CCSF Chinatown campus decision looms

City College of San Francisco has less than two months to choose a design for a controversial Chinatown campus, but dissent among opposing sides continues to threaten and delay the process.

Community college officials have been weighing more than half a dozen design alternatives for the Chinatown campus — proposed for the corner of Washington and Kearny streets, one block from North Beach — and will have to make a decision by next month in order to submit the final design to the Division of the State Architect on time.

“We’re now ready to go, but we have very tight timetables,” CCSF Chancellor Phillip Day said at a hearing held recently by the San Francisco Planning Commission regarding the campus designs. “If we don’t hit that deadline, we will have to start over.”

A proposal to build a $122 million glass building that is 17 stories high has been opposed by merchants and residents who say a structure of that size would cast a shadow over Portsmouth Square, block views of the Bay from nearby high-rises and increase traffic and parking in an already congested area.

“You are affecting people’s lives and air,” said Jonee Levy, who has lived in North Beach for 22 years.

The community college has proposed other alternatives, including building a slightly smaller 201-foot-tall structure on the proposed site, with a second 78-foot-tall building on an adjacent lot also owned by the college. The two-building split would jack the price up by $25 million to $30 million, CCSF officials said.

A group of residents, community leaders and business owners called the Education Coalition for Responsible Development is protesting the 17-story building plan, saying the alternatives do not mitigate the shadow and traffic concerns.

The group paid San Francisco-based Heller Manus Architects to draft an alternative design for the project with one 10-story building on the main lot and a second seven-story structure on the adjacent property.

At issue for the community college is the current state of facilities for students in Chinatown. The college serves about 6,500 students at eight leased sites throughout Chinatown, North Beach and the Marina.

Supporters of the 17-story building say they want a comprehensive campus that would serve all students in all programs. Hopping between two buildings is less ideal, they said.

City College doesn’t require city approval for the project if it receives a two-thirds majority of approval from its board of trustees, which will vote Oct. 25.

arocha@examiner.com

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