Wednesday, June 22, 2005

June 20 HVNA Meeting on UC Extension Proposal

Last Monday night's Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association ( meeting on the UC proposal for the old extension site on the lower Haight was essentially a waste of time, unlike the other four meetings, which were highly informative. Monday night's meeting broke into several groups by topic in an attempt to elicit ideas about what specifically should be done on the site. In the group I joined, the facilitator taped a lot of ideas to the wall about what kind of housing people favored for the site. It devolved into a kind of over-structured bull session, giving people the illusion that they actually have some say at this point about what's going to happen to that property.

This sort of thing is really a diversion from the reality of what's actually been proposed. Regardless of what anyone thinks, there is only one proposal on the table for the old extension site and that, of course, is by UC, which has title to the property. Before anything else can be done with that site, the present proposal has to be rejected by the city, at which point UC may or may not be willing to consider alternatives. As long as they have title to the property, UC can just crank out another, similar proposal if this one is rejected. UC wants to build up to 450 housing units on the 5.8 acre site. Middle Hall will be completely demolished, as will half of Richardson Hall. The other buildings will be gutted and housing will be inserted into the shells. The rest of the housing will be in new buildings on the site. The dental clinic will remain where it is.

The Planning Dept. announced on June 15 that there will be a scoping session for the proposal's EIR on June 29, 6:00 p.m., at the LGBT Community Center at 1800 Market St.

In other UC news: As reported earlier ("Startling Numbers from UC," May 23), UC is now spending $1.26 million a year to lease two huge floors at 425 Market St. to house part of its extension operation. The rest of the extension in SF is located on two floors at nearby 95 Third St., just off Market St., which they are leasing for $846,000 a year. Hence, UC is now paying $2,106,000 to lease office space in downtown San Francisco to house the extension program that used to be at the site on lower Haight St. Why not put that money into rehabbing the old site? The answer is obvious: because UC wants to cash in on the Haight St. site, which, as a public entity, they have had tax-free since 1958.

UC Planner Jeff Bond announced this lease information at the third HVNA UC meeting on May 23, but whoever took the notes for the HVNA didn't see fit to include those rather damning numbers in the Summary of Information from the first four meetings handed out Monday night. Was I the only one who wrote this information down? Hard to believe, considering its importance. And, as far as I can tell, this information hasn't been published anywhere else except in District 5 Diary.

One can see why UC and its supporters would like to bury this information, since the numbers provide a ready interpretion of UC's motives for proposing 450 housing units for the site (until last week, 424 was the official number of units proposed; but the Planning Dept.'s June 15 Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report and Notice of Public Scoping Meetings tells us now that "up to 450" housing units will be built). In the first HVNA meeting of the series, UC's Bond painted a sad story of the mega-institution's poverty. He told us that, if their large for-profit housing proposal is rejected by the city, UC will have to increase student fees and cut educational programs. As he spoke, however, UC was paying millions to lease space downtown to house the extension operation that used to be on the lower Haight St. site.

Let's do a little math: If UC builds 450 housing units on the site and leases them for an average of $2000 a month---a conservative estimate, since there will be a lot of two and three-bedroom apartments in the development---that means an income of $900,000 a month and $10,900,000 a year. If we assume for sake of argument that UC and the developers are going to split the loot fifty-fifty, that means more than $5 million a year in income for poor old UC.

The only useful information that came out of Monday night's meeting was in a handout from New College, which continues to show a lot of interest in the site for its growing school that now has 1,000 students at two different locations in the city. Their handout included the information that, if they are allowed to move onto the site, New College will construct housing for students and teachers, along with providing day care for 65 children, including children from the surrounding neighborhood; provide commercial space for "green" businesses; and, cannily, make 13,000 square feet available for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transexual Historic Archives. True, New College is not a public college, and it's not cheap. But it is definitely a progressive school, and it's neighborhood-oriented. It would surely be a better alternative to UC's greedy, unprincipled, over-sized housing proposal for the site.