Permit review committee turns thumbs down on proposed student center

By Dave Schwab

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review (LJSPR) committee said no on March 27 to a requested street vacation necessary for a downsized Hillel Jewish Student Center project proposed on a triangular plot across from the UCSD campus in a single-family neighborhood.

LJSPR voted 5 in favor, 1 opposed, with 2 abstensions, on a motion that findings could not be made to support the street vacation. Michael Morton cast the sole dissenting vote favoring the vacation.

The student center, originally proposed in 2000 at 12,000 square feet, has since been downscaled to 6,600 square feet by Hillel, the developer and property owner. Hillel is now running the revamped project back through the community-review process. Hillel presently rents space on campus.

“We’re here today to discuss a technicality, this is really a paper street,” said Joshua Richman representing Hillel, of the 0.76-acre lot known as Site 653 on a cul-de-sac on the south side of La Jolla Village Drive between Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Scenic Way. “This (street) vacation was already approved once previously by the city council.”

Richman defended Hillel’s street vacation request, arguing it complied with all the necessary conditions including not violating a public right-of-way while constituting a public benefit, as well as not adversely impacting the community’s land-use plan.

Four parking places on the cul-de-sac would be replaced with sidewalks and a public park, which would be maintained by Hillel, said Richman.

Richman’s arguments for the street vacation were countered by Julie Hamilton, an attorney representing a citizens group, Taxpayers For Responsible Land Use.

“This cul-de-sac is currently being used by vehicles and for parking,” she said, noting that does violate a public right-of-way, adding the alleged public benefit (a park) comes at a great cost — loss of on-street parking.

Hamilton argued the street vacation also violates the community plan, which she said intended this triangular parcel to serve as an open-space buffer between the university and the residential neighborhood.

Committee member Morton disagreed. “A community park that’s going to be dedicated to public use is a higher value for public land than on-street parking based upon what is written in our community plan,” he said.

Committee member Delores Donovan agreed a public park would be highly desirable, but “not at the cost of a student facility in a single-family residential neighborhood.”

Several neighbors at the LJSPR meeting spoke out on the student center, some in favor, others opposed. “I think it will only improve the neighborhood,” said Suzan Shmalo.

The committee’s advisory vote will now be forwarded to the La Jolla Community Planning Association, the group making land-use recommendations to the city, for further review.

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