UPDATED – Opposition remains for La Jolla Jewish center plan

The ball's been rolling for nearly 14 years

Proposed construction site
  • Proposed construction site
  • Google Maps image


On November 9, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor ruled in favor of Hillel of San Diego (http://hillelsd.org/hillel-wins-lawsuit-over-glickman-center/) and the City of San Diego, upholding the right to begin construction of the Beverly and Joseph Glickman Hillel Center. The Jewish student center will be built on a triangular lot just across from UCSD.

After years of legal battles, the San Diego City Council voted unanimous approval of the project in 2017. Opposition to the Hillel Center has raged since 2006, led by a group called Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use (http://trlu.org/). TRLU is a self-described "non-profit 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the special community of La Jolla."

Responding to TRLU’s argument that the Glickman Hillel Center should be relocated elsewhere, Judge Taylor stated in court, “We don’t do that in the United States … That is evocative of Eastern Europe and not appropriate.”

Joel Smith, president of the board of directors of Hillel of San Diego, said in a statement: "This was a baseless lawsuit, and we are heartened that Judge Taylor confirmed Hillel’s lawful right to build."

Smith elaborated: "We are especially delighted that our project will serve as a welcoming beacon of inclusivity at the entrance to La Jolla, a neighborhood that once forbade Jewish ownership. We will not be bullied any longer; the time to build is now.”

A 2002 Reader article detailed Hillel of San Diego's attempt to build a new facility adjacent to UCSD. In 2011, the Reader revisited the issue. Almost five years later, the project still has not advanced to the San Diego Planning Commission; after it does (if it does?), the San Diego City Council will have the final say.

Originally called the Hillel Center for Jewish Life, it's since been named the Beverly & Joseph Glickman Hillel Center; this was done after the April 10 announcement of a $5 million gift from Joseph “Chickie” Glickman toward the center's cost.

The site is a 3/4-acre (33,000 square feet) triangle of land near the intersection of La Jolla Village Drive and Torrey Pines Road. It's just across the street from UCSD's Revelle College. While there have been complaints about increased traffic and noise, students could walk or bike to the new center.

A traffic analysis conducted by Hillel showed that “the project would result in no significant traffic impacts and mitigation is not required.” Hillel also states on its website: “The activities at the Hillel facility will not cause significant noise impacts to the surrounding neighborhood.”

The main opposition to the new facility is from a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization called Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use (TRLU). One of their arguments was that “this project will set a precedent for allowing University uses to encroach into the residential neighborhoods.” The group also complained that “the proposed student center is six feet higher than any other structure in the adjacent residential community.”

Julie M. Hamilton is the current attorney representing Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use. She said, “TRLU still opposes the Hillel UCSD Center for Jewish Life for the same reasons; a student center is inappropriate for this location.... I am not clear why it has taken so long for the applicant to respond to comments on the Draft [environmental impact report]. I suspect the applicant is dragging it out until [District 1 councilmember/council president] Sherri Lightner leaves office.”

Before becoming a councilmember, Lightner was chair of the La Jolla Shores Association. A June 15, 2005, article in the San Diego Union-Tribune stated: “Her group and four other community boards recently signed a letter to the council opposing the development.”

The City of San Diego was previously sued over the issue by Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use. In a March 1, 2007, brief filed by the respondents, “Petitioners claim the City-approved traffic and parking study performed by Kimley-Hom & Associates, Inc, (a 'certified transportation planner') was inadequate. But petitioners' only support for this argument are comments by Helen Boyden and Sherri Lightner.”

I asked councilmember Lightner's director of communications, Jennifer Kearns, if Lightner is still opposed to the Hillel facility, though it's been totally redesigned and considerably downsized. Kearns replied: “Since it's a land use item (quasi-judicial), the Council President is actually prohibited from providing comments/opinions prior to the hearing.”

Design by M.W. Steele Group

Design by M.W. Steele Group

Michael Rabkin, executive director at Hillel of San Diego, said, “We are working closely with the City to finalize the EIR. Once that is complete, we will able to schedule a hearing at a Planning Commission [session], which is the next step before a hearing at City Council."

The Hillel UCSD website, describes the facility as “three structures covering 6,479-square-feet of space on the property. The center will include a chapel, a library, a student center, a small park that is open to the public, with parking spaces for cars (27) and bicycle storage.”

Solar power will provide 30 to 50 percent of its energy consumption and water conservation measures (LEED Silver) are incorporated into the design. The architectural firm for the project is M.W. Steele Group of San Diego; they also designed the Melvin Garb Hillel Center at SDSU.

(revised 6/19, 1:55 p.m.)

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The comment about ". . . allowing University uses to encroach into the residential neighborhoods” is amusing. While I don't have specifics on all UC campuses, I feel fairly confident in saying that such uses "encroach" to some degree at all of them. If it hasn't yet happened around UCSD, that's most unusual. AT UCLA, university uses, such as sorority row, fraternity row, and a mass of student housing all spread across the streets bordering the campus long ago. That's what happens folks! If the zoning of the residential areas surrounding the campus prohibits high-density uses, that's unusual for sure. There is plenty of student housing--apartments--in the areas around UTC and La Jolla Village Square.

Student religious institutions at public universities must, by law, be off-campus, but it's natural that they want to be as close as possible. Hillel UCLA is right across the street [Hilgard Avenue] from UCLA property. Next door to it is St. Alban's UCLA Campus Ministry at an Episcopal church. That area has many churches, hotels, as well as upscale private residences. It all works in peace and harmony, as far as I know.

To Steve Brown on Facebook: I don't know much about property values. But my gut feeling is that a new facility on the vacant lot would raise home prices in the vicinity, because it adds visual beauty, shade and a touch of class to the hood!

Good for the Reader for revisiting this question of building the Hillel Center on its own land in La Jolla across from UCSD.

In La Jolla it seems that "property rights" do not apply fairly or equally to all landholders.La Jolla's termed-out Councilmember Sherri Lightner, the La Jolla Shores Association and the La Jolla Community Planning Agency have worked seamlessly for years to block construction of the Hillel Center.

Considering the flood of approvals of bulky, ugly and oversize projects that have been allowed by these same La Jolla citizen groups in recent time -- against architectural standards and community plan provisions -- Hillel is both benign in social purpose and compatible in its scaled-back design with neighborhood norms. Finally, perhaps history is now on Hillel's side and the Center will be approved.

The overly long and heated opposition to the Hillel Center seems like a "tempest in a teapot."

I think "tempest in a teapot" minimizes the viciousness of the opposition. You would think Hillel was going high-rise or planning a 24-hour convenience store with liquor sales. Given the purpose of the organization, the peculiar site, the reduction in building size, such opposition seems mean-spirited.

July 11, 2017 update: While the final City Council vote was scheduled for today, it turned out to be an error by the City. The item was removed from the agenda, and will be rescheduled.

October 3, 2017 update: The City Council voted unanimously late this afternoon to approve the Hillel project.

June 5, 2018 update: It's sad than some hateful graffiti was recently put on the sign announcing the new UC San Diego Hillel Jewish Student Center. SDPD is investigating, and many are outraged by this. But construction is coming, and it will be built.

The comment by Pat Reginald Tillman shows that hate of Jews is alive and flourishing.

Yes, unfortunately that is a disturbing trend right now. It's the antithesis of America's established values and morality.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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