Monday, June 27, 2005

The Dewars: The history of the UC Extension site

1860s view of San Francisco Orphan Asylum Society

Warren L. Dewar
Darlene Johnson Dewar
137 Buchanan Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Phone: (415) 626-2218; Fax: (415) 626-3107
Warren L. Dewar, II. E-mail:
Darlene Johnson Dewar E-mail:

June 29, 2005

Mr. Paul Maltzer
San Francisco Planning Department
1660 Mission Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, California 94103-2414

Written Comments

Dear Mr. Maltzer:

My wife and I live on Buchanan Street directly across from the Laguna Campus property. We submit this letter for your consideration in connection with the Public Scoping Meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 29, 2005. We are strongly opposed to the above project, and urge the Planning Department to make a finding of “No Project Alternative,” which would assure continuation of the existing “P” zoning classification.

In 1999, my wife and I moved to San Francisco from Seattle, investing most of our life savings in our Edwardian duplex on Buchanan Street. Our house is located within the “area of potential effect” according to guidelines of the California State Office of Historic Preservation, relative to the existing historic buildings at the Laguna Campus. (1)

Before we purchased our home, we inquired as to the status of the Laguna Campus property across the street. We learned that the property was zoned as a Public Use District. This was very reassuring and important to us in making our purchase decision because we believed that such a designation would guarantee the continued public use of the property, which we believed would enhance the value of our new home. We certainly would not have purchased our home had we known then that the Regents of the University of California would seek a change in the zoning so they could construct a large private real estate development across the street from our property.

The 5.8-acre Laguna Campus property has been in public use since approximately 1851 when the Common [City] Council of San Francisco gave $30,000 to the Protestant Orphan Asylum Society for the purchase of land and construction of a new orphanage on the north-east corner of Buchanan and Waller Streets.(2) The two-story brick building, described as a “… handsome and commodious edifice” with capacity for 250 orphans, was completed in 1854.(3) It was the first orphanage on the West Coast, (4) and by 1893 a chapel had been added south of the building at the corner of Waller and Buchanan Streets. (5)

The orphanage operated on this property until the early 1920’s. The 1906 earthquake destroyed the 1854 orphanage building which was constructed of masonry; however, the wood-frame buildings in the neighborhood were largely spared from damage. (6) (The property in this area sits on part of the “Serpentine Belt” rock formation which has protected most structures from any major earthquake damage during recorded history.) By 1915, the main orphanage building was rebuilt, and other buildings were added. (7)

Shortly after the earthquake, part of the orphanage property was re-cycled to another public use: The Orphanage Society gave two of its lots on Buchanan Street, south of Waller, to the San Francisco State Normal School to fill an increasing need for the education of public school teachers.(8) (9) The school developed into a rigorous top-ranked learning institution, and was eventually known throughout the nation for its experimental yet practical teaching program. (10) By 1921, the San Francisco State Normal School had become San Francisco State Teachers’ College, and offered liberal arts courses in addition to teacher education. (11) Its success fostered plans to expand and completely rebuild its campus. (12)

To accommodate this expansion, two important things happened in 1922. On March 27th, the City of San Francisco made its second major donation for the continued public use of this property by abandoning the portion of Waller Street that ran through the middle of the tract.(13)This allowed the orphanage on May 15, 1922 to give its remaining two-block tract (including the abandoned street) to the State of California for the benefit of the Teachers’ College. (14)

The subsequent building program resulted in construction of the four reinforced concrete buildings which remain today: Middle Hall Gymnasium (at the corner of Waller and Buchanan Streets at the site of the original San Francisco Protestant Orphanage Asylum, completed in 1924)[15], the Kindergarten Training Building, later known as Richardson Hall-Administration wing (at the corner of Laguna and Waller Streets, constructed in 1924) (16), the Science Building, now called Woods Hall (at the corner of Haight and Buchanan Streets, constructed between 1926 and 1927) (17), and the Teachers Training Building, later called Richardson Hall (at the corner of Laguna and Hermann Streets, completed in 1930). (18)

