Topaz construction delay without temporary housing leaves students ‘frustrated’

Despite a scheduled opening in August, the new student residential and retail development was pushed back to October 2023
The Topaz Apartment complex is shown still under construction as of July 2023.
The Topaz Apartment complex is shown still under construction as of July 2023.
Photo by Michael Hayes

A delay on the Topaz Apartments development has forced more than 100 students who signed pre-leasing agreements to find other living arrangements — just two months before the start of the fall 2023 semester at San Diego State University. 

Topaz informed pre-lessees (via email in May) that the apartments would not be ready for the start of the semester. Construction on Montezuma Road first began in fall 2021. The development has 53 units, totaling up to 169 beds for individual leasing, five retail tenants on the ground level and other amenities for residents are still under construction. 

It is unclear whether future apartment occupants were thoroughly informed about the possibility of delays due to conflicting information from students and Topaz officials. 

Nonetheless, a short-term solution was presented in the first email. Topaz offered interim housing and shuttle service for commuting students to and from campus until the apartments were ready. 

However, a second email sent in June stated that interim housing would no longer be an option. According to NBC San Diego’s coverage of the email contents, Topaz “couldn’t accommodate” everyone interested. 

Some student residents weren’t surprised by the delay, but they feel frustrated that the temporary fix went away. 

Take Ella Albagdadi, a senior who committed to pre-leasing back in January. Albagdadi said she went by the building on multiple occasions and did not see any visible progress. After Topaz announced it could not secure interim housing, she felt uncomfortable signing up for an entirely different apartment with roommates knowing she’d leave in a few months for a single unit at Topaz. 

“I don’t know why they promised us (housing), especially in San Diego’s market if they didn’t already have anything lined up,” Albagdadi said. “I was busy worrying about the shuttle service since I stay late to study in the library, but now (the shuttle’s) not even an option. I’m in a much better position than (out-of-town students) who signed up and don’t have anywhere to go, though.”

In light of the delay and the inability to secure interim housing, Topaz is offering refunds to students who decide to cancel their lease. 

Financial incentives, including rent credit, have been offered to students to either keep their postponed leases or move into the apartments next semester. Bob Hetherington, the Topaz community spokesperson, said that Topaz provided information about available housing through Airbnb, VRBO and other local options.  

Julia Lima, another student, chose the cancellation route and opted to move into a different apartment complex with her roommate. Her father, Marcio Lima, agreed that financial reimbursements would be a reasonable conclusion.  

“I understand it’s a difficult situation, but there are a lot of things involved when someone chooses a place to live,” Marcio Lima said. “(Families) spend months — maybe even a year — looking around and checking out places.”  

The rescheduled opening date for the Topaz development is Oct. 15, but some students are anxious. Albagdadi said she isn’t confident that the apartments will be ready by then, but she has kept her lease and hopes to move in. 

“(Topaz) doesn’t have any motivators to complete (construction) right now because so many students are canceling and they’re getting bad reviews already with this situation,” Albagdadi said. “At the same time, I’m going to be a super senior and I want to live in one place, so I’m hoping it works out.” 

Despite these concerns, Hetherington is confident that the building will be completed, and he said the construction and development teams took steps to ensure timely progress. 

“While unforeseen circumstances can arise with sophisticated construction projects, we are committed to delivering Topaz Apartments and providing a high-quality living experience for our residents by October,” Hetherington said. 

This story is ongoing.       


About the Contributor
Madison McGill
Madison McGill, Staff Writer
Madison McGill (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year journalism major from San Diego, California. Madison started out at The Daily Aztec in the Arts & Culture section writing album reviews, but she quickly discovered her love for covering campus news and her all-consuming opinions. Currently, she’s writing about fashion and beauty for an online magazine called Vanity Stories. When she’s not researching and interviewing for her newest work, Madison loves to dance around to music from her niche playlists and watch way too many films.