Mysterious city request leads to fears of overdevelopment

Posted at 6:07 PM, Mar 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-08 19:56:31-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - There's a sign inside Hillcrest's Industrial Grind Coffee that reads, "our first, funky little coffee shop opened in 2011 - not too far from where you're standing right now."

It's a place that shaped barista Jennifer Bizjak.

"It's where I learned everything I know about coffee," she said.

That original location is a third of a mile away, near the northwest corner of Park Boulevard and University Avenue. It's now shuttered, and untouched. It's part of a complex that includes small homes and mom-and-pop businesses - one owner said she's preparing to leave after 17 years.

Real Estate investment group Diversyfund bought the complex in June for $3.65 million. It plans to replace it with an 80,000 square foot mixed-use building that includes 58 units, including 6 affordable apartments.

Shayan Rajabi, an investment analyst for the group, said the new complex is designed with sensitivity to the neighborhood. He said it would bring more housing to a region with a sever under-supply, plus affordable units. He added the building would feature a coffee shop, or microbrew, that would complement the community.

"I think the scale of our building is comfortable as it adds density without overloading the area. It’s the kind of scale that they do in German cities, which are known to have very people-oriented building codes," he said. 

That development would be near the northwest corner of Park and University, where a recent city request is now leading to concerns of future overdevelopment.

In February, a city planner asked the Uptown Community Planning Group to support rezoning a little more than an acre at the northwest corner of Park and University to allow more intense development than what is in the recently approved community plan.

Board member Mat Wahlstrom said the planner gave very few specifics.  

"He simply said that a stakeholder, which, I would assume is the property owner, approached us to see about having this done," Wahlstrom said.

Rayabi said the Diversyfund project fits within current zoning and that the group did not ask or need a re-zone for the project.

Peggy Shapiro, who owns the strip mall that's actually on the corner - which includes the Medical Center Pharmacy - also said she has no redevelopment plans. She added she was unaware of the proposed rezone.

On Thursday, City spokesman Arian Collins said REAL Development submitted a rezone application for the properties at 3906 and 3922 Park Boulevard, to accommodate a 58-unit mixed use complex with affordable housing. He added that the application has since been changed for a foundation and podium, but no permits have been issued. 

Bizjak said she's concerned about extra development hurting Hillcrest's parking situation.

"I can't even imagine how far they want to go or how that would even make sense," she said.

The Planning Commission is going to consider the rezone at its meeting March 15.