The homeowners raise other issues in their 30-page petition. "I feel," Friend explains, "that...consideration should have been given to whether it's improper to only review one use of land that has to do with a religious purpose when in fact there are other proposals that have been submitted that are nonsectarian."
But the chief point the homeowners' petition seeks to make is that the parcel was, until recently, designated as open space and, according to the city's guidelines on open space, it should have remained as such, and therefore, a request for proposals on the land never should have been issued. Singer responds, "The La Jolla Community Plan Amendment came before the council in May [of this year], and on a 6 to 3 vote [which took place June 4, 2002] the council voted to declare that the property is and has always been zoned single family. And single family allows the use we're proposing. In the 1975 plan, there were two different discussions in the La Jolla Community Plan about site 653. In one section, it said the site is owned by the city, and they can do with it as they please. In another section it said site 653 should be landscaped. It didn't say by whom, it didn't say under whose ownership. That was the '75 plan. In 1995, the plan was amended to designate that site as open space but it was never designated as open space and the zoning was never changed. It was just a recommendation that says it should be open space. What the council did by their last vote was bring the designation back to single family to coincide with the underlying zoning. So now the zoning and the community plan are in sync."
Calls made to the city planning department confirm that the site is zoned single family. Single-family zoning allows for religious institutional uses such as neighborhood churches. But the homeowners, in their petition, challenge the city council's June 4 action, saying, "This land-use designation change was done for the sole purpose of allowing Hillel to lease and/or purchase site 653 and build a student center upon the property."
Friend says the petition was filed as a last resort. "The homeowners have done everything within their power to resolve this matter without the need for litigation."
Singer shakes his head. "The neighbors have refused to meet with us from the beginning."
Rabbi Goldstein adds, "We understand that open space is a really important thing and that the more open space there is, the more beautiful it is, and so one of the things that we said -- and it got incorporated into the city council's action in May -- is that a minimum of 10,000 square feet will be landscaped and maintained at our expense."
"I get a little heated about this," Singer says, "because it's frustrating to me. If this was so important to the neighbors, why did it sit there all these years just the way it is? Why didn't anybody do anything about it? It wasn't until we said 'We want it,' that the neighbors got crazy."