Some La Jollans are balking at a UC San Diego proposal to build five new multi-story buildings on a parking lot adjacent to La Jolla Playhouse, insisting that letting the university “creep” into surrounding neighborhoods will cause traffic congestion imperiling public safety.
Dubbed the Future College Living and Learning Neighborhood, the project is designed to provide residential life and administrative space for a new undergraduate college, with approximately 2,000 undergraduate beds, classrooms, an estimated 1,200 underground parking spaces and a conference and retail space.
The new development, consisting of three nine- to 11-story buildings located along the campus edge, and two taller 16- and 21-story buildings located in the interior of the site to the east, would have a conference on top of one of the buildings and a public market at ground level.
Plans for the new multifaceted center were unveiled at an open house hosted by UC San Diego Jan. 22.
Janie Emerson, president of the La Jolla Shores Association community advisory group, said the sheer scale of the project, as well as its timing, has taken the community by surprise.
“The university believes it has gone above and beyond in communication with the community, but that didn’t happen,” charged Emerson. “The community is in shock and feels betrayed.”
Pointing out UC San Diego is “mandated to teach students at a high level,” Emerson nonetheless claims that “isn’t a mandate to provide dormitory and living space for all of your students. The Shores Association disagrees they have to quarter all their students on campus.”
Emerson argued the trolley extension under construction, with two stops planned on UC San Diego campus, obviates the need for such a large amount of student campus housing.
Of the proposed 12,000-square-foot academic conference center at the top of an 11-story building that has retail at the ground floor and student housing in-between, university spokesperson Leslie Sepuka said, “This space would accommodate university meetings and academic and community events with a top deck patio space with ocean views. It’s an example of how this project is planned as a mixed-use community that incorporates residential, academic, cultural and retail space.”
Emerson claims the university expansion project hasn’t been properly thought out and has been planned without the community’s participation or knowledge.
“A total of 1,200 parking spaces won’t even accommodate the (proposed) market plaza,” she said. “Forget the existing problems in the area with traffic light synchronization. The traffic generated by this project is just the tip of an iceberg. With all the traffic feeding into this area, it’s going to be overloaded.”
Sepuka said the university has done a comprehensive traffic impact analysis, which includes traffic mitigation, for the expansion project.
“The analysis assesses the traffic congestion impacts of the development expected looking at existing conditions, future year 2025 conditions and future year 2035 conditions,” said Sepuka. “The university is already taking the results of the traffic study into account, installing adaptive traffic signal infrastructure as a proactive traffic mitigation program.
“The majority of students living in Future College Living and Learning Neighborhood will not have a car on campus and will not be contributing to local traffic,” continued Sepuka. “Further, pedestrian and bike-friendly pathways will be included in the neighborhood along with other open-space improvements. These elements are designed to enhance and encourage the movement of people and bikes through the campus core rather than on the surrounding streets.”
Emerson contends the expansion project will make it harder for emergency vehicles, including lifeguards, to access UC San Diego, posing a threat to public safety.
“Safety is the university’s top concern,” replied Sepuka. “The University of California has strict safety standards and regulations. The new buildings and parking structure are designed with occupancy in mind, to maximize safety and ease evacuation.”
Added Sepuka, “The UC Police Department and our fire marshal work closely with partner agencies responsible for public safety, including the city. As just one example, UC San Diego has provided the city with the land and the funding necessary to build a fire station on campus.”
Emerson offered a solution to what she sees as an impasse currently between La Jolla and UC San Diego on this proposed multi-building, multi-story project.
“Bring these plans to the table, roll them out, and let’s look at the whole campus and see how we can make this work for everybody."
For more information about the Future College Living and Learning Neighborhood, visit campaign.ucsd.edu.