CCSF faculty: Civic Center Campus closure announcement made at last minute

Just three days before the start of spring semester classes, City College of San Francisco is closing its Civic Center Campus — albeit temporarily.

Teachers were told by administrators the campus is seismically unsound, according to faculty members who spoke to The San Francisco Examiner, and that seismic upgrades would proceed over the next few months.

Earthquakes are of genuine concern in San Francisco, faculty said, but many were concerned with the timing of the warning, which gives them little chance to prepare to move their classes.

“I really have very little information except from what I received in texts,” said Tim Killikelly, faculty union president at CCSF. “Right now I don't have much to report; I wish I did.”

The Civic Center campus, which is on Eddy Street, offers English as Second Language classes and primarily serves an immigrant population. Public documents show that as many as 2,000 students a year use the campus.

Susan Lopez, an ESL teacher at CCSF, said faculty plan to stand outside the campus Monday morning to inform some 400 students that their classes will be postponed.

“Students really love the intimate, homey environment of that facility,” Lopez said. “It's always had a great mix of students, meaning some immigrants go there to interact with others from all over the world as they all learn English, which becomes their only common language.”

On Friday, Civic Center faculty were in classrooms preparing for the spring semester, which begins Monday. Amid this preparation, faculty members said CCSF Chancellor Arthur Tyler, President Virginia Parras and Dean Carl Jew called for a meeting and announced the campus would not be open Monday.

Instead, students will be sent to the nearby Gough Street campus starting in February. Faculty were told their pay would not be affected.

But many of the ESL teachers work part time and juggle multiple jobs, said Alisa Messer, political director of faculty union American Federation of Teachers Local 2121.

Many questions remain about the timing of the announcement. CCSF represenatatives did not respond to calls for comment.

But records found publicly on the college's website indicate CCSF had the Civic Center campus seismically evaluated in August by a company called tBP Architecture.

The three-story building, also known as the Alemany Building #1, was constructed in 1911 as John Adams Elementary School, according to the final project proposal drafted by tBP Architecture. The building was then acquired by CCSF in 1934 for adult educational programs.

Its age impacts its seismic stability, the report said.

“The building does not meet current codes for seismic safety and building systems,” the report states. “And it is not possible to offer the same level of instruction and services to students.”

The report also said that it will cost almost as much to fix the building as to replace it.

The steel frame, brick shear walls and redwood roof structure have been “proven inadequate by subsequent seismic events,” the report found. “The building was not designed to withstand the vertical or horizontal components of ground motion acceleration expected in a probable or credible seismic event located nearby.”

Over half of the building's duct-work system has failed, leading to insufficient heating. The building also has no air conditioning system.

The report by tBP Architecture proposed four plans to renovate the campus, with projected costs of $12 million, $14 million, $27 million and $23 million, but recommended the cheapest option.

No permits have been filed with the Department of Building Inspection for potential renovation, which department staff said is necessary for any construction. Some CCSF buildings may not be under the department's purview, however, as CCSF is a state entity.

The extent of the department's jurisdiction over CCSF buildings was not immediately clear.