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USF seeking planning approval for new student dorm

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University of San Francisco. (Courtesy of Allan Ferguson on Flickr)

The University of San Francisco is seeking approval this week from the Planning Commission for a project that could bring 606 new student beds to its Richmond District campus in a bid to meet the ever-growing housing needs of its students.

The school is proposing to demolish four existing one-story buildings that are interconnected in the shape of a rectangle, raze 78 parking spaces and two tennis courts located on the Underhill site of the Upper Campus, also known as Lone Mountain, and replace them with two new dorms.

The two- to four-story buildings could rise up to 144 feet, and would provide space for 150 student apartments with a total of 606 beds, six of which would be set aside for residential staff, according to planning documents.

The dorms would also include community common spaces, two classrooms and an underground parking garage with 171 bicycle spaces and 156 vehicle parking spaces reserved for faculty and staff.

The new construction would require the relocation of the school’s ROTC program, which is currently housed in one of the one-story buildings, as well as a nearby unenclosed waste facility.

The project also proposes renovations to an existing 11,000-square-foot cafe on the Upper Campus and the construction of a new 4,000-square-foot dining structure, which USF Policy Manager Elizabeth Miles described as a “pavillion patio” on the adjacent lawn area.

Of the school’s approximately 6,000 undergraduate students, 35 percent are currently housed in one of six on-campus dorms, according to Miles. According to its website, the Office of Student Housing and Residential Education opens its doors to more than 2,000 USF students each year.

The school acknowledges on its website that on-campus housing “is very limited at the University of San Francisco, which is especially true for students after their freshman year.”

Currently, continuing students are subjected to a “random lottery process followed by a self-selection process during the middle of the spring semester,” according its website, and of about two-thirds of the first-year students that apply to live on-campus for their second year, only about one-third are housed.

The new student residence halls would serve the existing student population and increase the current 2,138 on-campus student residents to approximately 2,738, according to planning documents.

Miles said the project, which is estimated to cost upward of $68 million, is expected to have positive impacts on student academics, The City’s housing stock and on traffic. Students who live on campus are discouraged from owning cars and are provided with transportation passes, according to Miles.

“Students perform better, they stay in school, they tend to behave better when they live in campus housing,” she said, adding that the proposed housing “pulls 600 kids out of city market housing [by bringing] them on campus, it frees up community housing.”

Miles said the renovations aim to address concerns from the surrounding neighborhood. The university’s main dining facilities are located on its Lower Campus, causing “a lot of foot traffic that goes through the neighborhood.”

“We hope this [new design] will lessen that impact,” she said.

On Thursday, the commission is expected to vote on a conditional use authorization that has received a positive recommendation from planning staff and would set the multi-faceted project into motion

Should the commission approve the project, construction could begin in July and the dorms could open to students by August 2020.

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