Despite a lawsuit, campus vote nears

City College of San Francisco’s board of trustees will move forward with a vote Thursday to approve the design of the school’s new Chinatown campus, despite a lawsuit filed by neighbors opposing the 190-foot building proposal.

If the board approves the design, the state architect will review the design of the building later this summer — the final technical hurdle for the long-awaited campus, according to Jim Blomquist, vice chancellor for facilities at CCSF. If subsequent planning steps are approved on schedule, construction of the campus could begin by the end of this year, with the school opening to students by 2011, Blomquist said.

Slated for a location at Washington and Kearny streets, the new Chinatown campus would feature two buildings, including a controversial 14-story structure that exceeds the neighboring area’s 65-foot zoning restrictions. As a state institution, CCSF is allowed to exempt itself from city planning codes, which it did last October in a vote by the school’s board of trustees.

In the wake of that decision, the nearby Montgomery-Washington Homeowners Association filed a lawsuit that claims the school rushed an environmental-review process of the new campus, violating the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.

The lawsuit is slated to come before a San Francisco Superior Court judge in September. If the claim by the neighborhood group is upheld, CCSF could have to go back and carry out another lengthy environmental report, according to the school’s attorney, Alan Sparer, who said the lawsuit “had no merit.”

Rollin Chippey, the attorney representing the homeowners association, was in meetings all day Tuesday and could not be reached for comment, according to his office.

If the project is delayed, it could also affect the current funding status of the project at the state level, according to Peter Goldstein, CCSF’s vice chancellor of finance and administration.

Of the $123 million committed to the project, $49 million is from funds allocated by the state Legislature, with the rest being provided via local bonds approved by San Francisco voters, Goldstein said. While it’s unlikely the school would lose out on the $49 million, the state would hold the funding for the project until it reaches final approval, Goldstein said.

“The community has already been waiting for 25 years for this building and the cost of construction continues to rise,” Goldstein said. “As a result, time is not on our side.”

wreisman@examiner.com

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