Dogpatch Residents Design UCSF Housing

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At a mid-March gathering, roughly a dozen Southside residents met with University of California, San Francisco and Perkins + Will staff to discuss designs for the university’s new graduate student and trainee housing, planned for 566, 590 and 600 Minnesota Street. The workshop took place at Dogpatch Studios, located at 991 Tennessee Street.

The March meeting was the second in a series, the previous one held in February at the same location attended by approximately twenty residents. At the March gathering, Perkins + Will senior urban designer Noah Friedman discussed what features UCSF could and couldn’t promise, as well as the project’s timeline. UCSF anticipates that the buildings will open in late-2019.

Friedman emphasized that as a public university UCSF isn’t bound by the City’s planning code, though it intends to install street enhancements, like greenery, make the housing “sustainable,” and rely on the services of and collaborate with local businesses.

Meeting attendees expressed concerns about the university’s proposal to build to the neighborhood’s 58-foot height limit and house 630 students and trainees, a 50 to 150-person increase from the number of individuals UCSF stated the structure would accommodate in February.  “A lot of us feel that is maybe too much. Are you also considering remodeling housing on campus?” asked Janet Carpinelli, a member of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA) and UCSF Citizens’ Advisory Council (CAC).

“That’s only ten years old, so no,” responded Clare Shinnerl, UCSF associate vice chancellor. 

J.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters president and UCSF CAC member, said he appreciated the university’s engagement with the community early in the process. “It feels as if that involvement could broaden if this project is going to be as successful as it could be,” said Eppler. He’s concerned about spillover impacts into Potrero Hill that the housing could prompt. “The barrier between Dogpatch and Potrero Hill is not impermeable. This project is located on a very short bridge that connects the two,” said Eppler.

At the March meeting, attendees expressed concern that UCSF wasn’t making sufficiently serious commitments to being environmentally-friendly. “You say you want to achieve minimum LEED silver certification for new construction. You should be embarrassed. That’ll be out of date by the time you are done,” said one Southside resident. More than one attendee offered to assist the university create a sustainable design. “Please don’t just compare yourself with what’s been done in the past. Tap into the expertise in the Bay Area and really do this well,” said a participant. 

According to Friedman, UCSF won’t consider building a skybridge over 18th Street – the road is City property – provide public access to courtyards and other common areas of the student housing buildings, or put a full-service grocery store near the complex. At the March meeting, attendees said they were concerned about pedestrian and bicyclist safety around 18th Street.

Friedman revealed diagrams that showed points of agreement between attendees about where to place automobile and bicycle parking, loading services, and entry points.  The graphics were based on Styrofoam and paper models that participants had created in February. At that gathering, attendees agreed that the complex should include street enhancements, such as greenery, parking should be limited, the three buildings should avoid the sterile look that largely dominates Mission Bay, and the structures should let in light from the east.

Although Perkins + Will facilitated the meetings, according to Leslie Santos, UCSF’s director of housing services, the university hasn’t decided on an architect for the project. It expects to do so this summer. She said UCSF graduate students and trainees are focused on price, not design. “They want cheap housing, what’s affordable for them. A lot of them are on fixed incomes. Just the cost of going to school is challenging for them,” said Santos.

According to Santos, UCSF’s current pool of graduate students and post-doctoral trainees has more single people and couples than families with children. This is one factor that’s motivated UCSF and participants to allot 85 parking spaces, relatively few new spaces for parking given the proposed size of the complex. 

At the February meeting, Dogpatch resident Audra Angeli-Morse said she didn’t want UCSF to encourage “suburban mall sprawl,” echoing general participant sentiment that wanted to avoid creating significant amounts of new parking and blocky housing units that’d continue to erode the neighborhood’s small-town, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use feel. “I live on Tennessee Street so I’m very worried about all this. There have been a lot of promises that have not been kept,” said Angeli-Morse.   

When building the Styrofoam models in February, participants found it difficult to figure out how to deal with vehicle traffic. Currently, Indiana Street allows only right turns. Participants were concerned that a parking garage on the street would encourage more people to circle the block. Many of the attendees called for a return to both left and right turns on Indiana Street. They also wanted to prevent double-parking because they saw it as dangerous.

Participants didn’t agree on where to put parking garages. “Tennessee Street and Minnesota Street are already like racetracks. Adding more entrances means more cars coming in and out. It will just make it even crazier,” said Angeli-Morse.

“I would tend to do public entries for Minnesota Street,” said Lynn Brown, a Dogpatch resident. “That’s where the lights are.”

Participants expressed interest in having UCSF provide shuttle service from the student housing to the Mission Bay campus, as a way to reduce parking pressures. At the March meeting, UCSF said it was interested in providing such service. 

At the February meeting, participants encouraged UCSF to be careful about street light installations. “You have to watch so it doesn’t shine into people’s bedrooms. My apartment sits right across the street. I have the biggest fear you’re going to put in gigantic floodlights. The lighting should be scaled to pedestrian level,” said one attendee.

“The question is, can you maintain the quality of life down here?” asked David Glober, a Hill resident who frequents Dogpatch. “One of the advantages of this site is it is close to the T-line and three parks.”  Glober said more people in the area will encourage greater business activity, but also more stress.

Joe Boss, Boosters auditor, said he’s interested in UCSF using roof space and other available room to generate solar and wind energy. “Make it as much green energy as you can,” said Boss.  According to Boss, the Southside neighborhoods are still recovering from the pollution generated by the now-defunct Potrero power plant.

UCSF’s monthly design workshops typically take place the second week of the month, usually a week after DNA’s monthly meeting. UCSF will consider attendees’ input and update DNA on the project at its April meeting.

“Right now, we’re really trying to focus on the design and play with the pieces. We’re here to inform and set the criteria for the architects,” said Michele Davis, UCSF assistant director of community relations.