Construction crews have begun work on UC San Diego’s Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood, despite an ongoing lawsuit opposing the project.
UCSD associate communications director Leslie Sepuka confirmed Jan. 6 that construction has started. She didn’t comment further.
A Dec. 22 notice from the office of Eric Smith, associate vice chancellor of capital program management, stated construction would begin this week and continue until the project’s scheduled opening in fall 2023.
Smith’s notice stated that parking lots P102 and P103 would be closed starting Jan. 4, though the La Jolla Light observed both lots open that day, with construction going on in a few corners of P103. Two days later, both lots were roped off with signs saying they are permanently closed as of Jan. 6.
The notice also stated that parking availability, street traffic and pedestrian access will be affected during construction.
“Sections of Scholars Drive South and Revelle College Drive will experience reduced lane widths but will maintain two-way traffic,” according to the notice. “Intermittent lane realignments and slow zones will … continue through the spring of 2021. Ridge Walk will be reduced in width during construction.”
The notice added that the new Scholars parking structure at the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood will replace the removed parking spaces pending completion of the Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood’s 1,200-space parking structure.
TDLLN, planned near La Jolla Village Drive and North Torrey Pines Road, includes five buildings ranging from nine to 21 stories tall. It is designed to house 2,000 students. It also includes a conference center, hotel rooms, classrooms and retail.
The UC Board of Regents Finance and Capital Strategies Committee approved the development’s design and environmental impact mitigation in September and its scope, $565 million budget and external financing in November.
La Jolla planning groups asked that construction be put on hold until the public could review the project in more depth and weigh in.
A lawsuit filed by the La Jolla Shores Association and the homeowners association of the nearby Blackhorse Farms gated community contends that the plans violate the California Environmental Quality Act, such as through the impact on endangered species, traffic, greenhouse gases and wastewater.
The parties to the lawsuit held mandated settlement talks Nov. 25, according to LJSA President Janie Emerson, with the university asking for “things from us” in early December that were sent shortly after.
Emerson would not specify what UCSD asked for but said the university sent a letter of reply Dec. 28.
When asked for an update on the lawsuit, Stacy Cromidas, director-at-large for the Blackhorse Farms HOA, said “nothing has been foreclosed by the announcement that [UCSD is] breaking ground” on TDLLN.
“Right now the avenues available are negotiation and litigation,” Cromidas said. “If the parties can come together and negotiate in good faith, that’s often a solution that works. If not, the courts can interfere through motion practice and render orders in the case.”
“It seems there is more knowledge within the community now than ever before about environmental issues that could be impacted, and that’s a good thing,” Cromidas added.
Emerson said she is “very disappointed” that construction has begun. “I think if you are serious about settlement conversations and working with the community, that’s what you do. You don’t start a project until those means are all exhausted.”
— La Jolla Light staff writer Ashley Mackin-Solomon contributed to this report. ◆