The construction of the southeast portion of the UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest started in November 2021, initiating Phase One of the Hillcrest Campus Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). The Hillcrest location has been a part of the UC San Diego campus since 1966, when the university first began operating the county hospital. Nearly half of the buildings on the Hillcrest Campus were constructed before 1970.
As one of five academic medical centers in the University of California system, UCSD holds a two-campus strategy: distributing and integrating research, teaching, and clinical care at its Hillcrest and La Jolla locations.
The Hillcrest Campus provides care for all patients in the community, including those who are uninsured and under-insured. As an essential regional resource, it is equipped with a Level 1 Trauma Center, Regional Burn Center, and Comprehensive Stroke Center, according to the Long Range Development Plan webpage.
Driven by the need to replace the hospital, modernize facilities, improve circulation, and ensure compliance with seismic safety provisions of the California Health and Safety Code (Alquist Act/SB 1953) by 2030, the LRDP was approved by the UC Board of Regents in November 2019 as the third comprehensive long-range plan for the physical development of the campus. This followed previous plans in 1978 and 1995.
The first phase includes the Outpatient Pavilion project, which extends around 251,000 gross square feet. The space is planned to be used for various diagnostics, treatments, and surgical services, across special programs including oncology, neurosurgery, and orthopedics.
Additional space for new patient-centric drop-off corridors and extra accommodations for multimodal transportations will be made due to an extension on First Avenue. Bachman Place/Arbor Drive and Central Utility Plant (CUP) will accommodate multimodal transportations and expand patient access routes. This includes the building of new transit vehicle lanes and grade-separated bike lanes. Additionally, a new parking structure with approximately 1,850 parking spaces will be established.
“The new hospital will provide new facilities, new technology, and increased capacity, while expanding care offerings and addressing the growing demand for specialty care,” Patty Maysent, the CEO of UCSD Health, said to UC San Diego News. “It will be the cornerstone of a modern medical campus and a premier destination for health care.”
The goals of the LDRP were described in a Hillcrest Information Session in August 2021 as improving Hillcrest as a center of teaching and care.
“This new framework [built on LRDP] will help UC San Diego achieve a complete redevelopment of its Hillcrest Campus that will further its commitment to teaching, research, and patient care, while also creating a healthy, sustainable campus environment,” the presentation said.
Aside from New Outpatient Services and Parking, the following planned phases include construction and improvements on the Renovated Hospital, Research/Educational Facilities, Community Wellness Facility and Workforce Housing, and $2.5 to $3 billion total financial investment.
In a statement to the UCSD News Center, the chief administrative officer for the Hillcrest Campus, Lisa Rhodes, expressed optimism about the renovations to the project.
“The teams who work in Hillcrest have this in common: they love the Hillcrest Campus, our mission, and our patients,” Rhodes said. “It brings me great satisfaction to be on the precipice of Hillcrest’s journey and to renew its status as a beacon of world-class health care, and I am honored to help lead that process. The result will be magnificent and will truly transform our staff, patient, and community experiences.”
As part of the project phasing, some of the UCSD Health staff will move from their area, with the earliest wave starting in 2024.
In the second stage (outreach stage) for the 2019 LRDP preparations, UC San Diego proposed and shared both the draft and final versions of the 2019 LRDP with the campus and the surrounding communities through holding five open houses.
Prior to certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the public was invited to share their opinions during the 30-day scoping period and 45-day draft EIR public review and take part in a public hearing in accordance with the requirements of EIR. Regular updates were sent to local leaders and communities such as Bankers Hill Community Group and Hillcrest Business Associations. A Hillcrest Advisory Council was also established to address topics such as circulation, transportation, housing, program, sustainability, and amenities.
The LRDP development has previously seen some criticism. In a 2020 “Readers React” column for the San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego resident Randall Collins called for a reconsideration of LRDP development as it may bring undesired higher density to the Hillcrest community.
“A major reason why San Diego has a low incidence of coronavirus spread compared to cities like New York City is that we are a low-density, outdoor city,” Collins said. “City planners should be awake to the new realities, instead of taking away our best defenses against future epidemics.”
Phase One is expected to finish in 2025, as the new Outpatient Pavillion is expected to open in May 2025. And the second phase will include the renovation and construction of the new hospital. The anticipated time span to complete all five phases of development is 15 years.