In 1935, San Francisco State Teachers’ College became San Francisco State College (19) (the predecessor of San Francisco State University). At that time there were 1,920 enrolled students in a space designed for only 800 students. (20) By 1939, legislation authorized funds for the purchase of property at Lake Merced, and for construction of a larger campus for the college. The Lake Merced campus slowly took form; however, San Francisco State College remained on its two campuses until the final move in 1957. (21)

On February 1, 1957, the Governor approved legislation authorizing the State to transfer the Laguna Property to the Regents of the University of California in exchange for other property in San Francisco which U.C. had been using for its extension classes. (22) The legislation was declared an emergency measure, and thus immediately effective, based on the following recited facts:

The former campus of San Francisco State College has been standing idle for some time and is increasingly subject to serious damage and rapid deterioration, while the University of California is in urgent need of expanded quarters for its extension activities and is seeking to secure the idle campus for this and other university uses. Also, San Francisco State College cannot proceed with certain of its programs until the university’s present extension quarters in San Francisco are made available for such use by exchange for the old campus. In order to authorize this exchange and to serve these important public needs as soon as possible, it is necessary that this act take effect immediately. (Emphasis supplied).

Thus the Legislature, with the Governor’s approval, authorized the immediate exchange of properties upon condition that the Laguna Campus property be put to “university uses." The enabling legislation did not authorize the Regents to lease the property to developers for a private real estate venture. It is interesting that while the Regents obtained legislative approval to put the property to “university uses," they have not sought legislative approval for removing it from that use and turning it into a private real estate development.

Most of the property was used by the University of California as an extension campus from 1958 until 2002. (23) In 1973, the Regents leased the upper half of the campus to the French-American Bilingual School. The bilingual school vacated the property in 2003. The property has been vacant since that year, with the exception of the south-west corner, which is used by UCSF as its dental clinic. (24)

A heavy burden must be imposed upon the U.C. Regents who seek to change the zoning of this property, which has been such an important resource to the neighborhood for over 150 years. We can find no tract of land of this importance that has ever been taken out of a “P” zoning classification. Such a zoning change would set a dangerous precedent that could potentially jeopardize the status of all other tracts placed in public use. Golden Gate Park, for example, was actually placed in public use after the Laguna property. Would the City entertain plans to transform parts of Golden Gate Park into a private real estate development?

The U.C. Regents are the first, and only, owner to ever attempt a re-zone during the property’s entire 154-year history of public use. The Protestant Orphanage Society certainly could have tried to maximize the value of its prime asset by seeking a re-zone, especially after the city gave it $30,000 in 1851, and closed Waller Street in 1922. The Teachers’ College never proposed that its property be turned into a private real estate development. Such an act would certainly have benefited the college financially, and perhaps would have helped it acquire the property at Lake Merced more quickly. In those days, public institutions apparently knew that public use zoning meant a continuation of the property’s public use, even beyond the ability of a particular institution to provide it. If the U.C. Regents are no longer willing or able to provide the public use mandated by the City of San Francisco, they should follow the lead of previous owners: give the property to an institution that can provide benefit to the public.

If the current zoning were changed, the market value of the Laguna property would “skyrocket” to where any future public use would be financially impossible. The Regents would own an asset, no longer encumbered by public use requirements, which they would be free to sell at any time to the highest bidder. Such a conversion of use would have devastating effects upon the surrounding neighborhoods.

Proponents argue that they are merely attempting to meet the overwhelming need for additional housing in the city. The answer to this argument lies in merely looking at the amount of new housing already in the “pipeline.” The adjacent Octavia Boulevard project will bring 900 new housing units to the neighborhood. The “Sue Mills” tract at 1844 Market Street, will provide many additional new units. The Market Street Redevelopment will add 3,000 housing units within one mile of the Laguna Campus. The missing ingredient that adds vitality, enrichment, and enjoyment to the lives of these new residents (as well as those already living in the neighborhood) will be met by preserving the Public Use status of the Laguna Campus; not by destroying it.

