A massive proposed development at the site of the former UC Berkeley Extension campus has cleared one hurdle as the site was denied historic landmark status, but opposition to the project still rages among conservationists.
Opponents of the development —which would include rental housing, retail space and a retirement home for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — say the site does have historic value, and that they may opt to appeal Thursday’s decision by the San Francisco Planning Commission.
The campus has been the subject of a contentious battle over its future since it closed in 2003. The university extension, which owns the property, entered into a negotiating agreement with AF Evans, in which the developer has exclusive rights to propose a development on the property.
“The income stream is critical for the survival of UC Extension. This is the thing that underpins their financial viability. They couldn’t stay at the site because the buildings are dilapidated,” said Elisabeth Gunther, a land-use attorney representing the university extension.
The original site of San Francisco Teachers College, which then became S.F. State, the commission voted 4-3 to deny the landmark status. It remained a S.F. State campus until the 1960’s move to 19th Avenue.
“I consider it a vote that the [Planning] Commission wants us to move forward and come back to them with our plan, with more conversations with the community, so we can get a project going,” said Ruthy Bennett, vice president of A.F. Evans Development.
But as the developer prepares to break ground, preservationists are working to have more of a say in the project and the building’s future.
The five-building campus, most of which was built between 1924 and 1935, qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places, planner Tara Sullivan-Lenane said at a recent Planning Commission meeting. The development plan calls for tearing down Middle Hall and the administration wing of Richardson Hall.
A few facts
» The development would contain450 residential rental units in seven new buildings and three rehabilitated buildings on a 5.8-acre parcel.
» At least 15 percent — about 68 units — would be reserved for low-income tenants.
» Six of the seven proposed new buildings would be four stories — approximately 40-50 feet tall.
» One of the proposed new buildings would be eight stories — approximately 85 feet tall.
» The project would include 430,800 square feet of residential space, 10,000 square feet of community space, 127,360 square feet of parking and 5,000 square feet of commercial space.
– Source: San Francisco Planning Department
Facility would house LGBT senior citizens
The proposed development at 55 Laguna St. includes an 85-unit facility for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors.
Openhouse, the nonprofit organization that is working with developer AF Evans to build the facility, says there are more than 17,000 LGBT senior citizens in The City and more than 60,000 living in the Bay Area.
The organization asserts on its Web site that many LGBT seniors do not feel comfortable “coming out” at traditional senior facilities. “To be in hiding puts their physical, emotional and social well-being at risk,” the Web site states.
Those in the LGBT community, while they usually have a strong support network, age at the same time as their friends.
“Because LGBTs are more likely to be childless, single and to live alone than their heterosexual counterparts, they age without the traditional family support and assistance in assessing senior services,” according to Openhouse.
The facility would include 66 studios and one-bedroom units and 19 two-bedroom units.
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