LJCPA Requests Changes to Building at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Trustees and residents expressed their disapproval with the building under construction.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association Thursday voted to request a reduction in height of the Marine Ecosystem Sensing, Observation and Modeling laboratory under construction at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Trustees displayed photos of the 38,600-square-foot building that appeared to be taller than plans depicted it would be.

Trustee Tim Lucas recalled when the project was brought to the CPA and said the community had been assured the building would be constructed to not only minimize scenic view impacts, but offer additional viewpoints and access in the surrounding areas.

 “If we don’t have renderings that reflect the entire project, not just the most favorable viewpoint, we’re lost,” Lucas said. “We got gamed. The public got gamed about this.”

The $26.5 million project, which is located off La Jolla Shores Drive, will be used for research and education related to marine ecosystems.

Trustee Phil Merten wondered whether those who designed the building produced “sloppy” plans or intentionally mislead the public.

“I think with projects of this scale and the kind of money that’s being spent, I think it’s horrible that the professionals doing these things can’t do a better job in depicting the building as it’s going to be,” Merten said. “That’s assuming that there wasn’t an attempt to actually mislead and make the building look lower than it actually is.”

Brad Werdick, UCSD’s director of Physical and Community Planning, said the architects are professionals who “did the best that they could.”

“It was never our intent to mislead,” he said.

Still, several La Jolla residents called the actions of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UC San Diego “outrageous” and “disgusting” for obscuring coastal views. 

“When you tell us what you’re going to do, it’d be nice if it’s the truth,” said one resident. “It’s bad enough that we don’t have any voice. But when you lie to us, which I feel you did in this instance, it’s really bad.”

Another resident said La Jolla is “one of most special places on the coast.”

“I find it just horrendous that that’s what’s happened,” he said about the obscured views. “I wish that there was something that could be done about it in the long run to fix it.”

During the Sept. 6 meeting of the CPA, trustees voted to send a letter to the UCSD Chancellor and the Coastal Commission to request construction be stopped on the project until they explain any discrepancies.

Also read: Campus Hosts Meet and Greet for UCSD Chancellor-Designate Pradeep Khosla

In response to the motion made at last month’s meeting, Werdick said staff followed up with the architect and general contractor who both wrote letters saying the project is consistent with the environmental document and coastal development permit. During Thursday’s meeting, Werdick gave a presentation on the status of the project to the CPA and attendees, and said UCSD and SIO want to be open with the public and establish relationships.

Following public comments and discussion, Trustees voted overwhelmingly to send a new letter to the UCSD Chancellor, UC Regents, Mayor Jerry Sanders, Gov. Jerry Brown, the Coastal Commission, San Diego Development Services Department and the State Architect to request a reduction in the height of the building so it matches the renderings that were presented to the La Jolla community. The CPA also voted to send another letter to renegotiate the deed restriction. 


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