The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

UTC Mall Shopping for a Green Makeover

Shoppers pass by a model version of UTC’s planned expansion, which will include 150 new retail stores, 250 housing units and enhanced dining and entertainment options. (Eric Rounds/Guardian)

After 30 years of remaining relatively untouched, the stagnant
facade of La Jolla’s Westfield Shoppingtown UTC shopping complex has given its
owners a reason to gear up for a massive architectural overhaul.

Westfield’s proposed $900-million facelift could potentially
add 250 housing units amid its more than 150 new retail stores, along with
dining and entertainment options. UTC is one of seven centers owned by
Westfield Group, an Australian company that manages roughly 120 properties
worldwide, 60 in the United States alone. The remodeled mall would bring 5,500
construction and design jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs to the city.

The Web site dedicated to the project invites viewers to
imagine “a fresh outdoor look reflecting the unique character of the San Diego

Part of Westfield’s new proposal is providing a “sustainable
design,” creating environmentally friendly and efficient buildings. The
designers plan to attain a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
certification from the U.S. Green Building Council — a non-profit coalition
designed to promote construction that mitigates negative impacts on the
environment — which has already named the project a LEED Neighborhood
Development Pilot Project.

The new design would reduce freshwater consumption with the
use of recycled water for land irrigation, and also include solar panels as a
renewable energy source. An expanded transit system would also push for a
decreased reliance on automotive transportation.

According to Tim Daly, the city’s development project
manager, a draft of the environmental impact report was open for public review
in early August. However, members of the University City Planning Group said
the report still leaves much to be desired.

The group issued a response to the report on Oct. 9, calling
it vague and ambiguous among other criticisms.

“The whole problem with their plan is they have seven
different versions of it,” UCPG Chairwoman Linda Colley said.

The various proposals for the land’s use range from a movie
theater to a 35-story high rise that may interfere with the airspace of the
Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar. However, none of these proposals are
discussed in depth within the report — a choice implying that the company could
choose to change its building plans without community action, the UCPG response

UCSD Community Planner Milton Phegley said that the
community is simply being cautious.

“The community’s experience has oftentimes been that
promised improvements either lag behind the development which causes the
problems or the improvements are never completed,” he said in an e-mail.

Issues with traffic congestion and noise in the area are
also of paramount concern to the community group. Westfield’s proposed
transportation system would include an expanded bus transit center, and the San
Diego Association of Governments is pursuing the extension of the light-rail
trolley to connect University City to Old Town. Enhancing such forms of public
transportation could encourage ridership and decrease the traffic impact on the
renovated shopping center.

However, the proposal also includes a plan that would add
more parking spaces, which would bring an estimated 18,000 car trips per day.
With traffic already heavy on Genesee Avenue, and nearby freeway onramps to
Interstate 805 and Interstate 5 providing additional congestion, some
environmental groups say the proposal could strain city roads and threaten air

“This project would drive the need for widening Genesee
Avenue and the Regents Road Bridge project,” said environmentalist Debbie
Knight, president of the Friends of Rose Canyon. “To me, this is not a green

Westfield representatives could not be reached for comment.

With public review closed as of Oct. 10, the company has
been left to make changes and improve its proposal.

“The question is, can the community legitimize their side to
make them honor what the community wants?” Colley said.

A date for a final EIR has not been determined, Daly said.

After the final draft is submitted and final project issues
are set, the city’s Planning Commission will hold a public hearing in front of
City Council to approve the project. No date has been set for the hearing.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal