UCSF’s New Plans for Aldea (Above Forest Knolls)

I attended a meeting at UCSF’s Milberry Union last evening, 20 March 2019.

UCSF is rejigging its plans for Parnassus. After spending the last many years focused on its new location at Mission Bay, they want to come back to where it all started: Parnassus. They’re planning a new hospital by 2029, which will comply with new seismic codes. Beyond that, they want to improve the aesthetics of the Parnassus experience – create a sense of entry, strengthen the connection to Golden Gate Park and Mount Sutro, and build more space. They have a community group working on it, with mostly Inner Sunset residents and UCSF staff. (The list is here as a PDF: UCSF_Parnassus_Heights_Roster )

NEW PLANS FOR ALDEA

For those who aren’t aware of it, UCSF’s Aldea Student Housing adjoins Forest Knolls to the north just above Christopher Drive from Clarendon Avenue to where the forest is cut for the pipeline.

Among the plans to expand housing for students and staff, they are considering rebuilding the student housing at Aldea, from 171 units now to 500+ units when the project concludes. Aldea used to be subject to the “space ceiling” (explained in this post: UCSF’s Space Ceiling Saga) but apparently in 2014, the UC Regents decided to exempt it – as with all the other student housing.

To do this, they plan to replace their current, mostly 3-storied buildings, with 5-8 story buildings. They will probably start with the oldest ones, which are nearest to Forest Knolls.

For our neighborhood, it raises several questions:

  1. Parking. As it is, a lot of UCSF people park in Forest Knolls and Midtown Terrace because of inadequate parking at Aldea and Parnassus. If the number of units at Aldea triples, what happens to parking?
  2. Traffic. Aldea gives on to Clarendon at an awkward spot, just before the wide road up from Laguna Honda turns into the narrow one joining Twin Peaks Boulevard. Right now, Aldea doesn’t generate much traffic. But if it’s going to be housing 500 families? This is an area with NO amenities within walking distance – even a gallon of milk is a car-ride away. The connections to MUNI are also dismal. The only thing they have is the UCSF shuttle, down to Parnassus.
  3. Aesthetics. Aldea is adjacent to Forest Knolls on the north.  Right now, the Aldea buildings are low-key, low-rise shingled buildings partially hidden by trees. With plans for major tree removal as part of the “Vegetation Management Plan” for Mount Sutro, these buildings will be much more visible. The most recent structure at Aldea, the community center, is not very reassuring in terms of aesthetic inspiration. (See the boxy structure in the picture below.)
  4. Time Line. I didn’t get a clear sense of the time-line on Aldea. There’s something on the last slide that suggests 2025 as the target date, which means they will move quickly. As a state organization, they don’t need city permission, and are exempt from the usual constraints on building.

THE  PRESENTATION

I’m uploading a bunch of pictures I took of the presentation. They said that they would be putting it on their website, so hopefully you can get better quality pictures there soon. (I might download it here if it’s feasible.)

 

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UCSF Meeting Report: Aldea Update, Sutro Forest, Other

ucsf CAG meeting sept 2014I attended the UCSF quarterly Community Advisory Group meeting on Sept 3, 2014.  The two topics of immediate interest to the Forest Knolls neighborhood are Aldea Student Housing and Sutro Forest.

ALDEA

Recently [Aug 12, 2014], UCSF had a meeting specifically to discuss removing Aldea student housing  from the Space Ceiling. I reported on that HERE.  At this meeting [i.e. the Sept 3rd meeting], they said they will go ahead.

Here’s the background:

In brief – following UCSF’s massive conflict with neighbors about its expansion plans, in 1976 the University of California Board of Regents passed a resolution that introduced a “space ceiling” that prohibited UCSF from expanding to more than 3.55 million sq feet of space in the Parnassus campus. The ceiling (which has been exceeded years ago, but still serves as a target and benchmark) does not apply to housing. However, Aldea Student Housing, which is next to Forest Knolls along Clarendon Avenue, was specifically excluded from the exclusion, meaning that it does count toward the space ceiling. UCSF wants to remove the restriction on Aldea Student Housing.

