Possible lifting of deed restrictions on UCSD land to be heard by San Diego council committee Feb. 18

A map of the approximately 510 acres for which UC San Diego would like certain city deed restrictions lifted.

The issue of deed restrictions on land given to UC San Diego by the city at the university’s creation will again be heard by the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee on Thursday, Feb. 18.

Removing the deed restrictions would mean the university could develop the land without adhering to conditions placed on it during the original donation.

The deed restrictions came from the city’s donation of 510 acres to the University of California between 1960 and 1969 to develop its San Diego campus in La Jolla, with the condition that it would be for “the university’s purpose” or the land would revert to the city.

UCSD lobbied the city in September to remove the deed restrictions “in order to develop campus projects through public-private partnerships on land east of I-5.”

The university plans to add new facilities over the next eight years that are limited by the deed restrictions.

The projects, outlined in the university’s 2018 Long Range Development Plan, are extended-stay lodging and a conference center for UC San Diego Health patients, visiting university faculty and academic symposiums; intergenerational housing and a wellness center for retired university faculty; a technology and life-science research space; a wellness center for UC patients and the community; and translational research clinical space.

The issue with the deed restrictions is that they limit funding options for public-private development opportunities, said UCSD associate communications director Leslie Sepuka.

“Lifting the deed restrictions makes it possible for our public-private developer partners to secure title policies and financing,” Sepuka said.

“While these projects are not classrooms, they are advancing the mission of the university and the health system,” Jeff Graham, UCSD executive director of real estate, said in September. “It is estimated that these projects will generate $80 million in revenue for the city of San Diego, as well as more than 11,000 new direct and indirect jobs over 20 years.”

The Land Use and Housing Committee first heard the university’s arguments in September, deciding then to forward the issue to the full City Council.

It now returns to the committee — which has new members after five new council members were sworn in Dec. 10 — “in order to approve documentation regarding deed removal,” according to committee consultant Juan Carlos Leyva.

UCSD “owns the land and has the legal authority to develop it today,” Sepuka said. “The university would not need the city to lift the deed restrictions if the university self-financed these projects, but UC San Diego plans to develop the proposed projects through ... partnerships with private developers with the expertise and financial capacity to implement and operate them.”

Sepuka said UCSD has used public-private partnerships previously on parts of the campus and that the funding strategy is “commonly used by other UC campuses as well as universities across the country.”

Some community members are concerned about whether the university would use the opportunity for financial gain.

La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson told the La Jolla Light that “before the city makes any arrangement at all, which I don’t think they should do, the property should be independently valued to see what the entire 510 acres is worth in today’s dollars.”

LJSA wrote a letter to the committee in October to formally oppose lifting the deed restrictions.

“The university’s contention is that any land owned by them they can do anything they want on it,” Emerson said at the association’s Jan. 13 meeting. “That will include anybody who has left their property to the university. The property devolves to the university and they can do anything they want with it without any restrictions whatsoever.”

Emerson told the Light that the university’s capability to build without restriction has “a huge amount to do with the quality of life in our specific area. We all need to weigh in on this as citizens of the city of San Diego relative to the fact that perhaps there should be major compensation for this. It should be for the benefit of every citizen of the city of San Diego.”

Emerson said she hopes for “a fresh new look at everything and that the Land Use and Housing [Committee] ... really investigate all aspects of this before any decision is made.”

A representative of City Councilman Joe LaCava, a Land Use and Housing Committee member whose district includes La Jolla, said “our office cannot comment on the item.”

Instructions on how to watch the committee meeting, which begins at noon, are in the agenda at

— La Jolla Light staff writer Ashley Mackin-Solomon contributed to this report.