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A return of the UCSD Community Advisory Group? La Jolla planners consider it for more input on projects

A before-and-after rendering of UC San Diego's planned La Jolla Innovation Center, as seen from La Jolla Village Drive.
(Courtesy)

Could the dormant UC San Diego Community Advisory Group be on the brink of revival?

With some recent UCSD projects getting negative feedback from local planning groups, the La Jolla Community Planning Association is looking at whether the advisory group should resume meeting.

The group formed in 2016 to “collaborate on the understanding of perspectives to meet common objectives,” according to UCSD, especially as it pertains to the 2018 Long Range Development Plan for the campus. The group used to meet monthly to discuss campus projects, with representation from La Jolla’s and University City’s planning groups and UCSD. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, the group hasn’t met in the past year.

The idea of reviving the Community Advisory Group arose during LJCPA’s discussion of the planned La Jolla Innovation Center and the board lamenting that its feedback was not being considered.

The Innovation Center is a proposed seven-story building at the intersection of Villa La Jolla Drive and La Jolla Village Drive at the former site of Rock Bottom Brewery. It would include five levels of UCSD Health Sciences and Extension uses, two levels of above-grade parking and two levels of subterranean parking. It is planned to have about 110,000 square feet of office and educational space, a ground-floor cafe accessible to the public and approximately 275 parking spaces.

UCSD senior community planner Alyssa Helper said the final environmental impact report was completed in April and is available on the project website at bit.ly/3txCRH3, though the public review period has closed.

She said the plans are expected to be heard at the May 11-13 University of California regents meeting. If approved, construction would begin in the middle of this year, with completion in 2023.

LJCPA voiced opposition to the design at its March meeting but learned this month that no aesthetic changes were being considered.

“The architecture … is horrible,” LJCPA trustee Glen Rasmussen said at the most recent meeting May 6. “It’s a cube and not representative of the quality of architecture UCSD ought to be putting forward, especially at a main entrance into La Jolla. This is going to be a permanent thing and it’s not good.”

Given the impending vote by the UC regents, LJCPA voted to add the item to its agenda so action could be taken “to show the strength of the CPA’s feelings on this,” trustee Kathleen Neil said. The board also voted to send a letter to the regents voicing concerns about the project regarding design, height, location, traffic and other considerations.

But for some, writing a letter was not enough.

“I would like to hear something more positive from the university as to how we can receive more notice of these things,” trustee Larry Davidson said. “It seems like we hear about it and have three weeks to review [any documents]. And have some assurance that when we do make comments, they are relayed in a fashion that expresses our concern. Saying you had a meeting with the CPA last week and they don’t like [a project] isn’t enough. It needs to be a real discussion. We want our concerns to be heard.”

That triggered the question about the Community Advisory Group.

LJCPA President Diane Kane, a member of the advisory group, confirmed that it still exists but hasn’t met.

“This would be a very good topic to discuss with us and the University City Planning Group and the university,” she said.

In addition to the La Jolla Innovation Center, another issue Kane said would benefit from Community Advisory Group review is the university’s plans for the La Jolla home of late oceanographer Walter Munk.

Before his death in 2019, Munk decided to donate the home to UCSD. His third wife and widow, Mary Coakley Munk, lived there until February this year as part of a two-year tenancy that began after his death.

The university’s plans for the property are unclear.

Coakley Munk previously told the La Jolla Light that there was concern “that the university would either sell it … or that they would change it significantly.”

On April 30, the house was recommended for the National Register of Historic Places, against the university’s wishes. The National Register will have until mid-June to consider the nomination. ◆