City Council OKs Westfield UTC mall expansion plan
by Alyssa Ramos
Published - 08/07/08 - 02:24 PM | 8862 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Despite repeated objections from community group members, San Diego City Council approved the expansion of Westfield University Towne Centre by a vote of 7-1 during the July 29 city council meeting. District 6 Councilwoman Donna Frye cast the lone dissenting vote.

"The city council and mayor's office decided our concerns were minor compared to the expansion and the energy-saving aspects," said University Community Planning Group (UCPG) member George Lattimer. "I didn't have concerns with the designs and what they were doing "” it was that everybody else has complied with the community plan, and if we [make an exception], we should give it to science, not to shopping."

Council members approved amending University City's community plan, allowing Westfield to expand the mall on the east end of La Jolla Village Drive.

"Right now there's 300 units maximum and an additional 750,000 square feet," said Tim Daly, City of San Diego project manager.

Jonathan Bradhurst, Westfield's senior vice president of U.S. development, said La Jolla's new UTC would be the first environmentally friendly shopping center in the United States approved by the U.S. Green Building Council at its Gold Level.

The center's design includes 250 new condominium and apartment units. Plans are to upgrade features on the current site, including an adjacent park and the mall's transit center, which officials said would minimize traffic "” the center of controversy for UCPG members, who voted against the expansion plan at their May meeting.

Westfield executives presented final design plans to UCPG members in May, including green "cool roof" technology, recycled water and construction. At that meeting, Bradhurst said that Westfield officials had spent the past seven years attending community meetings in an attempt to please UC neighbors.

But UC residents voiced concerns, mainly regarding an increase in traffic and the precedent of opening the floodgates to other developers who want to change the community plan.

"If we give it to UTC, we have to give it to La Jolla Village," Lattimer said. "And we already know Costa Verde wants another 750,000 square feet. The other issue is clearly the traffic, as I said to the council in my presentation."

According to Lattimer, Westfield executives decided to move the proposed transit center near Genesee Avenue. Westfield will share the cost with Metropolitan Transit System and UC's Facilities Benefit Assessment account.

"They're going to relocate the transit center, move it out to Genesee and put in a new left turn for buses," Lattimer said.

Westfield executives brought signatures and support to city council members, but Lattimer wasn't buying it.

"In some people's eyes, what Westfield and UTC are trying to do is capture the high end of the market, like Fashion Valley has done," he said. "That doesn't really help sales tax."

Lattimer said Westfield's new UTC will just move the high-end market and the money from Fashion Valley mall "” the one shopping center Lattimer said the company doesn't own "” to University City, and into Westfield's hands.

"If you're going to grant anybody an increase in density, it seems to me you'd want to do it to science research, which will bring well-paid people and jobs as opposed to people selling more T-shirts and ties," Lattimer said.

But San Diego City Council members approved Westfield's expansion plan, which will begin moving forward. According to Daly, starting in September officials will meet for a second reading of the ordinance for rezoning, to sign and notarize documents.

"Then they will start processing their building permits," Daly said.

The approved Westfield UTC expansion plans, including the EIR, are available online. For information, go to www.sandiego.gov. For information about UCPG, go to www.uc-planning-group.com. 
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