Park in University City
A park in University City. Image from University Community Plan Update

University City has seen a resurgence in the past decade, as more young people have moved here.  Some attended UC San Diego and opted to stay, others located here to be close to work. 

A growing segment of the community’s population is young couples in their late 20s and 30s who, after being settled in their careers, have moved to south University City to raise families.

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The reasons they give most often for locating here are not only its central location, but the ideal environment it offers their children. It has good schools, parks, walkability, a relatively low crime rate, and large yards where their children can play. On any given day, you will see young people pushing baby strollers down sidewalks, often with their dogs in tow. On weekends, you’ll see entire families parading by. 

Beyond its location and lifestyle, younger people are drawn to the palpable sense of community and belonging, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion or class.  Neighbors know and look out for their neighbors, and people greet one another in passing, often stopping to chat. Many cul-de-sacs in the community are filled almost entirely of young couples with small children and babies who will grow up together, creating chalk drawings in driveways and playing games.

But the city of San Diego wants to destroy this picture for these newly settled young residents, robbing them of all they have worked toward. The proposed University Community Plan Update could turn the community into a congested, unrecognizable metropolis by adding more than three times the housing density, without thought to the fact University City simply doesn’t have the space nor corresponding infrastructure needed to support such a population increase.

The city’s unrealistic vision of University City fails to recognize it is already a well-planned, built-out community ideally suited for growing families. It hasn’t offered a means to add or widen existing roadways, nor provide additional parks and recreation centers, schools, libraries, aquatic complexes, fire and police stations, water and sewer, and open space. It can’t, because there is no more land left here to develop or otherwise utilize.

The city has not offered any solutions to the traffic congestion that increased density will cause for residents merely trying to get in and out of their own neighborhoods. It insists that everyone here will suddenly begin using public transportation or riding their bikes. Not only is that an unreasonable view, but quite comical when you visualize people trying to transport their 40-pound bags of soil or fertilizer, or multiple bags of groceries, or their baby strollers and baby gear on a bus or bicycle.

The city is proposing to add as many as 1,000 housing units to University City Marketplace and University Square, both located along Governor Drive, without any guarantee that retail will be retained. This will force community residents to drive to other communities to do their shopping, which goes directly against the city’s Climate Action Program.

Despite the correlating increase in traffic, the city has not said how it will protect the safety of the hundreds of young children attending the three schools or playing at Standley Park along Governor Drive. 

In the name of social justice, UC San Diego student activists have clamored loudly about the “need for higher density housing” in University City, without understanding the consequences of their outcry. There is no doubt that student housing is in short supply, since the university has continued to increase its enrollment without providing enough on-campus student housing to keep up with demand. 

What these student activists also don’t understand is that “higher density” means more small, luxury, high-rise apartment buildings that will rent for $4,000 a month and up –- exceeding what students can afford. 

These student activists are unknowingly being manipulated by developers, the university and the city to support their capitalist interests, when the real solution is for UC San Diego to take responsibility for building more housing on its abundant land. Students could, instead, demand the city target nearby underutilized commercial and industrial properties for redevelopment — a far greener solution to the lack of housing.

Beyond their immediate call for more housing in the region, these young student activists could be depriving themselves of their own dreams of one day owning a home where they will want to raise their families. They will look back and realize they’ve helped create a place that is unlivable for their generation and future generations to come.

Bonnie Kutch is a retired public relations professional who has owned a home in south University City since 2016 and is very active in her community.