In Aldea housingAt the August 12th meeting, nearly everyone present opposed removing Aldea from the Space Ceiling. Here’s why:

  • Removing Aldea Housing from the space ceiling could trigger an expansion, limited only by funding availability. (Technically, UCSF as a state organization doesn’t even have to follow city codes – though they usually do try to comply.)
  • It would set a poor precedent in which the Board of Regents could remove any restrictions despite prior agreements with the community.
  • It ignored earlier commitments. When UCSF built the Stem Cell Research facility, it used about 0.5 acres of the Forest; it was going to demolish two dorms in Aldea Student Housing and return the area to the forest in compensation. Under the new proposal, this would not happen.

As Rick Osmon said in a comment to my earlier report:

“I was at the meeting on August 12. After it became clear that the neighbors who were at the meeting were in agreement that the Aldea housing should not be removed from UCSF’s overall space limits, Lori Yamauchi proposed adding language to the LRDP [Long Range Development Plan that would restrict any increase in density of units at the Aldea housing site. The biggest fear expressed by those at the meeting is that UCSF would embark on intensive development of the Aldea site. The [Associate] vice-chancellor’s proposal was welcomed by everyone I heard speak.”

At this CAG meeting, Associate Vice Chancellor Lori Yamauchi said they will ask the Regents to remove Aldea from the space ceiling. They think only a minority of the community oppose it. However, they were not asking for the repeal of the space ceiling as a whole.

They also said they would not increase the density of units at Aldea beyond existing levels. They only wished to retain the buildings they had earlier undertaken to knock down.

I found this reassuring. However, I met Lori later as we were leaving the building, and mentioned I’d be writing a report to the neighborhood on this website.

“You can say the LRDP has no plans to build more housing at Aldea,” she said.

No plans to build isn’t the same as will not build,” I said. “Can you give a letter saying will not build?”

“I’m not prepared to negotiate that with the neighbors,” she said. (In all fairness, it was reasonable she wouldn’t give an undertaking then. It was an informal chat, as we were leaving the meeting.)

“But,” she added, “You can write a comment from the neighborhood.” She said they would be taking comments on the LRDP to the end of this month, and on the Environmental Impact Report until October 14, 2014.

You can email Damon Lew at dlew@CGR.UCSF.EDU and Lori Yamauchi at lyamauchi@planning.ucsf.edu

CREDIBILITY

One issue that was discussed was UCSF’s credibility. We’re all supporters of this great medical school. However, we have had numerous occasions when we thought we had a commitment… and found we didn’t.

I don’t think there’s a huge problem with retaining the dorms as they are. But I do think there’s a problem when UCSF undertakes something, and then pretty much decides to waive its decision. Situations do change, and there may be reasons to revisit earlier decisions. But it has to be done in consultation with the broader community.

OTHER ISSUES DISCUSSED

  • UCSF presented their ten-year capital plan (2014-15 to 2023-24), which included projects greater than $750,ooo in size. It totaled $1.6 billion, and included $460 mn of seismic safety work as well as some major building projects.  (The presentation UCSF made, including these details, is HERE.)
  • They discussed minority hiring goals, and the EXCEL program that trained people from areas surrounding Mission Bay campus. There was concern about the African-American hiring goals specifically, and whether UCSF was doing enough.
  • They hope to build a new building behind SF General Hospital (which is not seismically upgraded) to move staff currently in the old building.
  • They discussed the new helipad at Mission Bay, which will be commissioned in October/ November.
  • They are in talks about the Warriors planned stadium, which will be right behind the Mission Bay campus (and close to the pediatric Emergency Room), regarding traffic flows and security issues.

