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San Diego Lifts Deed Restrictions on Land Targeted for University Projects

Hotel, Housing, Biotech Components Planned at La Jolla Campus

By Lou Hirsh CoStar News May 20, 2021 | 6:20 P.M.

San Diego City Council voted to rescind 1960s-era deed restrictions on 43 acres of land within the University of California San Diego campus, clearing the way for potential new hotel, housing and life sciences projects being planned by the university.

Officials of the public university requested the lifting of restrictions dating back to when a total of 500 acres in La Jolla were deeded by the city to the university, allowing only for education-specific construction geared primarily to classrooms, student dorms and related student and faculty programs.

University officials were concerned that current deed restrictions could preclude developers from securing equity and debt financing for projects being planned on the eastern end of the campus and valued at “hundreds of millions of dollars” because their projects could be deemed noncompliant, according to a city staff report.

Jeff Graham, the university’s executive director of real estate, said the change was needed to avoid ambiguity within deed language as to what constitutes “university purpose.”

“UC San Diego is a regional partner,” said Councilman Joe LaCava, who represents La Jolla and was among members voting 7-1 in favor of lifting restrictions during the council’s May 18 meeting. “Providing the flexibility to fund projects through public-private partnerships assures that the university will continue to deliver San Diegans education, health and economic benefits.”

Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert opposed the move, contending the city is surrendering authority over future development without knowing the full value of what gets developed on it and without knowing what exactly or whether anything will actually get built. Other critics have said rescinding restrictions would amount to gifting public resources for commercial purposes.

University officials are looking to convert surface parking lots to other uses, potentially through projects in which it partners with private developers. University representatives said upcoming projects would attract new jobs to the region and generate new city tax revenue to support other public programs and services.

The lifting of restrictions comes as the university is in early planning stages for elements including an extended-stay hotel and conference center to serve medical patients at UC San Diego Health and also visiting university faculty and academic symposiums. Also being planned is a wellness center that would serve the university hospital’s patients and the general community.

Planned developments also include an intergenerational housing complex with a wellness center for retired university faculty and a new technology and life science research space geared to the region’s burgeoning biotech industry.

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