New Student Residences Open at California College of the Arts

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Blattner Hall, California College of the Arts’ new 64,000 square foot four-story student residence hall, located at 75 Arkansas Street, began housing scholars last summer. District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, who also serves as president of the Board of Supervisors, spoke at the Hall’s September 24th ribbon-cutting.

“Stable housing is essential for academic success, particularly for first generation college students. My legislation to build more affordable student housing at CCA will help reduce student homelessness, improve graduation rates, and break the cycle of poverty. I’m proud that we are finally opening this space in Potrero,” said Cohen.

The legislation to which Cohen referred is a 2013 ordinance that amended the City’s Planning Code and Zoning Map to establish the Art and Design Educational Special Use District at 1111 Eighth Street. The amendments facilitated CCA’s continued operation and provided a regulatory scheme for phased expansion of the campus.

Blattner Hall can house roughly 228 graduate, continuing, and transfer students, with about 147 students living there presently. The building houses fewer students this year because it opened after orientation; incoming, transfer and graduate students couldn’t move in. Next year, an on-time move-in will be possible for such students, increasing the number living in the Hall.

The apartments are coed; students can choose their own roommates. Each four-bedroom unit is 1,200 square feet. There are also two bedroom units; all offer similar amenities. Each residential unit is individually metered for energy use.

The unit have similar layouts, with a kitchen and living room flanked by two bedrooms on either end. Each occupant has access to a large work desk located just outside their room in a hallway nook, enabling them to work outside their chamber when their roommate is sleeping. Each bedroom has access to its own bathroom.

Between 40 and 65 students live on each floor, with access to a lounge area that has a television set and several pieces of “stain-proof, Exacto knife-proof” furniture, according to David Meckel, CCA’s director of campus planning. Students can have emotional support animals, including dogs.

“We’re glad our neighborhood can help provide housing that remedies the stresses students in the City feel. CCA has been a strong partner of the neighborhood and has been very receptive to neighborhood concerns,” said J.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters president. 

CCA trustee Simon Blattner, who donated the property on which the dormitory is sited, said he was involved in almost every construction element, including choosing the colors for each floor. “The light in that place is unbelievable. It was just a block building, a warehouse with a nice office. I had a maximum of 17 people in the building at any one time. Saks 5th Avenue had a little more than that in the next 15 years. What’s there now (has made a) dramatic improvement in the neighborhood right away,” said Blattner.

According to Blattner, CCA demolished a one-story building, which was constructed in 1924 and had “no historicity, no importance” to “give the students over 200 beds at prices that are acceptable to them.”  Hall housing for a full academic year costs $12,144 for a double room, $15,686 for a single, and is included in a student’s financial aid package.

The Hall contains four street-level commercial spaces. CCA is currently seeking tenants, according to Emily Viemester, the college’s senior campus communications manager.

The Hall features two outside courtyards paved with black and white stones on either side of the building. The ground floor has a 2,200 square foot multipurpose room. Two garage doors, one on either side of the multipurpose room, open up to the courtyards to provide a seamless connection of interior and exterior spaces. Construction on these elements was completed this month.

The building is “Platinum” under the GreenPoint rating system, a home certification system. Platinum is the highest rating in the GreenPoint system, which measures a home’s capability in five categories: community, energy efficiency, indoor air quality and health, resource conservation, and water conservation. LED lighting is deployed throughout the building; the Hall’s roof is covered in photovoltaic solar panels. The electricity generated by the panels is used in common spaces throughout the building, including the multipurpose room, the upper floor common rooms, and hallways.

“We strive to combine great design with great environmental performance. Our expectation is that Blattner Hall will use around one-fourth the energy of a typical U.S. residence hall,” said Richard Stacy, principal at LMS, the project’s lead architectural firm.

The outside courtyards contain planters irrigated by rainwater captured from the roof and a drip irrigation system. The pesticides used on the greenery in the courtyards are organic; they’re derived from natural sources.

