SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council voted 6-3 Monday to approve a 420,000-square-foot commercial office development on an undeveloped 11-acre lot in Torrey Highlands.
The Preserve at Torrey Highlands will include three office buildings, a 3,850-square-foot cafe and a 5,000-square-foot fitness center, as well as a five-story parking structure with 1,088 spots.
Two of the office buildings will stand five stories tall and include 150,000 square feet of floor space, while the third building will be four stories with 120,000 square feet of floor space. In addition, each building will include 70-80 subterranean parking spaces and the campus will have 62 surface parking spaces, 90 short-term bike racks and 90 long-term bike lockers.
The council voted to amend the Torrey Highlands Subarea Plan to change the parcel’s land-use designation from “commercial limited” to “employment center.” The council also approved a planned development permit and a site development permit for the project.
Supporters argued in favor of the development due to the jobs it is likely to add to the northern area of the city, which is already a hotbed for the technology and biotech industries.
“The physical location of jobs is incredibly important, and in this case we’re talking about the Preserve at Torrey Highlands, which will provide more than 2,000 innovation jobs, adding to a major employment center in an established area of the city near residential options,” said Sean Karafin, executive director of policy and economic research for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The area’s current zoning also made it a potential spot for storage units or a church, a possibility some council members balked at.
“This is not open space, this is not going to be open space,” said City Councilman Mark Kersey. “My concern is that something’s going to go here, and the uses that we’re going to see with the current zoning I don’t think the community would support. A small church, fine, but a mega church, I don’t think so. Storage units, certainly not.”
City Council members Barbara Bry, Georgette Gomez and Monica Montgomery all voted against the development, siding with the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club in its concern for the campus’ carbon footprint. The campus will be located near state Route 54 and two miles from the closest bus stop.
The Sierra Club and the advocacy group Protect Our Preserves also argued that the project’s developer, Cisterra, pulled out of deal with POPS that would have allowed Cisterra to develop a parcel of land along Morena Boulevard near Rose Creek while exchanging the Torrey Highlands site, which is adjacent to the Del Mar Mesa Preserve, with the group.
“We need jobs. We work with these union members in many circumstances,” said Sierra Club San Diego Chairman Peter Anderson. “We like them, they’re our partners in many cases. … We want this project to be built, just not here.”
Cisterra representatives said the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding to exchange the two properties and allow POPS to seek the city’s approval to attach the Torrey Highlands site to the Del Mar Mesa Preserve as protected space.
According to Cisterra, city staff determined that plan was not feasible and the developer decided to proceed with the Preserve at Torrey Highlands.
The council’s approval of the development is not subject to a mayoral veto.