January 2006 Archives

Historic SF State Campus Site may get Torn Down

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Although SF State's previous campus is long gone there is still controversy over what it left behind.

Hayes Valley historical activists and preservationists say they don’t want to lose the old buildings which contains public murals, mosaics and other architectural features sponsored by the Works Progress Administration. SF State’s former main campus was located for over half a century near Haight and Laguna Streets.

"San Francisco State is dear to so many of our alums and emeriti faculty, staff, and administrators," said Helene Whitson, an archivist and historian who has worked with SF State for 38 years. "We spent most of our formative years in that place."

For the past two years, residents and officials have voiced their concerns over UC Berkeley officials announcing their decision to offer an 85-year lease to A.F. Evans. The private developer hired by UC wants city permission to rezone the campus property in order to build residential housing.

Their plan includes building 335 residential apartments, 83 subsidized apartments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender senior citizens and a retail complex. They also plan to renovate the auditorium and construct a 20,000-square-foot park.

"We like our plan -- we think there is support for it," said Jack Robertson, who is the president of A.F. Evans. "We hope we can work on something we will all be proud of."

The plot of land continuously served San Francisco for public use as an orphan asylum and a chapel when the two facilities were built 150 years ago. Records indicate the college first opened the campus location to students a few months after the 1906 earthquake destroyed the college's original location on Powell Street.

The Spanish colonial-style buildings eventually served as auditoriums and lecture halls mostly for women who studied teaching and education before SF State expanded their academic programs and offered class lessons for female and male students alike.

SF State relocated its main campus in the mid 1950s from the six-acre block on Laguna Street over to its larger 90-acre residence near Lake Merced due to increased enrollment size and expanded program offerings. Remnants of SF State's existence remained on the grounds of the campus after the move, including murals, statues, hand-made framework and benches around a large palm tree.

“We need to save that wonderful campus that really has deep meaning for us and for San Francisco. We’ve always been a community that is willing to fight for a good and righteous cause," Whitson said.

Vincent Marsh, who is a preservation planner concerned with saving the campus, said he will nominate the cluster of buildings as a historical landmark in the next few months because the protection of the campus buildings are important.

"Demolition of historically significant buildings is considered to be an adverse effect and the goal is avoid such an outcome," Marsh said. "The owner has the right to object to the nomination. However, the site meets the criteria for listing on the national register under the criteria of history and architecture."

Hayes Valley residents recently voted 22 to 2 against supporting the proposed plan from the developer at a community meeting held on January 26th. Their vote will reflect the association’s decision to not support the proposed plan.

"Our number one priority is that we want to see the substantial amount of property maintained for public use," said Patricia Walkup, founder of the community watchdog group, Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association. "I hope that everyone can come to a plan we can agree to."

UC bought the Hayes Valley campus as an extension to their university in the late 1950s and moved into the vacant buildings, which eventually became lecture classrooms, a computer lab and four public art galleries. The closure of the extension was announced in 2003 due to budget cuts. Representatives believe redevelopment is essential because the current conditions of the aging campus buildings will cost more to repair and retrofit than to replace them.

"UC has determined it has no further use for the site," Jeffrey T. Bond, UC's lead planner on the project, said in a statement to the Hayes Valley community group. "Financial considerations would continue to be crucial to the UC approach to disposition of the property."

Representatives of New College of California, a liberal arts college in San Francisco, recommended to UC an alternative proposal against dense residential housing -- to let them use the campus as a school. But UC officials declined, citing money concerns.

"This is a rare, unique and quite an exquisite site," said Cynthia Servetnick, a campus planner for New College, who wants to preserve the campus and keep the zoning public. "It is designed to be an educational facility. I don't think UC properly looked at the site."

For more information on the project, visit www.hayesvalleysf.org and www.afevans.com.

Sean O'Flaherty Fahey, a 33 year-old SF State student was pronounced dead at UCSF Medical Center Jan. 22, after being found unconscious on Ocean Beach following a surfing accident.

Fahey, who learned to surf in Costa Rica, earned three degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Vermont in his hometown of Burlington, as well as a PhD from Virginia Tech. He was currently working on a master's degree in business at SF State.

Joshua Mindel, a business professor, also attended Virginia Tech, and found he had much in common with his student. Mindel said he remembers how Fahey stood out from the crowd.

"He was unusual in such a positive way," he said. "Having all that additional education, his approach to things was different."

Though Fahey had just started at SF State last semester, he already had surrounded himself with a close circle of friends within the College of Business.

"We will be worse off without him," said Mindel. "He's one of these people who had a tremendous impact on the people around him."

SF State will soon be host to a branch of an international Chinese language center, the first of its kind on the west coast.

The Confucius Institute program was created by China's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language and has headquarters in Beijing. The program currently has established sites at 40 universities in 25 different U.S. cities including New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. It also has twenty active branches throughout other countries including Australia, Sweden, Japan and Great Britain.

The non-profit Institute, which is meant to supplement SF State's current Chinese language program, will help expand existing classes and will be available to anyone who wants to learn without receiving college credit. The grand opening will be held on Feb. 11. Fees have not yet been determined.

SF State's director of international programs, Yenbo Wu, has been working with the Chinese government since 2004 to guarantee SF State's campus for the Institute.

"I think in the long run, this is helping us, the university and the students… it will provide more cultural understanding for everyone."

The Institute's opening reflects the interest China is generating. According to a report by the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages, the number of people studying Chinese increased 20 percent from 1998 to 2002. This may be an indication of China’s growing influence in the world.

"Everywhere one goes, there is a rising interest in China,” said Professor Jean-Marc Blanchard, who teaches a class at SF State on Chinese Foreign Policy. “In San Francisco, we see this in the enrollments in SFSU courses relating to China, in programs offered by the World Affairs Council and the Commonwealth Club, and in coverage in the media.”

At Chinatown's Chinese Cultural Center, the popular Mandarin classes are on a first come, first serve basis. Over the last two to three years Xiaomei Li, the center’s program manager, has seen a “dramatic increase” in the amount of students who want to learn the language. She said there are many different reasons for the interest.

“Some for business purposes and some are more concerned about cultural aspects,” she said, noting that the students at the center come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. “Some want to adopt kids from China… all kinds of relationships between (China and the United States) have been developing.”

Lin Lin, who has been the center's Chinese teacher for several years, emphasizes that the course is not just about teaching the language, but Chinese culture as well.

"For example," Lin said, "Today we will be talking about Chinese New Year and what it means and what preparations we do."

President George W. Bush, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Gavin Newsom have all made recent political visits to China. And last spring, a bill introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman and Lamar Alexander set aside $1.3 billion over a five-year period to finance Chinese language education in schools and further develop the economic and cultural relationships with China.

“This interest is only likely to intensify further as China's political, military, and economic clout increase,” said Blanchard. “Like Japan in the 1980s, China is using its newfound clout to support this increase. The Confucian Institute is a reflection of this."

The administering of the Confucius Institute will be a team effort between three SF State colleges. The College of Education is in charge of training instructors and creating curricula. The College of Humanities will present courses to enrolled SF State students while the College of Extended Learning will offer classes to non-diploma students.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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