Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bike guy rewrites history of UC Extension

In the current newsletter of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, bike guy Jason Henderson provides a sanitized version of UC's plan to gut the old Extension property on lower Haight Street for a massive housing development. Henderson, of course, emphasizes the anti-car position that he and folks like Robin Levitt took during the early meetings on the UC plan, but it was really about allowing UC to hijack and develop for profit city property that has been zoned for "public use" since the 19th Century.

"In 2003 the UC Extension (aka 55 Laguna) was shuttered."
This skips over UC's Big Lie about why it hastily shut down the Extension and allowed the property to deteriorate while it located a housing developer as a partner. First UC claimed that it could no longer afford to maintain the property as a school, that it had to develop it to avoid raising tuition for UC students. Since it was known that UC was already providing extension classes at downtown locations, a UC spokesman was asked what UC was spending on the downtown extension. 

After first refusing to provide the information, he told us at an HVNA meeting in 2005 that UC was paying more than $2 million to lease property for the downtown extension. Why not spend that money on rehabbing and maintaining the Haight Street property? Because UC was determined to abandon its education "mission" at that site in favor of a massive housing development of 400-500 housing units on the 5.8 acre site. 

Housing development is so much more profitable than providing night classes for working people. UC has had that property tax-free from the city since 1958 because it's a public school and the property has been zoned for "public use" ever since it was the location of an orphanage in 1854.

See my interview with former UC employee Elizabeth Hemenway for an account of how UC hastily shut down the Extension and allowed the property to deteriorate.

"In July 2006 HVNA passed two resolutions on the UC Extension site and asked the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission to intervene on behalf of the neighborhood."
Henderson omits how Supervisors Dufty and Mirkarimi either intervened or failed to intervene before July, 2006. As I reported on this blog in April, 2005, Supervisor Mirkarimi started out talking tough:

Ross started off by saying, "I don't like this project at all," and it went downhill for UC from there. Ross called UC a "Leviathan," and said he didn't like its high-handed process for the extension proposal. He favored the New College alternative to a commercial housing development. Ross told Bond he wanted to send a message to the Regents: There is serious opposition to their proposal in City Hall, and, finally---and perhaps fatally for the UC proposal---he opposes changing the site's zoning from Public Use to allow the massive housing development.

Supervisor Dufty, on the other hand, was completely AWOL on the UC proposal, even though, as it turned out, the property is in his district. In early 2007 we learned why Dufty hadn't taken a position on the issue; behind the scenes he had been negotiating benefits for the gay community at the expense of the neighborhood and the city. 

Supervisor Ammiano joined Dufty soon after to ensure that gay seniors have their interests served at the expense of everyone else. Then Assemblyman Mark Leno joined his fellow gay chauvinists in support of the sell-out to UC; it was all about housing for gay seniors, you understand, not about public use, damaging a state and national landmark, or that the massive project was bad for the neighborhood.

Henderson doesn't mention the January, 2006 HVNA meeting when members voted overwhelmingly to reject UC's request for a zoning change that was essential in allowing the housing development.

In April, 2007, Supervisor Mirkarimi's Gumby-like spine began its inevitable collapse, as he signaled that he's rolling over for UC and the Planning Department (sorry for the mixed metaphor). He then bragged about leading the way for both UC's ripoff of the Extension property and the awful Market and Octavia Plan, which will be the coup de grace for the heart of San Francisco.

Like the Octavia Boulevard fiasco, the surrender to a predatory UC was a betrayal of the public interest engineered by city progressives. The project is dormant now, but it will be revived as soon as the economy revives enough for some developer to get financing for the deal.

For a history of the site up to UC's land-grab, see the account by Warren and Darlene Dewar posted on this blog more than five years ago.

Henderson is a member of the Market/Octavia Community Advisory Committee and, along with another bike guy Robin Levitt---and until recently, bike gal Cheryl Brinkman---for years has played a role in planning the destruction of that part of the city. The UC Extension property is in the middle of the M/O Plan.

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