San Diego City Council Committee Endorses Lifting UCSD Property Restrictions

On Feb. 18, a San Diego City Council committee unanimously endorsed lifting restrictions on land the city gave to UC San Diego in the 1960s. UC San Diego plans to build multiple large projects east of Interstate 5 with this land, including a translation research clinical space, a wellness center, a technology/life-science research space, a hotel/conference center, and intergenerational housing for retired faculty. 

Between 1960 and 1969, the city contributed about 510 acres of land to help the University of California add the San Diego campus with the stipulation that the land would be  used for “university purpose.” The committee has only lifted the deed restrictions on 100 of the 510 acres of land. UC San Diego cannot build these new proposed projects until the city lifts the restrictions on the entire land and deems that the projects fall under “university purpose.” Moreover, they can’t move forward with the campus projects because the projects are being planned with private developers. Financing the projects cannot be secured by developers with the deed restrictions because there is a risk that the city will reject the projects and take the land back.

City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose district includes La Jolla, noted that he had two meetings with UC San Diego representatives to discuss his goal of ensuring the city would be informed of any future actions. LaCava and UCSD are interested in reducing the scope of the request. The city council recommendations will be sent to the full council for final approval in the next few weeks. 

There has been some criticism from nearby residents and community leaders because they believe it will reduce the quality of life nearby. During public comments, 13 individuals spoke to the committee and only one resident, Don Schmidt, opposed lifting the restrictions on this land. Schmidt believes that “there should be a study on cumulative impacts of what UCSD is doing with the campus. It takes in no regard to the surrounding communities. Lifting these deed restrictions would cost the city and state billions of dollars to bring our infrastructure in.” 

However, university officials and business groups are supportive of the projects because they think it will have a positive economic impact. San Diego City officials believe that the university’s positive impact on the local economy will alleviate concerns about voiding the deed restrictions. 

UCSD associate communications director Leslie Sepuka said to The UCSD Guardian that “the proposed projects will also create jobs and enhance the economic benefits that UC San Diego can bring to the San Diego area. It is estimated that these projects will generate $85 million in revenues for the City of San Diego during the first 20 years as well as more than 11,000 new direct and indirect jobs.” 

If the deed restrictions are completely lifted, it would allow the university to build more projects on city land east of the freeway. Last year, San Diego County nullified its deed restrictions on UCSD’s medical center campus in Hillcrest, which will allow the land to be turned into a mixed-use project with housing around the hospital. 

Chamber Chief executive Jerry Sanders said to The San Diego Union-Tribune that “the chamber is committed to supporting UCSD as a valued member and important economic engine of our community.” 

The next step is for the City Council to schedule a meeting to consider the remaining land but a date has yet to be made public. 

Photo courtesy of Travelers Indemnity.

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