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Chabad meets opposition at Shores Association

A proposal to build a new Jewish synagogue and rabbi’s residence on an intersection off the Throat was met with near-unanimous resistance at its first major presentation to the community.

A special meeting of the La Jolla Shores Association was held Feb. 7 to consider the proposed Friends of Chabad project at 2466 Hidden Valley Road. The project would demolish an existing one-story home and create a 11,666 square-foot structure on top of a 10,000 square-foot underground parking garage at the corner of Hidden Valley and Ardath Road.

The vast majority of local residents at the meeting felt that the project is out of character for the single-family neighborhood where it is planned. A room vote at the end of the meeting found 144 in opposition to the project with only four in favor, before the Shores Association voted 7-1 to also oppose the project. The meeting was only the beginning of the project’s journey through local government, and the Shores Association vote will eventually serve to advise the La Jolla Community Planning Association and city planners, who will make the final call on the project.

Former city planner Ron Buckley made a presentation on behalf of Friends of Chabad, a small local synagogue that currently conducts its services in rented rooms in La Jolla hotels. He said the project would create a 2,800 square-foot rabbi’s residence and a 96-seat synagogue and 16-student preschool meant solely for use by La Jollans.

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“It’s what you’d call a boutique synagogue,” Buckley said. “It’s not meant to draw people from all over.”

Local architect Ed Laser designed the facility and said the varied massing of the building structure and the terraced landscaping plan would blend the facility into its surroundings.

But many meeting attendees worried that the facility would be out of character in the neighborhood and would draw traffic to an already over-congested area. Rick Adams, who took part in an organized presentation opposing the facility, said the proposed project has an institutional look that is incompatible with the residential neighborhood.

Adams said the average lot in the neighborhood is 22,000 square feet with a 3,600 square-foot residence, or about 16 percent of the total lot size. The total square footage of the Chabad project would be over 21,000 square feet on a 24,000 square-foot lot.

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“Most of the houses in the neighborhood are single story, and they’re set back from the road,” Adams said. “It looks a little bit too institutional and it’s out of scale.”

Buckley said there are two other two-story homes adjacent to the proposed facility and that the project complied with all height and floor area ratio requirements on the site.

Daira Paulson, also part of the presentation opposing the project, worried about the traffic impacts the facility would have.

“All the roads in and out of the Throat are already too congested,” Paulson said.

Buckley said the traffic impact of the Friends of Chabad project would be negligible compared to the 9,000 trips that cars already make every day at the intersection, and that all the parking for the facility would be on-site. He said the absolute maximum number of people at the synagogue at any given time would be 96 - the capacity of the synagogue.

Adams expressed concern that a social room attached to the synagogue and of roughly equal size to it could be opened up to join the synagogue, possibly allowing for more than 96 people to take part in services. Buckley said it wouldn’t happen.

Some public speakers also worried that Chabad had plans to expand onto the two lots adjacent to the proposed project, which are vacant and owned by the city. Buckley said Chabad had no such plans and that Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ezagui had agreed to a deed restriction that would prevent him from expanding onto the adjacent property.

“He indicated that he would go along with that,” Buckley said. “And the city isn’t interested in selling that property anyway. They need it to stage water and sewer projects in La Jolla.”

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The Friends of Chabad project has not yet been submitted to the city for review. Anyone who would like to be placed on a contact list for updates on the project’s status should send an e-mail to the city’s Development Project Manager, Edith Gutierrez, at egutierrez@sandiego.gov.