is planned for the southwest corner of the campus, along Torrey Pines Road.
(File)

A lawsuit filed by the La Jolla Shores Association and the homeowners association of the nearby Blackhorse Farms gated community contends that the plans violate the California Environmental Quality Act.

At the time the construction notice was issued, the parties were having “meaningful discussions” intended to find middle ground and settle the case out of court, according to LJSA President Janie Emerson.

She said she was “appalled” that UCSD is moving forward with construction.

“Both parties are supposed to cease any activities relating to the issue and have meaningful conversation,” she said. “We had a good conversation at first; I have no reason to believe the university feels otherwise. But now it’s like the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”

UCSD associate communications director Leslie Sepuka told the La Jolla Light that “we are not able to comment on litigation.” She provided the following online resources for more information: adminrecords.ucsd.edu/Notices/2020/Index.html and plandesignbuild.ucsd.edu/projects/current.html.

Emerson said the timing of the construction announcement was “interesting,” coming during the holiday season.

She recalled that in 2017, UCSD released a draft environmental impact report for the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood in early November, putting the 45-day public comment period in the thick of the holiday period.

“There is a pattern here,” she said. “Why don’t they want to talk to the community? They are part of the community. The community existed before they got here. [UCSD] brings wonderful things, but the university is also a burden on infrastructure, climate, etc. ... It affects everything around them.” ◆