California College of the Arts to Build 200-Bed Apartment Complex, 400-Bed Dorm

in by

The California College of the Arts (CCA) plans to add a 200-bed student apartment complex at 75 Arkansas Street, followed by a 600-bed dormitory at 184 to 188 Hooper Street, as part of consolidation of its East Bay campus into the City.

“We expect the Arkansas and 17th street apartment-style housing to open in fall 2018. For the Hooper Street project, we just started work…converting what is currently painting studios into housing for students,” said David Meckel, CCA’s director of planning.

According to Meckel, after the Hooper Street project has been completed, by 2020, CCA will start moving all of its operations to San Francisco.

Meckel confirmed that the 75 Arkansas Street project was made possible by a CCA trustee who owns the land and buildings on it. The trustee will retain ownership; the college will hold a master lease. Each of the units will have four bedrooms and a master suite. CCA is still planning the scheme for the 184 Hooper housing, which’ll likely involve single and double-room occupancy in one or more dormitories.

Meckel said the college wants to provide a variety of housing opportunities for students, “…from first-year housing that builds community to apartment-style units with kitchens for slightly older students. Student housing takes the stress of commuting out of the equation and allows much more time for student-to-student and student-to-faculty interaction. It makes for a better living and learning environment,” said Meckel.

According to J.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters president, CCA and his organization have had positive communication at the three meetings the college has held regarding student housing this year.  “CCA has been a good partner with the community. I’m looking forward to seeing that continue as they consolidate their operations in the City,” said Eppler.  “The Boosters have advocated for creative use of ground floor space in Potrero Hill. The expansion of CCA helps make that case even more strongly.”

“We have had a successful working relationship with CCA thus far,” Gina Simi, San Francisco Planning Department communications manager, said.

The creation of student housing at 75 Arkansas will involve demolishing an existing industrial building and constructing a new four-story, 48-foot-tall mixed use structure with no on-site car parking.

The proposed 184 to 188 Hooper project is under environmental review. Under current plans CCA’s Graduate Center at 184 Hooper will be retained, one and two-story warehouse buildings at 188 Hooper demolished, and a five-story structure constructed. Hooper may also include ground floor retail and production, distribution, and repair (PDR) spaces and a garage with a stacker system that could provide off-street parking for up to 60 vehicles.

Meckel said CCA sees creating more student housing as a necessary step before full consolidation. Currently, CCA’s student population is split between the City and Oakland by fields of study.  “There’s certain disciplines taught only in San Francisco and certain classes taught only in Oakland. The student experience is variable,” said Monique Butler, CCA’s director of residential life.

CCA’s San Francisco campus focuses on design, and houses the school’s architecture, fashion, graphic, and industrial design departments. The Oakland campus specializes in crafts and fine arts, and includes the animation, ceramics, sculpture, and textiles departments.

Butler said that despite the split, CCA is well-equipped to support its students on both sides of the Bay.  “We’re still a two-campus system, with events in Oakland and San Francisco. We even provide shuttle service to students for their classes and housing in both cities,” she said.

According to Butler, CCA students want housing that’s quiet, safe, affordable, and close by their classes and studio spaces. They’re also looking for units where they can store their work and supplies. “They’re up late during the night and don’t want to have to drag all of their supplies and tools back and forth to get their work done. I think having housing close by will give them a little bit more time. It’ll make campus a little bit more vibrant,” she said.

Rachel Dunn, a junior in jewelry and metal arts and a desk assistant in CCA’s office of residential life, said when the campuses merge Potrero Hill residents will see “an extra thousand students who weren’t there before. It will encourage students to spend more time on campus and more money at businesses around there.”

Some CCA students are concerned that the Hill is remote and relatively inaccessible. The San Francisco campus is about a half-hour walk from the 16th Street Bay Area Rapid Transit station or a Muni ride from Civic Center. Students also have questions about how CCA will work with the City to ensure that students are safe, pointing to close by homeless camps.

Local artists and art organizations are happy to see CCA establish a greater presence in the City, though they regret CCA’s departure from Oakland.  “Anything that helps increase artist housing in San Francisco is a good thing. CCA has a great reputation and graduates stellar members of the artist community,” said Joen Madonna, executive director of Artspan, a nonprofit arts organization that runs the SF Open Studios program. “I’d like to see CCA maintain the Oakland campus while also expanding the San Francisco campus. Retaining more site control of creative spaces in the Bay Area is an important focus to help keep the Bay Area vital for future generations of artists,”

“I think it’s a loss for Oakland,” San Francisco artist Henrik Kam said.

“It’s sort of sad to see them leave Oakland and that campus,” Dogpatch resident and artist Susan Eslick added.

According to Meckel, although CCA’s move to the Hill will bring changes, the college wants to contribute to improving the City.  “We’re transitioning with the neighborhood. Hopefully it’s all done in a logical, painless way,” said Meckel.