MOUNT SUTRO FOREST

  • ForestThere’s been another evaluation of the trees for hazard. They said they do a hazard evaluation every two years, and they will be removing trees by year end. They did not know how many trees they would remove. (This would be in addition to around 1200 trees removed in the last 13 months.)
    • Why this is concerning – go HERE.
  • They will putting in signs for mountain-bike riders, informing them that they must yield to hikers and joggers.
  • A new trail – “The Sunset Trail” is being included in the capital budget. (I think that’s the black line near the top of the map.) It will likely be built this year or next. They did not say how many trees (if any) they would remove now – or later, in consequence of the trail’s existence.

UCSF will be holding a meeting on September 22nd, 2014, to further discuss the Long Range Development Plan.

UCSF LRDP Feb 2014 -1

Report on UCSF’s Aldea Meeting (Aug12, 2014)

About a month ago, I’d posted  about a UCSF meeting regarding its plans for the Aldea San Miguel student housing. (This is the UCSF area off Clarendon Avenue  just up the hill from Forest Knolls – see map at the bottom of this post.)

I attended the meeting, in the beautiful Spanish-revival UCSF Faculty Alumni Building. The gathering was relatively small. Damon Lew of UCSF said they had sent out 2,000 postcards notifying people. I guess it’s summer.

BACKGROUND

At present, Aldea is currently included in the overall “space ceiling” that restricts UCSF from expanding over 3.55 million square feet in the Parnassus area. (I wrote about those details in an earlier post, HERE.) Now UCSF wants to remove the 130,000 sq feet of Aldea housing from the 3.55 mn sq feet space ceiling. It argues that other university housing is not included in the space ceiling, and Aldea is an anomaly that could be rectified. (UCSF has actually exceeded the space ceiling for years, but seems to  use it as a sort of benchmark and target.)

UCSF Damon Lew presenting new plan for Aldea

From what I understood, UCSF wants:

  • Initially, to preserve 3 dorm buildings it was scheduled to demolish by 2024  in order to reduce square footage and bring it closer to the space ceiling. It represents 42 units of housing.
  • Later, it could replace them (and others of the 12 buildings at Aldea) with larger and more modern housing units – or, if it’s outside the space ceiling, maybe even with offices or other work areas.

COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC

Here are some of the key comments:

