Virginia LaGuardia’s home on Josephine Street
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The Spanish villa that Virginia LaGuardia and her husband built in the 1970s may soon be nestled against a massive parking garage, student housing, and an administrative building that the University of San Diego intends to build.

The University of San Diego has plans to build a parking lot here, next to LaGuardia’s fenceline.

The University of San Diego has plans to build a parking lot here, next to LaGuardia’s fenceline.

During the course of the past several years, the university’s planning department has kept busy. The school has bought every parcel of land surrounding LaGuardia’s home on Josephine Street, down the hill toward Linda Vista Road on the south side of the campus. It then petitioned the city to allow it to expand its footprint to make room for what is projected to be an addition of 922,000 square feet of new buildings and student housing.

When the expansion is complete, the college will be allowed to increase enrollment from 7000 undergraduate students (8905 when factoring in graduate programs) to 10,000 undergraduate students.

According to the newly adopted master plan, a six-story parking garage could be built about 30 feet from LaGuardia’s bedroom window, a three-story student dormitory could be built across a narrow alley from LaGuardia’s garage door, and an administrative building could be located just feet from her back porch.

Attorney Craig Sherman: “The city and University of San Diego are playing it fast and loose.”

Attorney Craig Sherman: “The city and University of San Diego are playing it fast and loose.”

For now, these remain preliminary, or, as the university calls them, conceptual plans. But because they are a part of the university’s master plan, the city will allow administrators to proceed as they wish and require the most basic approval.

“The Master Plan provides a framework for how the university might be developed over the next twenty years. However, without funding, these plans are merely conceptual,” writes a University of San Diego spokesperson.

“Once the City has confirmed the projects conforms with the Conditional Use Permit and Master Plan, we would then pursue the necessary permits. At this time, University of San Diego does not have any specific plans for developing Josephine Street. As you read in the Master Plan, possibilities range from a residential building, to a parking structure or an academic building.”

But while conceptual, the parking garage, student apartment complex, and the academic building all appear within a few hundred feet of LaGuardia’s home on the map that the city approved earlier this year.

The main problem, says LaGuardia, is that the university can now decide what to build and where, and she has very little to say about it.

The university will not have to conduct additional environmental review or traffic studies.

LaGuardia feels the university has not acted in good faith and says the planning department hopes to drive down the price of her home to eventually force her hand in selling the land. She says the city is doing nothing to protect her.

University administrators first announced the expansion plans in 2014. In order to expand, staff was required to update the university’s 1996 master plan. That proposal allowed the university to identify 16 new structures to be built.

In fact, since the 1996 master plan was approved, the university has built two parking garages, a new basketball arena, the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, two dormitories, a baseball stadium, and three other academic buildings.

The update to the plan adds 14 structures to the list. Those plans include construction of four large administrative buildings, four student apartment buildings, and a new athletics building, among other projects.

La Guardia says she was willing to participate and was happy that the university was growing. But then she began hearing the university was buying up the parcels surrounding her. Then she saw a map of the master plan; on it, dotted lines indicating the college boundaries jutted out to Linda Vista Road. Just north of Linda Vista Road, nestled in between a parking garage, a new administration building, and student apartment complex, was a tiny triangle-shaped parcel, which was her house. She soon asked the planning department for more information and learned of the possibility that a 150-car parking garage could go in less than 38 feet from her bedroom window and a four-story student housing building could end up less than 12 feet from her front windows.

University officials approached LaGuardia and offered to buy her house, whose hillside perch offers panoramic views of Mission Bay, Old Town, Mission Valley, and Mission Hills beyond, for three college scholarships in her name and $475,000.

She scoffed at the offer.

Not long after, LaGuardia says communications between her and university planners stopped.

“We bought a little shack on the hill in ’76 when my husband was the director of development [at USD],” LaGuardia said during a recent phone interview. “We held alumni parties here, and now, this....

“This is my primary asset. My husband is dead. If you put a parking garage behind me, what am I going to do? It’s going to be like living in a hole.... I asked them why they have to shove it against my house. The only real reason is to make my house less valuable. Who would ever want to buy a house with a six-story parking garage right on top of them?

“I’ve gone through the hurt and disappointment, but now I have no other choice but to hit them in the head with the lawsuit.”

