Opinion: Zoning rules should mean what they say

By John A. Berol

La Jolla resident

Thank you for the front page, Nov. 4 article “Altered Hillel project still draws objections.” One of those objections is that by altering plans from Park to Student Center for UCSD students, the city of San Diego injures neighboring single-family homeowners who rely upon residential zoning to mean what it says.

Under the applicable La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance, houses of worship are permitted in the residential zone by the text which permits “Churches, temples or buildings of a permanent nature, used primarily for religious purposes.” The reasonable meaning of this language is that houses of worship of any religion may be built in the residential zone. The language is expansive to assure that no religion will be excluded from its equal right to construct its houses of worship.

It is not reasonable to interpret that expansive language so as to permit a project which is not a house of worship, but is instead a student center for students affiliated with a university. That the student center is also affiliated with a religion does not mean that its student center buildings are houses of worship.

The UCSD Hillel website

lists the “Congregations in the UCSD area.” Those locations have the attributes of houses of worship as contemplated by the zoning, including that they are open to all people who wish to worship, without regard to university affiliation.

In contrast, the proposed Student Center would specifically be for university student use and, according to its architect quoted by the La Jolla Light, would no longer have the “assembly room gathering space for religious purposes” as appeared in previous plans.