Compromise sought for CCSF Chinatown campus

While City College of San Francisco is still hoping to get community approval for a new 17-story Chinatown campus that critics say is too big for the neighborhood, Chancellor Phillip Day said the college is open to constructing two smaller buildings.

Opponents of the proposed $122 million glass building — planned for the corner of Washington and Kearny streets — say it will cast shadows over nearby Portsmouth Square, conflict with the character of Chinatown, and increase traffic and parking impacts.

City College officials and supporters of creating a permanent Chinatown campus say the current situation — which spreads upward of 6,500 students over eight leased sites throughout Chinatown, North Beach and the Marina — is untenable for educational purposes.

The plan, however, has been protested by a wide variety of interests, including the owners of the neighboring 310-foot-tall Hilton Hotel, which does not want to have its views of the Bay blocked by the 228-foot CCSF building, to Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin.

According to a new draft environmental impact review for the project, the 17-story building would contrast with the predominately two- to four-story structures in nearby North Beach, Chinatown and Jackson Square, and would negatively alter some views. The project would not result in a substantial increase in demand on parking or vehicle traffic, however, since most students, faculty and employees walk to campus or use public transportation.

Several project alternatives were also noted in the review, including building a slightly smaller 201-foot-tall building on the proposed site, with a second building up to 78 feet tall on an adjacent empty lot. To split the project into two buildings would add between $25 million and $30 million to the cost, Day said.

Frances Hsieh, who is part of a coalition of residents, community leaders and business owners protesting the 17-story building plan, said City College’s alternatives don’t go far enough to mitigate local concerns.

The group paid San Francisco-based Heller Manus Architects to draft an alternative design for the project with two buildings: one 10-stories-tall, the other eight.

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

City College is holding a public meeting on the Chinatown Campus and the Draft Environmental Impact Report today at Gordon Lau Elementary School, 950 Clay St., starting at 6 p.m.

beslinger@examiner.com


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