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CCSF board approves
Chinatown-North Beach Campus

By Maya Strausberg

October 20, 2007

The City College of San Francisco's Board of Trustees voted Thursday evening to approve the construction of a new campus in the Chinatown-North Beach neighborhoods.

The board considered and passed three related resolutions, including one that exempted the community college from the city's zoning and planning laws.

Chancellor Phillip Day, Jr. said Friday that because the school is not a city department, it can be exempt from the rules, provided the resolution passed with at least a two-thirds vote.

The new campus would be located on numerous lots the school acquired in 1997, located at 800 Kearny St. Day said City College has been considering the new addition since the acquisition.

There are a number of businesses and groups in the area strongly opposed to the construction. According to Day, the North Beach Merchants Association, small businesses in the area and the Hilton at 750 Kearny St. opposed the plan. They say it would bring too many people to the area and cause congestion. There was also concern over the height of the buildings.

The board passed the first resolution by a 6-1 vote, certifying the CCSF's Environmental Impact Report, which considered the impact that proposed buildings would have on the community.

The resolution exempting the campus from the city's zoning laws also easily passed with the necessary two-thirds vote.

The final resolution, which was approved unanimously, sanctions the actual construction of the building, which Day said could be ready as early as the fall semester of 2010 if all goes well.

Day said there were numerous alternative options included in the EIR, but there were none that would appease all opponents to the construction. Even the plans proposed by opponents would have exceeded city height requirements.

The third resolution was based on a specific design that was a combination of those alternatives, according to Day. What the board ended up was with what he called a compromise: two 13-story buildings on two separate lots and one five-story building on another lot.

"I ran that by my team, talked about it, pushed the envelope," said Day. He said approval by some in the community has been overwhelming.

Day said he received support from the neighborhood associations, labor unions, ironworkers and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

"(The Board of Trustees) pushed us hard to try to make sure we were being open to the lowest common denominator for us," he said. "I was very proud of this community... I feel very proud of our Board of Trustees."

Day and the board's fight for the new campus is far from over. Next, City College must submit the plans to the state and begin to create working drawings. Even though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger approved the construction dollars, Day said, the money must be encumbered.

Day said he knows opponents will continue to fight the plan but he hopes they will eventually see the campus as a benefit to them.

"I think personally, Hilton and some people are being too narrow of what will be good for business," said Day.

Hilton representatives could not be immediately reached for comment.


Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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