“This is a very important day for us,” said Robert Lapidus, longtime chair of the Hillel Facilities Committee. “We have been working for nearly two decades on this project, and the Planning Commission’s vote brings us one step closer to making the Glickman Hillel Center a reality.”
Some residents in the La Jolla Shores neighborhood remain in staunch opposition to a proposed University of California San Diego Hillel student center, however. The La Jolla Shores Association, and an opposition group, Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use (TRLU), have been against this proposal since its inception.
University of California San Diego’s Hillel Society involvement in this project began in 2002 when they first began exclusive negotiations with the City of San Diego, who owned the lot. They purchased the lot in 2006, with the city fully aware of their intentions to build the Jewish student center.
While any proposed structure is greatly scrutinized in La Jolla, the proposed Hillel Student Center has seen disapproval from some residents beginning with their initial proposal in 2005. At this time, they had proposed a 12,100-square-foot structure, with 68 on-site parking spaces.
The Shores Association and TRLU still found this unacceptable, and “out of character” for the single-family residential area.
In 2010, a second proposal was brought forth – this time downgraded to 7,084-square-feet, with 27 on-site parking spaces. This proposal was also opposed by both the TRLU and Shores Association.
Now, the Hillel Society, in following all regulations that stipulate that any religiously-affiliated buildings remain off-campus, wishes to designate the student center as a “permanent religious structure.”
“This would be like putting in a YMCA, or another building with a religious purpose,” said attorney for TRLU, Julie Hamilton. “Since it is a student center, the comings-and-goings all day long, with the building’s capacity for 140-200 people is extremely impactful to the area. There are many people that live in the neighborhood that either work for, or have worked for the university, but this is just too close to single-family residences.”
Rabbi David Singer, director of the UC San Diego Hillel Society, was confident in their proposal prior to the planning commission hearing.
“We are very excited to present this to the city on Thursday,” said Singer. “We feel that a majority of neighbors in the Shores are pleased with our adaptivity, and our want to beautify this piece of property that is one of the entrances to La Jolla.”
“The La Jolla Planned District Ordinance (PDO) in the area specifies that the area includes single-family homes or permanent religious structures, which we truly are,” he added. “The proposed center would act as a buffer of empty space, as well as provide roughly 10,000 square feet of landscaped park space. Also, our studies have indicated that it will have zero percent impact on the environment of the area, regarding traffic and other perceived issues.”
Although Singer is optimistic about the Hillel Society’s new proposal, Hamilton and others continue in opposition, not accepting any of their proposals outright. TRLU cites traffic issues, the geographic location, and its existence as an “out-of-place” student center to define their case.
“Everyone has said for years, ‘this property has been considered impossible to be developed,’” Hamilton said. “We think that the proposed Hillel student center would fit much better as an extension of the Jacob’s JCC or in a similar setting, but is out of character for the neighborhood.”
The planning commission's passing of the proposal will likely be appealed by the opposition, then brought before city council.