Thursday, July 07, 2005

New College to UC: Let's Make a Deal

Cynthia Servetnick Writes: If you would like the EIR for the Laguna Hill Residential Project to evaluate the impacts of New College's Illustrative Concept Plan below as a feasible preservation/public use alternative, please send your written comments to: Rana Ahmadi, Environmental Planner, Major Environmental Analysis, San Francisco Planning Department 1660 Mission Street, 5th Floor San Francisco, CA 94103. And reference 2004.0773E Laguna Hill Residential Project EIR before July 29, 2005. Your input on this and other environmental issues is critical.


June 20, 2005

Jeff Bond, Senior Planner
Real Estate Services Group
Architecture and Engineering Building, 2nd Floor
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California 94720

Dear Jeff:

As planner for a “land-locked” university, I am sure you are well aware of the difficulty a school such as New College would encounter in finding suitable property to consolidate scattered sites and expand its facilities to meet the growing demand for classes. That is why I was pleased when you invited New College to meet with the University of California Office of the President, A.F. Evans and Mercy Housing to discuss development plans for the Laguna Campus.

I have been consistent, both in our several phone conversations and in our two meetings, in expressing New College's interest in working with you and/or your development partners if for some reason you are unable to implement the current proposal. I was therefore dismayed by the June 3rd follow-up letter I received from Jack Robertson, and felt the need to clarify the way in which New College might use the site. At a minimum, this concept could serve as an alternative to be analyzed in the Environmental Impact Report for the Laguna Hill Residential Project.

The major theme of my discussions with you has been to preserve the existing buildings and historic nature of the site for education. The attached illustrative concept plan and accompanying fact sheet show how this might be accomplished. The existing buildings provide more than enough space to meet New College’s current and future space needs. We would also propose to develop housing for students and faculty, as well as provide space suitable for some community uses.

With code-required seismic and ADA improvements, New College could as a first step consolidate most if not all of its current space into Woods Hall, Woods Hall Annex and Middle Hall. We are confident that the current configuration of those buildings is superior to the majority of the classroom space we are now using, since that is their intended use, so code corrections would be sufficient at this stage.

Either concurrently or in a second stage, we would propose to develop the northeast and south central portions of the site with three levels of apartments above one or two levels of parking. These two buildings could house approximately 300 students.

The college would seek a variance not to increase the current parking supply, other than to add 12 spaces for the city’s CarShare program. We feel that this level of parking will more than adequately serve all uses on the site. Student residents would not be permitted to have cars unless they demonstrated special need. In addition, New College in the past and currently has had negligible parking. Walking, bicycling or taking public transit is one of the ways that our students, faculty and staff support New College’s mission to create a sustainable world. We would also explore the opportunity for “shared parking” with neighborhood residents.

The Laguna Street frontage could include storefront green businesses (perhaps 5-8,000 square feet) at street level. The ”Commons” formed by Richardson Hall and the new housing would provide semi-public open space.

The Dental School parking lot could be redeveloped with housing suitable for faculty, parking, and public open space. The space illustrated in the concept plan could provide 50 units of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Dental School parking would be replaced underneath the housing and park. Housing parking would be provided either in a second level under the housing or in the lower lot.

Major seismic and other code work to Richardson Hall could be timed to accommodate the college expansion or other uses as additional funds became available. New College would explore the possibility of using portions of the building before all of the code corrections are completed. For the longer term, the university may wish to explore the potential for shared use of this space, especially for evening classes, as leases expire.

Either Richardson Hall, or the Woods Hall Annex, could provide an ideal site for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transsexual (GLBT) Historical Society Archives, which is seeking a location in this neighborhood. The campus could include a childcare center to accommodate students, faculty and staff, as well as the surrounding community. The Middle Hall gymnasium would be retained for college and community use.

We would expect to use a number of funding methods to pay for the renovations, new development, and ground lease payments to the University. For example, private non-profit colleges in this state are eligible for tax-exempt bond financing issued by the California Educational Facilities Authority. The funds could be used to upgrade the historic buildings and construct new facilities. We anticipate that housing and parking revenues would be self-supporting and would cover all financing and lease payments related to these new construction projects.

Further, in preserving this National Register-eligible campus in accordance with the Secretary of Interior's standards, New College would be eligible for Proposition 12 California Heritage Fund grants, as well as Proposition 40 California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection grants for the preservation of cultural resources. New College could also syndicate its historic preservation tax credits and make use of the State Historic Building Code to bring the existing buildings up to code. Finally, New College could work with the University of California to acquire a preservation easement for the campus and pursue transfer development rights from the city to compensate for not fully developing the site.

New College is committed to creating a more just, sacred and sustainable world. Should the situation present itself, we would be grateful for the opportunity to prepare a joint proposal for the re-use of the UC Berkeley Extension Campus in the spirit in which it was first conceived more than 80 years ago.

Sincerely,

Martin Hamilton
President

cc: Jack Robertson, President, A.F. Evans Development, Inc.
Allen Meacham, University of California, Office of the President
Jane Graf, President, Mercy Housing California
Supervisor Bevan Dufty
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
Matt Franklin, Mayor’s Office of Housing
Paul Olsen, President, HVNA
Patricia Walkup, HVNA

Attachments:

New College of California Illustrative Concept Plan and Fact Sheet
“New College of California Uncovered,” Brochure