LaGuardia did just that on October 12. Her attorney, Craig Sherman, says the city has violated the California Environmental Quality Act by allowing the university to move forward with only conceptual plans.

“The city and the University of San Diego are playing it fast and loose whereby they say ‘conceptual,’ but they want all final approvals rubber-stamped with no project-specific discretionary or [environmental] review,” Sherman said during an October interview.

“The city is presenting and arguing it both ways. They approve enormous conceptual [plans] but lock in development entitlements, while at the same time deferring environmental review and impacts, basically saying that it will figure it all out later.”

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tomsd Dec. 30, 2017 @ 5:09 a.m.

You do not fully grasp the facts. She did nothing - and for the past 40 years - the University came down the hill to her (buying all the other property) and now is trying to cheapen the value of her property by positioning a 3 story garage some 30 feet from her bedrooms; Would you like that in your backyard? Really?


Visduh Dec. 27, 2017 @ 9:20 a.m.

This doesn't mention just when USD offered $475,000 for the house; if it was in 2011 or 2012, that figure might have been low-ball, but not totally out of line. But now, no home in that area with a view, regardless of how humble, would not command just about twice that much. And if the home is really special, I'd say it should go for over a million. (For those who haven't been watching recently, a million-dollar home is nothing rare at all. Plenty of rather ordinary homes are selling for that price in prime areas, or if they have views.)

It is sad, but her best option would be to sell out to the university for a realistic price, if they want to avoid litigation. Some arrangement to stay in the home until they need to demolish it could be worked out. That day may be, as USD claims, far off. All of this being said, I'd say she has a good case, and USD is playing hard ball with the whole plan. Someone should remind USD that it is a Catholic university, and needs to act with Catholic charity in its dealings with neighbors, the public, and students.


dwbat Dec. 27, 2017 @ 9:55 a.m.

According to the USD website, their Endowment hit $500 million this year. So they can easily pay a current market amount to buy that house. The university is just being cheap, as well as sneaky.


tomsd Dec. 30, 2017 @ 5:07 a.m.

That offer was years ago - but see my comment below. The home now is worth over $3,000,000 as is - more if run as a B & B.


shirleyberan Dec. 27, 2017 @ 9:21 a.m.

Elder abuse. Another chickenshit land grab. She needs a million bucks to move somewhere similar to what she's used to, not scholarships. Because she had to hire a lawyer and move, hope she'll get a lot more from that whole hill sprawl University for wealthy families.


nostalgic Dec. 27, 2017 @ 10:11 a.m.

Don't forget that USD operates tax-free. It's a religious institution, isn't it? What does the bishop have to say about this? Church universities do not always make good neighbors. And I think I read the salary of the USD President somewhere. He didn't seem to take a vow of poverty.


Visduh Dec. 27, 2017 @ 11:05 a.m.

It probably isn't tax-exempt now. Back in the early 70's USD cut its official ties to the diocese of San Diego, and the bishop has no direct control over it. It has a governing board, and operates as a not-for-profit educational institution. The current president has been there for just about three years. I can't find any report of his salary, but you can assume it is generous. But don't confuse his salary with that of the recently-departed president of San Diego State, or that of the chancellor of UCSD. The latter two do get big salaries.


PatrickSD Dec. 27, 2017 @ 7:26 p.m.

I could only find USD's 2010 Tax Return Form 990 on google. It lists Mary E. Lyons earning $500,442. (Julie Sullivan, Executive VP $597,197, William "Bill" T. Grier, Head Coach, Basketball $612,804, fired in 2015.) I couldn't find any tax returns more recent. James Harris, current President, has been there since August 2015, and you can calculate his salary at a low 3% annual increase since 2010 at approx. $615,000. That may not be the case. But yes, California Universities get paid big money,


shirleyberan Dec. 27, 2017 @ 11:35 a.m.

We can assume it's better than SDSU elite's annual near 400 thousand.


shirleyberan Dec. 27, 2017 @ 12:18 p.m.

Why didn't city dickheads help her negotiate for a million and a half before letting school build around her? $$$$$$$$$ Greasy


Ponzi Dec. 27, 2017 @ 6:06 p.m.