If the Planning Department is inclined to recommend approval of the requested zoning change, we have many objections to the specific project.

It does not comply with important provisions of the Planning Department’s own Guide to Considering Reuse of the University of California Berkeley Extension Laguna Street Campus.

Lot and Block Pattern. The Guide requires the developer to “Emulate scales of surrounding lot and block patterns." (25)The surrounding lots on Buchanan Street are typically 25 feet wide, to a depth of at least 100 feet. No such pattern can be found anywhere in the proposed project.

Waller Street. The Guide requires the developer to “Reinstate Waller Street as a publicly-accessible way, creating a northern and southern block." (26) The Planning Recommendation Illustrations make it clear that “. . . all . . . streets share the fundamental characteristic of being essentially open, publicly accessible spaces that are used for some or all kinds . . . of transportation . . .” (27) The proposed project transforms the western part of Waller Street into a park. It does not “Reinstate Waller Street into the network of city streets," nor does it make the reinstated Waller Street useable for transportation through the site. As stated below, the apparent purpose of this scheme is to use the street to satisfy the separate requirement of providing a public open space.

Scale of Buildings. The Guide requires the development to “be in keeping with the scale and character of surrounding neighborhoods, promoting the scale or appearance of many small buildings rather than a few large buildings.” (28) The developer’s project is the reverse: it is primarily one of many large buildings with a few small ones.

Open Space. The Guide requires the retention of “a portion of the current ‘Public’ zoning and . . . creation of a significant new publicly accessible open space that takes advantages of the site’s unique topography and location that allows for an important new public vantage point.” (29) The Guide illustration shows where the new vantage point should be located: north of the reinstated Waller Street. (30) The developer has no such “significant open space”. Instead, Waller Street is transformed into a park within a canyon of very limited views. There are no other proposed “P” zoned areas in the entire proposal. The proposed project actually destroys existing views on Buchanan Street. These views are presently enjoyed by pedestrians as well as residents.

Historic Resources. The Guide states: “To the greatest extent possible, retain and reuse structures and resources of historic merit unless their alteration or demolition is clearly and demonstrably outweighed by other public goals and objectives.”(31) (Emphasis added). The developer shows no public goal or objective to support its plan to demolish most of the historic buildings and historic resources of the tract. One of the historic buildings scheduled for demolition is the up-graded gymnasium. The nearby area known as South Hayes Valley is home to many at-risk young people for whom a gymnasium can be of benefit. What is the “public goal or objective” in demolishing this potential public asset?

The project is too large. It is clear that this project is driven by one overriding factor: The maximization of the number of units in order to maximize cash flow to the University.

There is only one access to the underground parking lot. The plans call for underground parking space for 314 cars. The only access to this “monster garage” appears to be through a narrow curved driveway on Buchanan Street. Does this mean we can expect up to 314 cars lining up to drive in and out twice a day? Is it in the interest of public safety to have only one exit/entrance to the garage?

Where will the Other Vehicles Park? While perhaps a laudable goal, it is naïve to assume that 833 new residents will own only 264 cars (314 less 50 for the Dental Clinic). A conservative number is at least 600 cars. Because of limited parking space within the project, there will be over 300 additional cars looking for non-existent additional parking spaces in the neighborhood. This number does not include cars belonging to those visiting the development’s residents, nor to vehicles driven by U.P.S., and others making deliveries to the residents.