  • Dennis Antenore, a UCSF Community Advisory Group member, said he didn’t support removing Aldea. However,  he thought if the community fought it, there was a  real threat that the UC Board of Regents could decide to abolish the Space Ceiling altogether.  If UCSF recommended that, the Regents would undoubtedly vote in favor.
  • Walter Caplan of the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization pointed out that our neighborhood would be directly impacted by anything that was done at Aldea, and he opposed removing Aldea from the space ceiling. He considered removal essentially giving UCSF a blank check for expansion in that area.
    • UCSF’s Lori Yamauchi responded by pointing out that even with the space ceiling, it didn’t limit Aldea to its current size; they could demolish elsewhere and expand in Aldea.
    • UCSF’s Barbara Bagot-Lopez said that when UCSF built housing elsewhere, it did so in consultation with the neighbors. As a state institution, they are not bound by city regulations about height limits, but they did observe them anyway out of respect for the community. So if they did decide to expand in Aldea, they would do the same thing.
  • Craig Dawson (Sutro Stewards, and also a member of UCSF’s Community Advisory Group -CAG) opposed removing Aldea from the space ceiling for several reasons. First, it would affect UCSF’s credibility; Aldea was included in the space ceiling for a reason, even when other housing wasn’t. Moreover, the demolition of 2 Aldea buildings were specifically included as an offset to the new Stem Cell research building, which took in 0.5 acres of the Forest.  Finally, he said, it’s not a suitable place to expand housing, with no public transport or neighboring community. He also felt UCSF had not kept to the undertakings made in the previous Long Range Development Plan of 1996.
    • Lori Yamauchi disagreed vehemently; she said UCSF worked in good faith with the community, and though they may not have done everything they said (mainly demolition of some buildings), they were working to achieve the same goals.
  • Serena, a student of UCSF who lives at Aldea, emphasized how important housing was to students. She left a well-paid Federal job and came to San Francisco a full three months before her course started, only to ensure she got into housing. She pointed out that medical students make good neighbors, and add value to society. We should be supportive.
    • Several in the group agreed with her on both counts.
  • Bob (didn’t get his surname) asked what UCSF meant by “community.” Did it consider people like him, who were just residents of the area?
    • I thought that was an excellent question. UCSF calls the Community Advisory Group the “backbone” of its community engagement – but that’s a hand-picked group, many of whom have been on the CAG for years if not decades. It also refers to neighborhood organizations, but those often have the same structure. It’s important, in my opinion, to get the voices of the broader community – people who may not have the time to attend numerous meetings over many years, but nonetheless care about and are impacted by UCSF decisions.
  • Another person whose name I didn’t catch thought UCSF should keep its promises to neighbors, and consider the ripple effects of its actions on the neighborhoods – for instance, making parking impossible to get.
  • I am fine with delaying the demolition of the 3 dorms and preserving the 42 units beyond year 2024, but removing Aldea from the Space Ceiling is too open-ended of a change. From UCSF’s viewpoint, it probably is not worth the loss of credibility nor the potential conflict with the neighborhood. I also think it’s probably true that the Regents would agree to whatever UCSF proposes. But in my opinion, it’s for UCSF to avoid proposing something the community opposes. It shouldn’t be our responsibility to calculate whether the Regents would or wouldn’t support us.
UCSF aldea presentation using pic from Forest Knolls website
I was surprised (and rather flattered) to find the photograph from our Forest Knolls site used on the opening page of UCSF’s presentation! For the record – I have no objection to their using this image.

 SENSE OF THE MEETING

This is my sense of the meeting as it ended:

  • In Aldea housingAlmost everyone was opposed to removing Aldea from the space ceiling; even Dennis Antenore, who said the community should not oppose it, was not in favor. He just thought it might be a compromise.
  • Everyone understood the need for housing, especially below market-rate housing,  for students and faculty near their place of work. Post-docs and doctoral students are paid between $32,000 and $45,000 annually – not enough in San Francisco’s rental market. It also reduces the need for commuting and thus reducing congestion and energy needs.
  • There was little opposition to retaining the 3 dorms scheduled for demolition.
  • There were concerns about UCSF and its undertakings to the community.
  • UCSF should not rely only on the CAG for its definition of “Community” but should broaden the viewpoints represented.

SEND COMMENTS AND OPINIONS

UCSF is in the process of making its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), about which I posted HERE and HERE.  It covers all the physical changes they plan for the Parnassus area (including of course the Aldea segment). The EIR is due out this Friday, Aug 15th, 2014. The UCSF website with all the LRDP information is HERE.   They will be accepting comments on the LRDP and the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on it to October 14, 2014. 

You can email Damon Lew at dlew@CGR.UCSF.EDU and Lori Yamauchi at lyamauchi@planning.ucsf.edu

UCSF LRDP Feb 2014 -1
Forest Knolls would be impacted by changes at UCSF’s Aldea San Miguel housing

 

 

 

 

UCSF Meeting: New Plans for Aldea Housing – 12 Aug 2014

In Aldea housing

UCSF has announced a meeting to talk about its plans for the Aldea San Miguel campus housing. 

This is a cluster of wood-shingled buildings nestled at the foot of Sutro Forest, amid tall trees and landscaping. The house of the UCSF Chancellor is also in the same complex. It’s a charming place with almost a mountain-resort feel to it. It’s adjacent to our neighborhood, lying between Cole Valley and Forest Knolls and is approached from Clarendon Avenue and connects to Parnassus Avenue by Medical Center Way, a short winding route that resembles a country byway.

