Friday, January 28, 2005

Positive Alternatives to UC Plan

There are now two positive alternatives to the still-terrible UC plan to put 424 housing units on the old UC Extension site. First there's my favorite (I get to go first, because it's my blog): use most of the nearly 6 acres for a park, with open grassland and some trees on the hillside, retaining one or more of the historic buildings for a branch library. That part of town badly needs both a park and a library. The only park in the area is Koshland Park, which is really a playground for kids, not an exceptional public space like Alamo Square or Dolores Park. And the closest library may be the Main Library in the Civic Center.

And there's the New College alternative: neighborhood opponent of the UC proposal Warren Dewar is talking to New College President Martin Hamilton. According to Dewar, Hamilton is interested in a new location for New College, which is outgrowing its present site in the Mission. Everyone tells me that this is more practical than the park/library idea, which will immediately run into questions about how to pay for it. Poor little San Francisco can't really afford to improve its neighborhoods, you understand. How about some kind of ballot measure designed solely to both repossess the UC Extension Site for the city and make it into a park/library? Future generations would thank us.

The New College alternative would preserve the Public Use zoning the site now has---and has had for the last 150 years---while retaining it for educational purposes, much like the old UC Extension. On the other hand, this alternative will bring a lot of traffic back to the neighborhood, since New College has more than 800 students. But New College is a genuinely progressive institution and would no doubt be open to taking down the wall that now surrounds a good part of the site and opening up more---especially the beautiful old gym, which will be torn down under the UC/Evans plan---to the neighborhood.

(This is now the calm before the traffic storm for this whole area, since the UC Extension site hasn't been used much for months. One way or another, it will be used again and traffic will return. And then there's the alarming Octavia Blvd. experiment unfolding a block away. This summer the road work will be done, and the new freeway entrance/exit will open up south of Market, pointing right at the Market/Octavia neighborhood north of Market. A lot more traffic will be coming into the neighborhood this summer. Finally, there's the more than 1000 new housing units planned for the near future on the old freeway parcels, which will bring still more people and traffic into the area. The Planning Dept. calls this, without irony, "building neighborhoods" and "place-making." Instead they are misguidedly setting the stage for some big problems in that part of the city.)

At the HVNA meeting last night, Supervisor Mirkarimi said he was against changing the site's zoning to allow UC to build a huge, for-profit housing development there. If UC can't get the zoning change, they can't develop the property. Let's hope Mirkarimi sticks to his guns in opposing the zoning change. The fact that there are positive alternatives to the awful UC proposal will help give him the political cover to do so.

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2 Comments:

At 5:12 PM, Blogger SFModerate said...

Rob,

I like the idea of New College moving in. However, what about the seismic retrofitting that needs to be done? Who is going to pay the millions of dollars needed to make it livable? My understanding was the the UC is strapped and doesn't want to spend the money. If they do spend the money, the cost of the lease would go up. Can New College afford to move there? Can New College afford to buy the campus and make the upgrades?

If they can make it work, that is the ideal solution. The city should not be on the hook for the costs, whatever happens.

 
At 3:48 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I find the notion that UC is "strapped" difficult to believe. After all, they are leasing two large office floors at 425 Market St. where the extension courses are now taught. These are huge floors in a pricey office building in the middle of downtown San Francisco. They also are readying more space to lease on nearby Third St. And don't forget the situation in Berkeley, where they are planning to bulldoze that city into accepting a much larger UC campus. I think the reality is that UC is an overlarge, imperial intstitution that behaves much like a large private corporation. That is, it behaves like it has to expand or die. I think they are just trying to cash in on the old extension site by making it into a for-profit housing development, and I don't think we should let them get away with it. On the retrofitting: I know nothing about it, but surely, given a modicum of goodwill on all sides, this can be negotiated. Of course UC will not be eager to negotiate with New College as long as they think they can get away with their housing scam.

 

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