Warren L. Dewar & Darlene Johnson Dewar

[1] Historic Resources Study by Page & Turnbull, Inc., p. 54.
[2] Historic Resources Study by Page & Turnbull, Inc. p. 24
[3] Ibid, p. 23
[4] Ibid, p. 23
[5] Ibid, p. 24
[6] Ibid, p. 24
[7] Ibid, p. 25
[8] Ibid, p. 28
[9]The original property records were destroyed in the April 18, 1906 fire; however, on April 13, 1911, in the case of The State of California, et. al. vs. All Persons, et. al., File No. 26498, the California Superior Court for San Francisco County entered a Decree Quieting Title to the two lots of Block 216 containing the orphanage chapel, and determined the lots were owned by the State of California and the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco State Normal School.
[10] Historic Resources Study, by Page & Turnbull, p. 28
[11] Ibid, p. 29
[12] Ibid, p. 29
[13] See Resolution No. 19812 of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, dated March 27, 1922.
[14] See Vol. 505, p. 357-358 of Deeds, Records of San Francisco County.
[15] Historic Resources Study, by Page & Turnbull, p. 30
[16] Ibid, p. 30-31.
[17] Ibid, p. 31.
[18] Ibid, p. 32.
[19] Ibid, p. 36.
[20] Ibid, p. 36.
[21] Ibid, p. 39.
[22] Chapter 10 of the Statutes of 1957 (Section 13104 of the Government Code).
[23] Historic Resources Study, by Page & Turnbull, p. 41.
[24] Ibid, p. 41. The Dental Clinic is not part of the above project.
[25] Guide, p. 14.
[26] Guide, p. 14.
[27] Guide, p. 12.
[28] Guide, p. 12.
[29] Guide, p. 12.
[30] Guide, p. 15-16.
[31] Guide, p. 11.

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Diamond Dave, Judi Bari, and Bruce Anderson

District 5 Diary bumped into Diamond Dave Whitaker, former D5 candidate for Supervisor and co-founder of the D5 Candidates' Collaborative, the other day in Cafe Abir. Dave mentioned that he had just read Kate Coleman's book on the late Judi Bari, the Earth First! leader (The Secret Wars of Judi Bari, Encounter Books). I said that I too had read the book and thought it wasn't any good. He referred to my brother Bruce, former Editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, who was one of Coleman's primary sources. I replied that that was the problem with the book. 

For years my brother has clung irrationally to delusional opinions on who carried out the 1990 assassination attempt on the late Earth First! leader. The problem with Coleman's book is that all the sources she relied on, my brother included, believe Bari's ex-husband planted the car bomb that almost killed her. She didn't bother to talk to those of us who thought otherwise. There's no real evidence for the ex-husband theory, as Nick Wilson---the best source on the subject, who of course was not interviewed by Coleman---demonstrates in great detail. Interpretation and sources aside, for a long list of just the factual errors in the Coleman book, go here.

And my analysis of the bombing and the ex-husband theory several years ago holds up pretty well as an intro.

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Let's take it back

Subject: Taking Back the UC Extension Site for the City
Date: 6/10/2005


If you still oppose the UC proposal for the old extension site, we need to look ahead to figure out what's going to happen if/when that proposal is rejected by the city. If, as I hope, the proposal is rejected, the problem will be that UC still has title to the property. You and Supervisor Dufty should consider asking the City Attorney for a legal opinion as to how the city can take the property away from UC. If we don't do something, UC will just be back next year with another more or less unacceptable proposal. Clearly UC has deliberately allowed the property to deteriorate for years, and now they claim they can't afford to pay for the necessary repairs. Hence, a plausible line of attack: UC has in effect neglected and abandoned both the property and the public trust by their negligence. And they have done so out of sheer greed, since they just want to cash in on a parcel they have had tax-free for 47 years.

Rob Anderson

To: Rob Anderson
From: Ross Mirkarimi
Subject: Taking Back the UC Extension Site for the City
Date: June 10, 2005


Yes, I am. I've told UC and their developers that they need to respect all considerations in retaining "public" zoned designations by demonstrating good faith negotiations in seeking public occupants; I am also displeased with the absence of any tangible or substantive community benefit returning to our neighborhoods---the question of affordable housing is valid but not if the below market rate quotient is only pitched at 20% out of the aggregate units proposed while the city is experiencing a moderate to high vacancy rate in rental housing.

Ross Mirkarimi

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