This scenario is common and plays out all over the country as part of progress. When I lived in Seattle I marveled at the lone, hold-outs that refused substantial offers for their land. I guess I don’t blame them because they have lived in their homes all their lives. In Seattle, there was a widow that had her lifelong home in the middle of the Microsoft Redmond Campus. She refused to sell, I think they eventually made a deal and she had a life estate. So there was this old house surrounded by a picket fence with gardens and it was surrounded by a huge parking lot. At Boeing in Everett, they also built around an old woman’s home with a life estate agreement.

Here is a picture of some hold-out property owners in Alki Beach, Seattle.



Ponzi Dec. 27, 2017 @ 6:10 p.m.

Here’s an old farmers home in San Diego on Camino Del Rio South. It sits in the shadow of a 5 story insurance building. This man probably raised cows or chickens in the valley before the I-8 or 805 were built. I don’t know if he is still alive, but his yellow rambler farmhouse is still there today.



PatrickSD Dec. 27, 2017 @ 8:04 p.m.

Average $PSF in North Park, $515. USD offered her $77 psf for a 6,120 BBB on the Tecolote Canyon with incredulous views. Really, USD? Really? No wonder she filed a lawsuit.


tomsd Dec. 30, 2017 @ 5:04 a.m.

As a Commercial Real Estate broker (who worked with deceased husband Ed 40 years ago at Grubb & Ellis) - I checked with a friend of mine who is a leading residential broker - and this approximately 6,000 Square Foot home, with an incredible view of SD - all the way to the Coronado - is worth North of $3,000,000, It could perhaps double that if they would choose to run it as a B & B - as it has an attached - 2BR 2 BA - "In law" unit - in addition to the main home - both of which have an 1,800 square front deck in front/on the west side - that affords the magnificent views.

The offer mentioned above was from years ago - but USD has still just tried to just steam-roll over Widow Jinger LeGuardia - totally ignoring her concerns about building right next to her 40 year family home - where now the grandkids live..


tomsd Dec. 30, 2017 @ 5:22 a.m.

And she is not "gold digging" She would love to live out her years there - and enjoy 2 of her grandkids who also live there now. She just does not want a garage some 30 feet from their bedrooms - and wants to be sure when USD builds on the south side - that they do not weaken the already suspect - shifting soils - and this steep hillside also has two branches of the Rose Canyon fault ending up - what - within 60 feet of her home !!! Not to mention the increased traffic on already busy Linda Vista - when USD wants to again increase enrollment by some 50%.


shirleyberan Dec. 30, 2017 @ 10:22 a.m.

I think it would be better for her and her family to move to a peaceful place away from construction and students. It's going to happen. Progress is a bitch and cashmoney is the real estate bully. How much is USD willing to pay to help her get out of their way completely? Might be some power in her favor. Tom Schiff - I have thought about recovery home or sober living rental. Not regulated much yet and say 500$ per mixedupcrazyhead per month. But for me, too emotionally intense to invest in.


ted939 Jan. 11, 2018 @ 10:12 p.m.

This situation is emblematic of a bigger picture problem going on here in San Diego.

S.D. zoning laws allow for ministerial processes in development, wherein if developments meet requirements of Master Plans and the like, then they may proceed, regardless of the harm it does to its neighbors.

See this other example at Because "rules are rules", one North Park resident was allowed by the city to build a new structure in their small back yard, right up against the fence, just 11 feet from their neighbor's bedroom, and run a kindergarten out of it!

These are just 2 examples of planning and development gone bad. In both the case of the North Park kindergarten and of USD, both developers SHOULD be required to get approval from their neighbors before proceeding; or at LEAST a reviewer from the city should have to check with the neighbors before approving such impactive development, even if the neighbor doesn't approve. Instead of sensible discretionary measures, though, S.D. has made it ministerial, where no review of the situation is required.

There will always be bad eggs like USD or the kindergarten owner who are selfish and don't care about their neighbors, which is why planning policy should protect against that. Think about all the time, money, energy, effort and stress created because of lack of discretionary process. Think about the ripple effect of that in society; all because the laws don't protect neighbors of developers.

There is a much bigger picture here to be explored and an article to be written by someone. It's a more and more common and growing problem happening in San Diego.


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