Three San Francisco public universities plan to expand student housing over the next decade to cope with The City’s affordability crisis.
The cost of living in San Francisco is notoriously expensive for those who work full-time, but students often face limited or fixed incomes too meager for San Francisco rent prices, which averaged more than $3,000 per month for one-bedroom apartments in January, according to S.F. State University’s research.
Living on campus at SFSU costs $833 to $1,233 per bed per month during the 10-month school year. The school plans to build more on-campus housing and recreation areas, plus increase density in existing dorms, to provide housing for 400 to 500 more students over the next few years.
Traditionally a commuter school with mostly upper-division and graduate students, SFSU is changing, Vice President of Student Affairs Luoluo Hong said at a panel Wednesday at the urban public-policy think tank SPUR. The school now accommodates more freshman than ever before, and 28 percent of students are from Southern California.
“Commute time and other barriers related to where students live can have a negative impact,” Hong said, noting that providing a spectrum of options is key to student success. Incoming freshmen learn life skills by sharing dorms with roommates, whereas older and graduate students thrive with more privacy and independence, Hong said.
UC San Francisco, a medical graduate school, will add 177 units at its Parnassus campus by remodeling the UC Hall, building 610 new units one block from the Mission Bay campus and partnering with UC Hastings to add 1,000 units near Civic Center.
The greatest current threat to UCSF is the high cost of living in San Francisco, according to UCSF’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Dan Lowenstein.
“Why would they consider coming here when they’re looking at rents in the San Francisco area, compared to other locations and other institutions?” said Beth Piatnitza, UCSF’s associate director of physical and environmental planning.
UC Hastings College of the Law, near Civic Center, plans to replace the aging Snodgrass Hall at 198 McAllister St. with a new academic building on a 12,000-square-foot parcel at 333 Golden Gate Ave. When that’s completed, Snodgrass will be torn down and replaced with the collaborative UC Hastings and UCSF student housing for 1,250 occupants.
The new shared housing will be accompanied by shared access to facilities and some crossover of academic programs. The two schools began collaborating with the creation of the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science and Health Policy to create a bridge between the two institutions, founded by UC Hastings Chancellor and Dean David Faigman in 2008.
Approximately 280 UC Hastings students live in 252 “micro-units” at the nearby McAllister Tower, originally built as a hotel at 100 McAllister St., which will be renovated.
“We’re not ‘gentrifying,’ in any traditional sense, by building student housing and having what I call this graduate campus or academic village,” Faigman said.
Students are usually short-term renters whose transience allows landlords of rent-controlled units to increase their rentals to market rate every few years when the student tenants move out.
“Having a student transient population churning through the housing stock, I believe has a very destabilizing influence to rent structures,” Seward said.
On-campus housing will provide for students who otherwise would be competing for Craigslist listings against high-paid tech workers, he said.
“Eighty-five percent of our student body qualifies for federal financial aid … so effectively we are building affordable housing and low-income housing, except, for our cohorts,” Seward said.
For UC Hastings, providing housing will give the university a competitive edge for recruiting law school applicants.