mike koozmin/the s.f. examinerSan Francisco State’s 61-year-old Science Building was closed at the beginning of the year due to lead

SF State Science Building plagued by toxic substances could be replaced

San Francisco State University students resumed classes at the school's Science Building this semester for the first time since it was shut down days before classes were to begin in January to address lead, mercury and asbestos issues.

But students may not be taking classes there for much longer.

SFSU President Leslie Wong announced that he will seek funding to build a new facility to replace the 61-year-old Science Building that forced nearly 10,000 students into conference rooms, computer labs and classrooms elsewhere on campus after the toxic substances were found during routine environmental health testing.

“We just can't do science instruction with what we have,” Wong told The San Francisco Examiner after first announcing his intention to build a new Science Building during his opening remarks to faculty Aug. 25.

“After looking at a number of scenarios, we just came upon the idea that [as] a university, particularly ours sitting between Silicon Valley and Mission Bay, we couldn't be content with high school-level facilities,” Wong said.

Constructed in three phases, the Science Building's two-story west wing was built first, in 1953. The first two floors of the east wing were built in 1960, and the third-story addition to the east wing came in 1989. The 1953 wing remained in its original condition until the abatement of hazardous materials last spring.

Although it's called the Science Building, faculty offices and classes from other course offerings are housed there as well, including business, health and social sciences, and liberal and creative arts.

The Science Building reopened to faculty April 28 after undergoing abatement, but classes were not moved back until this semester. Chemistry labs, however, continue to be held in portable trailers.

A site for the new Science Building has not been decided, along with what would happen with the old building, but the new facility likely would not open for at least two years after the money is raised, Wong said.

Wong estimated the project could cost up to $200 million — the first entirely new building on campus since the Humanities Building was constructed in 1994 — and said he will seek private donations to aid with the funding.

“The whole idea of a public-private partnership to build a science building is very appealing to us,” Wong said. “It's also very appealing to the private sector. We're going to examine whether or not there's a win-win with [a] public-private model to build a new science building.”

Wong added that it's not the only older building on campus receiving attention.

Over the summer, the gymnasium underwent a $2 million renovation that involved replacing the floor for the first time since the building was originally constructed in 1951.

And focus is also turning to the Creative Arts Building, the only other structure built in the 1950s that's still standing on campus. Previous renovation plans stalled during the recession.

Bay Area NewseducationLeslie WongSan Francisco State UniversityScience Building

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