City College of San Francisco primarily offered arts and older adult classes at its Fort Mason campus. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner file)

CCSF board votes to close Fort Mason campus

College dropping lease on waterfront site to help close projected deficit

In just a few months, City College of San Francisco will no longer have a campus at its longtime home of Fort Mason.

The CCSF Board of Trustees voted unanimously early Friday morning to move out of the Fort Mason campus, ending the community college’s 40-year run on the northern shoreline. The decision was spurred by a need to close a $12.8 million projected deficit for the current academic year and an estimated $27 million decrease in state funds due to coronavirus.

“It was definitely not an [sic] easy decision,” said Board member Ivy Lee in a text. “Fort Mason is an incredibly unique location and the college has a long history there. But we have campuses that we own and don’t need to pay rent to use as learning spaces. Between the choice of cutting classes and laying off teachers or maintain that location, we chose people and programs over a place. Education doesn’t happen without classes, teachers, staff and students. That’s the core we have to protect.”

Moving and construction costs will run an estimated $245,000 to relocate the kilns and other equipment at Fort Mason to other campuses, which could come out of the $845 million bond measure San Francisco voters approved in March. Enrollment is expected to decline at the Fort Mason campus, reducing the revenue needed to pay for the $408,000 annual lease

Some students asked the board to extend the lease to December to seek proper input from students and faculty, which art student Andi DiBenedetto felt was lacking. A combined petition calling for the college to keep its Civic Center and Fort Mason campuses open and make the Balboa Reservoir project 100 percent affordable has received more than 2,800 signatures.

“The administration is making decisions and not taking any input from any the people who have a stake in it,” DiBenedetto, who takes classes at Fort Mason and lives nearby, previously told the Examiner. “It would have been nice to have more transparency in this.”

City College declined to schedule classes at Fort Mason in the fall before voting on the lease extension. About 800 classes have been cut from the 2020-2021 academic year in the aftermath of the coronavirus and another 450 classes are on the chopping block. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May budget revision signaled severe cuts to education that are expected to cost City College $27 million.

The cuts with the closure of Fort Mason could lead to a downward enrollment spiral that would mean reduced revenue, warned union American Federation of Teachers 2121.

“I’d be really surprised if they’re able to serve those same students,” said AFT2121 President Jenny Worley. “I’m worrying more that, in the long term, it will cause a downward enrollment spiral.”

A charter amendment, introduced by Supervisor Gordon Mar, is headed to the November ballot that would allocate $20 million a year to City College, which proponents argue is vital to San Francisco’s economic recovery. The Board of Trustees endorsed the charter amendment at Thursday night’s meeting.

imojadad@sfexaminer.com

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