BACKGROUND

UCSF is in the midst of its Long Range Development Plan, which will be valid for 20 years. They expect to adopt it in November 2014.

In the 1970s, UCSF made an agreement not to expand in the Parnassus area. The Regents voted to impose ‘space ceiling’ that limited their space in the Parnassus areas to and also not to acquire any properties in the surrounding areas. (I attended a meeting in Feb 2014 and reported on that HERE.)

Here’s some background from one of my earlier posts.

“Back in 1976, UCSF had a strategy of stealth acquisition. It quietly acquired a bunch of houses (mainly in the 4th Avenue and 5th Avenue area in the Inner Sunset), used some eminent domain, and planned to knock them down and expand. It was trashing the neighborhood, and the neighbors revolted.  The battle was bitterly fought, and went all the way up to Sacramento. When the smoke had cleared away, UCSF agreed to limits to growth in the neighborhood.  The UC Regents passed a resolution. This had several important impacts on Forest Knolls.

  1. It agreed to maintain the 61 acres of Sutro Forest as an Open Space. They weren’t going to build on it.
  2. They imposed a limit – 3.55 million — on the total square footage in the Parnassus area. If they built something new, they would knock down something else.
  3. They defined an expansion restriction area in which they would not acquire properties (they cannot accept gifts of properties in this area either. This restriction area – the map in the photo above –  includes Forest Knolls (the line ends at Clarendon).
  4. Recognizing that the influx of people (with the transport requirements and other pressures they bring) was also impacting neighborhoods, they included a goal of limiting the population to 13,400.”

UCSF LRDP Feb 2014 -1

WHAT’S UP NOW?

In fact, UCSF soon exceeded the space ceiling. They’ve also exceeded the people limit. (Details HERE.) But they have kept to points 1 and 3, maintaining Sutro Forest as open space, and not acquiring properties in the restriction area.

Student housing was explicitly excluded from the Space Ceiling, with the exception of Aldea Student Housing. Now, UCSF is considering excluding that, too.

  • What does that mean? I don’t know for sure. I’ve heard people say it could mean knocking down the old dorm buildings, and replacing them with something more modern. Probably not prettier, if the Hall they built a few years ago is any indication. Could it also be bigger? I don’t know. It depends on how they interpret their earlier undertakings – or how they choose to reinterpret them.
  • Will it impact the forest? It’s possible. In the last “fire safety” action, UCSF removed around 1,000 trees and all the understory on areas around the Aldea campus. This has made the forest in these areas much drier and less healthy, especially after drought conditions.
  • Will it impact Forest Knolls?  Now that the forest between Forest Knolls and Aldea has been thinned to the point that Aldea is easily visible from Forest Knolls, whatever  they do in Aldea will have more visual (and audible) impact on our neighborhood. What further impacts it may have I’m not sure.

Here’s the meeting announcement from UCSF. If you have concerns, it may be worth attending.

UCSF’s last Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), created in 1996, was designed to guide the university’s physical development through 2012. UCSF has embarked on its next LRDP, which has an expected planning horizon of 20 years. Community involvement is a key facet of this planning process.
This meeting will focus on the UCSF Aldea San Miguel housing complex. Information regarding past agreements with the community and current proposals within the draft LRDP will be discussed.

Date: Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Faculty Alumni House, 745 Parnassus Avenue @ 5th Avenue, San Francisco, CA

UCSF strives to ensure maximum public involvement in this important planning process. With an open and interactive process — identifying the best ideas and ensuring that all points of view are considered.

The UCSF Faculty Alumni House can be accessed by several MUNI Lines: #6, #43 and N-Judah. Parking is available in the Kirkham Avenue parking lot near the corner of Kirkham and 5th Avenue.

UCSF fully ascribes to the Americans with Disabilities Act. If at any time you feel you have a need for accommodation, please contact UCSF Community & Government Relations at 415-476-3206 or community@cgr.ucsf.edu with your suggested accommodation.