Earlier this summer the San Francisco Board of Education (SFBoE) unanimously approved construction of a prekindergarten through fifth grade school and Linked Learning Hub to be located on Mission Bay South Block 14. The Hub will serve as a professional learning center for teachers and staff, as well as a place to connect high school students with career and workforce readiness experiences. The Mission Bay Elementary School is planned to open in August 2025.
SFBoE endorsed a $95 million contract with McCarthy Building Company/DLR Architects for design, permitting, and construction of the school campus.
“We are still fundraising for the full buildout of the specific area on the campus that will be a program space for high school students,” said Laura Dudnick, San Francisco Unified School District public relations manager.
Construction is expected to begin at the end of next year, funded through 2016 Proposition A, which authorized up to $745 million in general obligation bonds to be issued, and was approved by almost 80 percent of voters. In addition, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. gifted $2 million to the school in 2021.
Several steps need to be taken before construction can begin. A quarter-acre discrepancy between the site and the plot indicated in the Mission Bay South Redevelopment Plan must be addressed.
“The transfer requires a legal description and property depiction that are part of the Subdivision Map Act process,” said Dudnick. “The parcels are currently being mapped by the San Francisco Department of Public Works Bureau of Subdivision and Mapping. Once those maps are approved by the Board of Supervisors, the property can formally transfer. DPW estimates the end of July 2022 for the Board of Supervisors to act on the map. If that happens on their timeline, then SFUSD anticipates August 2022 for the Board of Education to act on the land transfer.”
The school needs final site approval from the California Department of Education, anticipated next month.
“The project also needs to comply with all regulatory requirements, including the control of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control processes and environmental mitigation measures. Also, the plans will need to be approved by the Division of the State Architect prior to construction commencement. DSA is essentially the ‘Building Department’ for school projects,” said Dudnick.
Despite the remaining hurdles, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) considers the project largely approved.
“Negotiation is materially complete. We’re waiting for the final subdivision survey from the City. Next, the University of California Office of the President will make the final approval for UCSF.” said Bruce Lanyon, UCSF assistant vice chancellor of real estate services.
According to Lanyon, negotiation took almost two years because three public entities, SFUSD, the City and County of San Francisco, and UCSF had to work through numerous details.
“It’s great that the Mission Bay School and Linked Learning Hub are on target to be open in fall 2025. The need for a PK-5 elementary school and the Hub has only grown since development has almost been completed in Mission Bay,” said J.R. Eppler, president of the Potrero Boosters, a neighborhood association that represents Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, and Showplace Square residents.
SFUSD lost close to 1,000 students, or 2.5 percent of enrollment, in academic year 2020-2021. Another 2,500 students, or almost five percent of enrollment, left the district in 2021-2022.
“The long-term concern is the growth of the City. New residential development is occurring primarily in the southeastern neighborhoods. The demand in this part of town has been high over the past two years. It will remain high as development continues,” said Eppler.
Opening of Mission Bay Elementary School will coincide with a change to the elementary school student assignment process. In fall 2025, the District will shift from allowing families to apply to any elementary school in San Francisco to letting families choose schools within zones close to their residence. According to SFUSD, the new policy will diversify elementary schools, offer families more predictability about where their children will be enrolled, and create strong community connections to neighborhood schools.
“The Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, and Mission Bay neighborhoods have a lot of new construction with excellent housing options for families, with modern amenities like accessible parking and in-unit laundry,” said Jessica Holmes, a Connecticut Street resident and PREFund president. “With early childhood education programs, public transit, access to nature, parks, and playgrounds, our neighborhoods are ideal for family life. I’ve seen the neighborhood grow for the past 10 years and this growth warrants the new school.”
“I am proud to have been one of the volunteers who helped advocates get approximately 100 signatures of residents,” said Ben Sumers, a Long Bridge Street resident. “I went out to the Mission Bay Children’s Park on summer mornings and walked up to parents. Most said, ‘We absolutely need a school here.’”
“It’s been a long journey since 1998, when the former Redevelopment Agency, now the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, set aside the parcel for the school,” said Bruce Agid, a South Beach|Rincon|Mission Bay Neighborhood Association board member and Mission Bay Elementary School Community Steering Committee member. “At the June meeting, more than 15 residents from the greater East Cut, Mission Bay, and Potrero and Dogpatch areas spoke in support of the school. No one opposed it. Over 125 parents sent emails to SFUSD. Over 750 people signed a petition in support of the school before the meeting.”
“Newer developments within the southeastern neighborhoods become a revolving door without basic public amenities in place, such as a school. That forces out families with young children,” said Emily Wang, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association Member-At-Large.
Since 2021, high school students have engaged in Linked Learning Hub development. William Holder-Soto, 17, a rising senior at Mission High School, was a student ambassador fellow in the spring 2022. He and 11 other high school students provided feedback to UCSF on the Hub.
“A new group will join the program in fall 2022, along with me and another returning student. We gave UCSF ideas about what we’d want to learn about certain topics, like biotech and medicine. We said how we’d like to apply those experiences to our high school classes. We also explained it’s important to ensure access to services like public transportation. Otherwise, students will have trouble getting to the Hub,” said Holder-Soto. “When you meet people like you in the research labs and doctor’s offices, you can see opportunities are right there. You can get the education and training where you live to become a doctor or a scientist.”
Don Woodson, director of UCSF’s Center for Science, Education, and Outreach, said the Hub expects to begin recruiting high school students for internships at UCSF by the end of January 2023.
“We will site the Linked Learning Hub on UCSF’s Mission Bay campus at a location still to be determined. The Hub will exist before and until the Mission Bay Elementary School is built. This way high school students don’t have to wait for construction to be finished,” said Woodson. “Our goal is to offer opportunities in a wide variety of fields, including neuroscience, oncology, cardiac research, and chemical biology. Students will do work in labs and engage in discussions. Their progress will align with their academic year and personal interests.”
According to San Francisco Board of Education president Jenny Lam, the Mission Bay Elementary School and Linked Learning Hub offer the potential for SFUSD to design a “21st century school.”