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Hidden Valley group fights Chabad

Neighbors say plan will cause traffic nightmares

A grassroots group opposing Chabad’s plans to use a single-family home in La Jolla Shores for religious purposes has racheted up its efforts by formally incorporating and creating a new Web site.

Friends of Hidden Valley’s site at www.friendsofhiddenvalley.org notes its commitment to “preserving the peaceful, uncongested nature of La Jolla’s residential neighborhoods.”

The group’s Web site lists size and scale, worsening traffic congestion and “setting a dangerous precedent,” as reasons for opposing Chabad’s project at 2466 Hidden Valley Road.

The proposal calls for a new Jewish synagogue and a one-story, 11,666-square-foot residence with underground parking near the busy “throat intersection,” where Hidden Valley Road comes into La Jolla Parkway and Torrey Pines Road.

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Call for conversation

Reacting to growing opposition, Rabbi Baruch Ezagui, leader of the Orthodox Jewish Chabad La Jolla, is appealing to the community for an “intellectual, rational dialogue” on the project.

“This Web site is completely slanted and out of context giving people a completely wrong impression,” he said.

The Friends’ Web site shows a massive building, which, said Ezagui, is simply not the case.

“More than 50 percent of this property is a small, residential home that’s only about 6,000 square feet,” he said. “At maximum, 96 people could use this facility.”

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Ezagui said Chabad chose the Hidden Valley site because “we thought it would have less impact there instead of putting it into the heart of a residential area.”

But opponents of the project, like Elizabeth Hansen who started the Friends’ Web site, view the situation differently.

Too much traffic

“The city spent millions of dollars reconfiguring that road because it was such a dangerous, traffic nightmare. This complex would undo all the good that was done by reconfiguring the ‘throat.’ ”

Jim Heaton chairs the La Jolla Shores Association, a community planning group that overwhelming opposed the proposed Chabad project in February 2007. He said there is only one reason why people feel as strongly as they do about the project.

“It has nothing to do with anything other than putting a multiple-use facility at that location due to traffic,” he said.

Project neighbor Todd Lesser, who is Jewish, said the opposition “isn’t a religious issue,” he said. “They picked the worst possible location, Hidden Valley Road, to possibly put in a Chabad. The amount of traffic there is currently triple or even quadruple what was designed.”

Ezagui said Chabad has been forced to use smaller hotels, public libraries, even private homes to observe special events like religious holidays.

“We want to put everything under one roof,” he said. “It took us four years to find this location.”

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Ezagui said it is not Chabad’s intention to disrupt the neighborhood. He added they’re receptive to community input and are willing to negotiate.

“If anybody has an alternative for this project, we’re willing to hear ideas,” he said. “If somebody could tell me there’s another area of La Jolla where you’re not going to be opposed, we’d be more than happy to look at it. But to just come and tell us, ‘It can’t happen.’ That’s unfair to a large portion of the community that wants it.”