It’s back! The 301 University project is back — bigger and badder than ever, and the Hillcrest community is reeling. Warnings went out to the community during the September 2 meeting of the Uptown Planners, the September 4 meeting of the University Heights Community Association, a press conference held by Stephen Whitburn on September 7, and was commented on at Hillcrest Town Council's candidate forum on September 9 by both Whitburn and opponent Todd Gloria. Both are in opposition to the project.
John Taylor of Save Hillcrest — a community organization assembled to fight large high-rise projects throughout Hillcrest — received a notification stating La Jolla Pacific Development had filed an application for a demolition permit for the buildings between Third and Fourth Avenues at University Avenue. The permit included plans for two towers, one 193 feet tall, the other 170 feet. In January of this year, the developer’s plans for a 148-foot-tall building on the same site was defeated in a court decision that ruled the building’s height didn’t fit in the community plan, dominated mostly by two- and three-story buildings.
The court’s decision was reinforced on July 8 when the city council granted the community of Hillcrest an interim height ordinance, restricting new development from exceeding 65 feet in Hillcrest’s business center until an updated community plan is adopted. The interim height ordinance went into effect on July 29.
So, how is La Jolla Pacific Development hoping to get a project approved that's nearly 50 feet higher than the one that was previously denied? According to Bruce Leidenberger, president of the firm, this new application doesn’t have to go through the same discretionary review that the first one did because the plans have been altered to meet the current community plan, allowing the project to be considered a ministerial project. Most importantly, the application was filed on July 21, eight days before the interim height ordinance went into effect.
Leidenberger says his firm is just trying to protect their rights over the property, and the passing of the interim height ordinance essentially backed them into a corner.
“Of course we are willing to talk to the community," says Leidenberger, "but we had to protect our rights as property owners. It’s not a slap in the face, and we are not being vindictive. We all know that being that way usually comes back to bite you in the backside. We just want our rights.”
Taylor, of Save Hillcrest, says their lawyer is already on the case.
“I hope they’re not thinking they’re going to do this without a fight," says Taylor. "The residents of Hillcrest are passionate about their community.”
During the September 4th community meeting for University Heights, councilmember Toni Atkins, the guest speaker for the night, voiced her concern for the project and the chance that it might pass through the cracks. (“I’m a little concerned how this is going to proceed,” she said.)
For more information go to hillcresttowncouncil.com