“Our property management company, Capstone Management, is also looking into possibilities for implementing an integrated pest management plan that avoids and/or bans the use of any and all pesticides on the site,” said Viemeister.

Building access is through a keycard system. The Hall contains two stairwells, elevators, a lobby, a mailroom, ground-level CCA offices for housing and residential life activities, a bicycle room with a lift system to store 80 bikes, and “smart laundry rooms” on each floor. Students can view their laundry status through a phone app and pay at the machines with a debit or credit card.

“The app tells you when the laundry’s done. Plus, the laundry room is hyper-metered. We know how many loads of laundry residents do,” said Meckel. CCA is monitoring the laundry machines as part of a larger effort to become more environmentally sustainable.

“[The hyper-metering] allows us to detect leaks immediately so water isn’t wasted. The information we gather from machines in Blattner Hall will also be able to help inform our planning the laundry facilities for our student housing facility at 188 Hooper. We had a similar way to monitor laundry in our Panoramic residence hall that allowed us to plan for the correct number of machines for Blattner Hall,” said Viemester.

The Hall is located fewer than three blocks from CCA’s 1111 Eighth Street campus. The college is adding housing for about 900 students in or within walking distance of the campus.

“Our three-prong strategy involves off-campus housing, near-campus housing, and on-campus housing. Blattner Hall is near-campus housing,” said Meckel.

Blattner Hall has no automobile parking. CCA addresses transportation needs through an agreement with the University of California, San Francisco’s Mission Bay Shuttle, which provides students with free access between the college’s campus and the Civic Center Bay Area Rapid Transit station every 16 minutes during peak commute hours. Students can also utilize Ford GoBikes, Muni routes 55 and 22, which connect to Dogpatch and the 16th Street corridor, and Muni routes 10 and 19, which traverse South-of-Market and Downtown.

The next residence hall CCA expects to complete is 188 Hooper, which’ll provide housing for 500 students. The housing at 188 Hooper, as housing for all CCA halls, isn’t meant to generate a profit. CCA itself is a nonprofit institution.

Daniela Granillo, a CCA senior majoring in architecture, said her first impression of the Hall was that “it was so big. It was very spacious. It kind of felt lonely. Then again, I moved in about August 14. When other students started moving in, it didn’t feel lonely anymore.”

According to Granillo, who used to live at Panoramic Residences at 1321 Mission Street, which houses CCA and San Francisco Conservatory of Music students, living at a residence hall with only CCA students “feels more like a community. Some units have an amazing view to the City and certain buildings in it. In other units, you can see into other students’ common spaces, but not their rooms. You never feel alone in the whole building.”

Granillo said she likes that the Hall provides a safe atmosphere.  “San Francisco can be a very dangerous city. I am now so close to school that my parents are comfortable with me living here,” said Granillo.

Jose Rodriguez Trujillo, also a CCA senior majoring in architecture, said he likes that the units “feel much more open” than those at Panoramic Residences. “There nobody was motivated to go out to the common areas. Everything felt tight and confined. Here, we have a full-size kitchen that actually works. Overall, it doesn’t feel like a cheap building,” said Trujillo.

Mallory Kimmel, a CCA second-year master of fine arts student, said living at the Hall is almost a case study for her thesis. “I’m exploring relationships between people and everyday objects. I look at how we seek companionship, happiness, and comfort when we’re lonely or sad,” said Kimmel.

Kimmel, who lived at Panoramic Residences in 2017, said Blattner Hall is “made to be competitive with a retail apartment. We have small things which make life so much better. For example, we have a standard size dishwasher, huge bay windows in our living rooms, and a lot of natural light.”  One of her favorite aspects of the units is “a huge stainless steel table that’s really great to work on, pocket doors to the bathroom that do not take up much space, and limited streaming channels on the TV in the living room.”

Kimmel added that she likes the Hall’s proximity to the college, which allows her to go home to make lunch.  “That saves me money. Later I can go back to school and keep working. Finally, another one of my favorite things is that I have a brass key. That’s just for my own room,” said Kimmel.