City College closed its century-old Civic Center building in January 2015 for a seismic retrofit.

City College closed its century-old Civic Center building in January 2015 for a seismic retrofit.

CCSF considers ending lease for Civic Center campus

Tenderloin feared left behind as original building faces seismic retrofitting delays

City College of San Francisco is considering ending two leases, a move that raises questions about its Civic Center campus and accessibility for Tenderloin residents.

Ending the leases at Fort Mason and 1170 Market St. would save the financially-strapped college $1.5 million in lease costs alone, but leaves questions for continuing programs largely for seniors and students learning English as a second language. Its longstanding Tenderloin location has faced delays for seismic retrofitting, which has no longer has a specified timeline.

City College hosts five credit and 39 non-credit classes at 1170 Market St., and 110 credit classes and three non-credit classes at Fort Mason, totaling 326 students and 23 faculty for the current academic year. But the lease at 1170 Market, set to end February 2021, costs nearly $1.1 million to Fort Mason’s $400,000, set to end in June.

The full CCSF Board of Trustees will consider the leases at its next regular meeting April 23, after its budget and audit committee meeting Thursday forwarded the proposal without a specified recommendation. The legal implications of ending the Civic Center lease earlier than 2021 were discussed in closed session.

Trustee Tom Temprano abstained, calling for more information on what it would mean for the programs.

“I understand how dire our financial situation is and certainly think it’s possible that we shouldn’t renew these leases,” Temprano said. “But I need to see more information about what the plan is to relocate these programs would be, and what the communication with the communities that rely on these campuses would be.”

The indefinite loss of a Civic Center presence would require Tenderloin residents going a farther distance for educational opportunities, which are hard to attain as it is, advocates said. Audrey Wallace, an ESL teacher at the Civic Center campus since 2014, says most of her students are immigrants who work multiple jobs and come in for literacy lessons after working graveyard shifts, and have a tough time affording public transportation.

“The Tenderloin is a historically impoverished part of San Francisco,” Wallace said. “At this time when everyone is going to be struggling…the barriers to getting an education will be even more profound.”

The larger issue remaining is when the Civic Center campus at 750 Eddy St. would reopen. City College closed the century-old building in January 2015 for seismic retrofit. But five years later, it lacks a concrete completion date. In January 2019, construction was set to begin in Spring 2020 but construction has not yet begun and has no updates, said City College spokesperson Rachel Howard, citing uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic.

Wallace understands the budget constraints but cited Proposition A, an $845 million bond measure San Francisco voters passed in March for City College facilities as the potential answer. Like Wallace, Civic Center instructor and AFT 2121 organizer James Tracy wants City College and its new Interim Chancellor Dianna Gonzales to seek input from faculty and students before making a decision.

Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin, said he would push to reopen the historic Civic Center campus and that The City could play a role either in financial assistance or to help renegotiate the current lease. What he doesn’t want to see is the lease end until the Eddy Street building is safe for use after years of delays.

“Frankly, it’s taken an unacceptable amount of time to move to reopen the Tenderloin campus,” Haney said. “The community relies on that campus for essential classes.”

City College has a downtown campus at Fourth and Mission and a Chinatown-North Beach center on Kearny Street. But the Market Street location is already just outside the Tenderloin, Haney added, and could create a burden for residents with an indefinite end date.

Already the loss of in-person teaching has been tough due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wallace said. Many don’t have iPhones or computers, making it a miracle that even two people made it to her literacy class on Zoom.

“I do worry that we would be leaving [Tenderloin residents] high and dry,” Wallace said. “City College promised we would be back at 750 Eddy. We keep on waiting and waiting until it becomes out of reach.”

CCSF Board of Trustees will discuss the leases at its regular April 23 meeting conducted via video conferencing.

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