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University builds out to prepare for growth; neighbors wary of school’s encroachment

Puzzle pieces to UCSD’s 2004 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), a blueprint for building out 229 acres on campus, will gradually be set in place over the next 14 years with the ultimate goal of accommodating 15,000 more university students, staff and researchers by 2020-21.

“What we’re doing now is providing regular updates, in terms of how the individual projects are progressing, to community planning groups once or twice a year,” said Milt Phegley, UCSD’s director of community planning. “We have a capital improvements map, updated on a regular basis, that identifies projects under construction, and those in planning and design, listing project timelines. It’s now just a matter of fitting individual projects into that overall context.”

Three major UCSD building projects - Rady School of Management, Student Academic Services Center and the 1,300-space Hopkins Parking Structure - have been recently completed. One, the 800-bed East Campus graduate housing project, is nearing completion.

In all, a total of 14 university projects currently under development at a total projected cost of $857 million will be built out by 2013. Those projects expected to be completed in the next couple years include Moores Cancer Center Radiation Oncology Clinic, Shiley Eye Center/Ratner Children’s Eye Center expansion, San Diego Supercomputer Center expansion and University Center’s expansion and renovation.

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Longer-term projects to be completed by 2010 are the Mayer Hall renovation and addition, a 48,000-square-foot Music Building, the 1,000-bed North Campus apartments, an Early Childhood Eduction Center, RIMAC annex, a Revelle Parking Structure, Price Center expansion and a new Structural and Materials Engineering Building.

Build-out of the second phase of a Management School Facility, plus a Biological and Physical Sciences Building, are expected to be finished by 2012 and 2013, respectively.

This is the fifth comprehensive Long Range Development Plan UCSD has undergone since its founding in 1959. Previous plans were produced in 1963, 1966, 1981 and 1989. Like its predecessors, the LRDP encompasses UCSD properties in the University Community and La Jolla Shores areas of the city of San Diego.

UCSD’s new master plan for development anticipates student, faculty and staff growth over the next 14 years and seeks to provide the infrastructure essential to serve their housing, parking and transportation needs. “There are about 35,000 students, faculty and staff now,” noted Phegley. “We’re projecting a future total potential student population of about 30,000, with increases in faculty, staff and researchers bringing the total population to about 50,000.”

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Increasing the percentage of on-campus student housing is a key component of the university’s long-range development plan. Said Phegley: “We currently have about 33 percent of our undergraduate students and 35 percent of our graduate students housed on-campus. After we complete the 1,000 beds in our North Campus Housing project in 2009, we’ll have 35 percent of undergraduates, and about 40 percent of graduate students, housed on-campus. Future housing projects will go even beyond that.”

Another key element in UCSD’s long-range development plan is how it ties in to mass transit and encourages student use of alternative transportation.

“The biggest thing we’re doing in terms of transportation is increasing our alternative transportation program to avoid building additional parking structures,” said Phegley, “getting people out of their cars and into buses and other forms of alternative transportation that gets traffic off the road.”

There are also plans in the works to extend San Diego’s Light Rail trolley system to serve UCSD in the near future. “The light rail project has two stations proposed for the (UCSD) campus,” said Phegley, “and we’re waiting until those projects are completed around 2015. But the sooner it gets here, the better.”

Phegley added San Diego State University’s experience with utilizing its new trolley route is that it reduced parking demand on SDSU’s campus by 4,000 spaces. Said Phegley: “Our hope is to have the trolley arrive and have a whole bunch of empty parking space we’re not having to pay for.”

UCSD, however, is not executing its long-range master plan for future campus development in a vacuum. Knowing that, the university continues to conduct community outreach in La Jolla, University City and environs, to establish a liaison with community planners in those areas and to solicit public input on project design and implementation, as well as on environmental reviews required of its individual building projects.

Tim Golba, chair of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, an advisory body making land-use recommendations to the city of San Diego, praised the university for making the effort to involve the public in its future development plans. But, Golba asks, do surrounding communities have any real sway in determining how UCSD develops?

“We have no jurisdiction over them, they don’t have to come to us,” said Golba. “The major presentations they give are the courtesy they afford us. They give us these chances to become involved.”

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But, added Golba, the community at-large is left to wonder whether they are true participants in the university’s planning and development process. Or are they merely just observers?

“Many La Jollans involved in all these hearings make their point that, at the end of the day, they (UCSD) are free to do whatever they want,” Golba said. A lot of people shrug their shoulders and wonder if they have any control over them (UCSD).”

Issues raised by La Jollans about the university’s planned expansion have remained relatively unchanged over time. “The major concerns are the typical ones, traffic, congestion,” said Golba. “As the university grows, it’s uncertain that growth can be contained within the university’s borders, which affects certain quality-of-life issues for residents around the university.”

Golba pointed to the controversial Hillel Site 653 Jewish student center project as a case in point. Though it was not a proposed development initiated by the university, it nonetheless is a development project associated with the university’s growth which has encroached into a neighboring residential area which, many fear, could be a harbinger of more things to come.

“Rumors going around about 20- and 30-story towers to be built by the university, none of that was true,” pointed out Golba. “But the university does have wide latitude on that mesa, which has the potential to impact everyone else. As long as they continue to come to us with their presentations, to express what they intend to do, we can try and protect ourselves from anything that could become a major disaster.”