After more than two decades of local battles and legal challenges, the Beverly and Joseph Glickman Hillel Center is set to open near UC San Diego in La Jolla on Sunday, Jan. 15.
The 6,500-square-foot center — bounded by La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla Scenic Drive North and La Jolla Scenic Way — will serve students at the university by hosting Jewish learning and holiday experiences and community activities.
“This is long-awaited, not only for the students of UC San Diego but for the community at large,” said Hillel of San Diego Executive Director Karen Parry. “This is a state-of-the-art facility that is going to celebrate diversity at UC San Diego and the larger community as well. The space is going to be used to celebrate religious experiences, support young people and help them fortify their Jewish identity.”
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Hillel of San Diego says its staff serves as mentors and educators for about 2,000 Jewish students who go to UCSD, San Diego State University, Cal State San Marcos and the University of San Diego, providing “valuable tools and opportunities to be Jewish leaders.”
The Glickman Hillel Center “will be open for community engagement, and Hillel is the pipeline for deepening community experiences. When people leave, they feel a deeper connection to the Jewish community,” Parry said.
The center will provide “basic need support,” such as food and shower access, for students who need it and will host events that celebrate Jewish heritage, she added.
“We are going to have events and programs every day ranging from Shabbat [a day of rest beginning] on Friday nights to cooking classes during the week to a challah bake in which students can bake challah [bread] and sell it on campus, then the money raised goes to hunger relief organizations in San Diego,” Parry said.
The center’s hours are still being finalized.
Noting incidents of anti-Semitism around the country, Parry said the facility features high-end security to help provide a safe place for its users. “This center will really drive to fight anti-Semitism on campus and build bridges and allies,” she said.
Parry, a former UCSD student, said being able to “carry the baton past the finish line is so special.”
“I remember going to Hillel dinners on [the UCSD] campus and squeezing into a small space, but we kept hearing that there was going to be a center opening,” she said. “To get to be here and make that dream a reality for thousands of young people is a gift. Spaces like this matter, and it makes a difference in the lives of young people.”
Hillel of San Diego says the center is an $18.4 million project led by a $5 million pledge from now-late philanthropist Joseph “Chickie” Glickman, who was a neighbor of the site. A campaign to raise the remaining $300,000 needed is continuing.
Reflecting on the 22 years leading to the opening, Parry said, “A lot of people see this building as a representation of our people’s perseverance.”
A history of challenges
In 2000, Hillel of San Diego was awarded exclusive rights to buy the property from the city of San Diego to build the Hillel Center. The organization has been working with the city and the La Jolla community since 2001 to develop the project, often in the face of opposition.
Local planning boards and a group known as Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use argued that the Hillel Center would be a student center, not a religious facility. Though the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance, a blueprint for development, allows churches and other religious institutions in residential zones, it does not allow student centers. Opponents expressed concern that the center would add traffic and noise and take away parking from the neighborhood.
“A lot of people see this building as a representation of our people’s perseverance.”
— Karen Parry, executive director of Hillel of San Diego
When the center was first announced, the proposal was for a facility nearly twice the size of that being built. The San Diego City Council approved the original project in 2006, but a lawsuit challenged the land sale and the council vote was overturned.
In 2008, higher courts determined that an environmental impact report would be required for the project. The EIR drafting and public comment period lasted more than eight years.
The La Jolla Community Planning Association voted to oppose the plan in June 2012 following emotionally charged community feedback that was equally divided for and against the project.
In 2014, the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee deemed the draft EIR deficient in several areas and recommended that the Community Planning Association consider the matter further. LJCPA again voiced opposition.
The city finalized the EIR in 2016. By then, the project was reduced to its current size and the entrance was moved from the heavily traveled La Jolla Scenic Drive North to La Jolla Scenic Way.
In April 2017, the San Diego Planning Commission approved the project, and six months later, the Hillel Center was unanimously approved by the City Council after more than two hours of debate and public testimony.
Then-Councilwoman Barbara Bry — representing District 1, which includes La Jolla — motioned to add provisions to prohibit future expansion of the facility and to form an advisory committee to address noise, traffic and parking (to expire within five years with an option to extend).
Soon after, Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use filed a lawsuit arguing that the center would adversely affect the neighborhood and that the City Council did not follow the law in approving it.
In November 2018, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor upheld Hillel of San Diego’s right to build the center.
Earlier that year, a sign at the site announcing the Hillel Center was vandalized with profanity and lettering resembling a swastika.
Then-Hillel of San Diego President Emily Jennewein said “bigoted opposition to our plans is not new to us, nor will we let it deter our absolute commitment to building the Glickman Center as soon as possible.”
Two years later, Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use tried one more time to block the project but was rejected by the California 4th District Court of Appeal in spring 2021.
The Hillel Center broke ground Sept. 19, 2021, launching more than a year of construction.
To learn more about the center, visit glickmancenter.org. ◆
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