SF State's Old Home in Jeopardy
March 15, 2007 7:08 PM
After almost four years of public opposition, neighborhood groups and community activists will voice their grievances to the University of California’s planned privatization of SF State’s early campus at a public hearing scheduled for March 15.
The 5.8 acre area, which is located at the intersection of Laguna, Haight,
"Nowhere in the history of San Francisco has there been something of this magnitude," said Warren Dewar, attorney and board member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, a neighborhood improvement group. "[The site] might be worth over a billion dollars of open land."
Redefining two full blocks in the heart of the developed city has presented both a unique opportunity and a challenge in the community, since completion of the project requires a permit from San Francisco’s Public Commission to change zoning control from public to private.
The hearing will start at 1:30 p.m. in City Hall Room 400 and will be the only public hearing regarding the re-zoning of the campus, giving concerned members of the community a chance to comment on the partial demolition, major alteration and loss of public use zoning on the site.
The proposal is currently under review by the SF Planning Department and if City Hall does not approve the zoning changes, the UC will be unable to proceed with the development.
At a public screening of the documentary "Uncommon Knowledge: Closing the Books at UC Berkeley Extension," a film focusing on the closure of the site, former Laguna campus employee and director Eliza Hemenway expressed her resistance to the project.
"Why is San Francisco even considering re-zoning it? What does [the city] have to gain from the redevelopment?" said Hemenway at the screening, held at San Francisco’s Public Library on Feb. 24.
"We want to honor [the property's] mission as a land grant university and retain public use on it," she said. "The public hearing is the time to make that known."
In addition to Hemenway, there were about 60 neighbors, activists, and preservationists who expressed resistance to the plans, urging that the campus remain public and standing.
"Only through the direct strength of communities have we been able to communicate and have direct recourse," said community activist Richard Johnson.
The land was originally the site of a Protestant Orphanage, built in 1851, but was taken over by SF State Normal School, a high-caliber training center for teachers, and in the 1920s it eventually changed its name to San Francisco State University.
The land was later given to the UC Berkeley Extension after it expressed desperate need to expand its services and in 2003, after almost 50 years of use, UC closed the campus due to decreased enrollment and increased maintenance. It has been sitting empty since then.
"They put resources into cosmetics but neglected the real nuts and bolts," said Hemenway.
A petition to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors requiring the assemblage of a citizen's advisory committee and evaluation of the re-zoning was drafted through the Save the UC Berkeley Laguna Street Campus, a group working to preserve the historic and public resource, which has collected nearly 300 signatures.
"I have not yet seen anyone [on the Board of Supervisors] taking charge of this issue," said Mark Paez, urban planner and co-chair of the Friends of 1800. "And it really has to come from the highest form of government to make it happen."
The meeting will be available online March 16 at http://www.sfgov.org/site/sfgtv_index.asp
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