The proposed College Avenue Apartments is essentially a dormitory in an apartment building’s clothing, says a group of residents in a newly filed lawsuit against the City of San Diego, San Diego State University Foundation, and Capstone Development Partners.
The 91-unit, 351-bed development would be sited on 1.51 acres of land owned by San Diego State University. On January 16 of this year, the City of San Diego issued the necessary permits to Capstone Development Partners to move forward with the project located at 5030 College Avenue, despite numerous objections from the local planning group and College Area Residents, as previously reported by the Reader.
On February 16, a group calling itself the "College Area Residents Association" filed a writ of mandate ordering the city to rescind the permits until all environmental studies are complete and the city follows its own zoning requirements.
According to the complaint, residents accuse the city and San Diego State of trying to disguise the project as an apartment building when it is in fact student housing. And while doing so, the city is allowing the developer to use a 2004 environmental study conducted for a much smaller sorority house at the same location.
"The current project is a larger project than [the sorority project] and has a different number of buildings, number of units, number of beds, building size, number of stories, floor area ratio, and number of parking spaces," reads the lawsuit.
Relying on the 2004 study means the city and college are ignoring changes to local transportation stations and traffic and parking impacted by new developments, including the massive South Campus Plaza mixed-use development, currently under construction.
Opposition to the College Avenue Apartments project was immediate. In June 2015, the College Area Planning Group recommended that the city not support the development, citing inadequate review of the impacts.
San Diego's planning commissioners agreed with the planning group and in September 2015 rejected the proposal due to concerns about using the 2004 environmental findings and potential impacts to community character, traffic, and parking.
The applicants filed an appeal to the city council; before doing so, the developer agreed to reduce the size of the project from 95 units to 91 and limit the number of beds from 365 to 351. The changes were enough to convince a majority of the council to approve the project, leaving the residents no recourse other than a lawsuit.
History the city learned nothing from
In October 2013, after months of political wrangling, including a stop-work-order by former mayor Bob Filner, a group of residents filed a lawsuit against the city for allowing the Boulevard at 63rd development, a 332-unit mixed-use development that had similarities to dormitory-style housing (including the builder’s rent-by-room ad campaign). The residents' objections, however, did not stand in court. The group lost and the development has been built.
But the Boulevard at 63rd was different in that the College Avenue Apartments proposal involves university-owned land — and that 12-year-old environmental study. It is the environmental document that attorneys for the College Area Residents Association feel is the reason that a judge should shut down the project.
Reads the lawsuit, "[College Area Residents Association] has no adequate remedy at law unless this court grants the requested writ of mandate requiring [the City of San Diego] to set aside its approval of the project; set aside its adoption of the 2004 [document]; and prepare an environmental impact report (‘EIR’) addressing all issues set forth in this petition.
“In the absence of such remedy, [the city's] approval will remain in effect in violation of state law, and [the College Area Residents Association] will suffer irreparable harm because violations of applicable land use laws and regulations and significant adverse environmental impacts generated by the Project that will have not been properly analyzed under [the California Environmental Quality Act]."
The case will be discussed during a July 22 hearing.