San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) staff have confirmed that pre-construction activity for a proposed Mission Bay elementary school will be deferred until 2022, with construction commencing the following spring. The campus’ estimated opening has been pushed from 2023 to 2025.
Lot 14, a 2.2-acre parcel along Owens Street just off the traffic circle at Mission Bay Drive, will be developed as a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade public school. A Linked Learning Hub will also offer a high school program with curriculum organized around economic sector themes, utilizing work-based learning attached to local businesses. The site is currently used as a parking lot for Mission Bay Shuttle buses.
According to Dawn Kamalanathan, SFUSD chief facilities officer, a summer series of school design presentations had been in the works prior to COVID-19-related school closures last spring. The forums will now be held virtually.
Kamalanathan indicated that the structure will be designed to enhance learning not only for students, but for educators. Hallways won’t just be thoroughfares, but places that lend themselves to learning, with exhibits set into alcoves. Observation rooms will be connected to classrooms for teacher development.
“We’re also looking at a schoolyard that will have open access to the public and connect to other open spaces so it can be a shared schoolyard from Day One,” Kamalanathan said.
In 2016 voters approved a $744 million school bond that earmarked $100 million for two new neighborhood schools, in Mission Bay and Bayview, but stopped short of committing SFUSD to use the funds only for that purpose. In 2017 the Board of Education endorsed a resolution co-sponsored by then-Board of Education Commissioners Matt Haney and Hydra Mendoza directing SFUSD staff to proceed with school planning. District staff met with an informal neighborhood steering committee every few months, as recently as February. Up until last fall SFUSD staff told Mission Bay families to expect construction to begin in mid-2021, with an expected opening for the 2023 academic year.
In December, Kamalanathan told the steering committee that most of the money earmarked in the 2016 bond for the Mission Bay school was likely to be reallocated toward needs elsewhere in the district, particularly in Bayview. Twenty million dollars would be invested in site preparation starting in 2022. Kamalanathan recommended that another round of funding for the Mission Bay project be put into a new school bond, planned for 2022. The delay was criticized by Mission Bay Citizen’s Advisory Committee members.
“San Francisco voters have been consistent supporters of school bonds,” Kamalanathan said. “I am still moving forward with the intention of having a bond measure in front of voters in 2022. I did share that recommendation with the Board of Ed. I’m holding off on solidifying that until we get more clarity on what the next 12 to 18 months are going to look like.”
“I think folks had questions because of the timeline,” said Huyen “Kiki” Vo, a social worker for 626 Mission Bay Boulevard. “My observation was that folks were imaging their kids could go to the school.”
Vo believes that there are roughly 50 elementary school-aged kids residing at the 143-unit rental building, which is run by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC). According to Vo, 626 Mission Bay management will continue to be engaged in school planning efforts but noted that residents are dealing with daily demands that’ve been exacerbated by the public health emergency and response to it. It’s unlikely that all households have access to computers to be able to participate in a virtual meeting with SFUSD.
Efrem Bycer and his wife, technology workers who live in a market rate condominium in Mission Bay, have children ages one and two and a half. Bycer, who attended public school, said that a 2023 opening would’ve worked for his oldest child, who’s enrolled in Bright Horizons on Kansas Street. Now, they’ll have to find a new plan.
“Every year it gets pushed back, it feels like there’s a chance it could get pushed back another year later on,” Bycer said. “Something I think about — especially with all the diversity in the neighborhood — we can get all our neighbors to be in the same school. There are great opportunities here for education with the proposed STEM center and all the nearby tech companies, and I’d like us to leverage those opportunities for all the kids in the neighborhood. I understand there are needs in other parts of the City, and we should support that. We’re part of the eastern neighborhoods ecosystem where we’re going to see so much growth.”
Bycer named a slew of housing developments in the pipeline that extend to Dogpatch, including at Pier 70 and the Power Plant site, as well as the massive Mission Rock complex. A couple of projects that’re in the works are pegged to be 100 percent affordable to low-income or working-class households, including Lot 9A, on Terry Francois Boulevard, and Lot 12W, just off the traffic circle opposite the school site. The 691 China Basin building sponsored by Mercy Housing is nearing completion and will join Mercy Housing’s 1180 Fourth Street complex in housing low-income families, along with TNDC’s 626 Mission Bay.
Like Vo, Bycer feels that until people see shovels in the ground, sustaining enthusiasm for planning the school will be a challenge.
“It becomes more powerful when you see stuff happen in the ground, when construction is happening,” he said.
Faauuga Moliga, who was elected to the Board of Education in 2018 after being appointed by Mayor London Breed to fill a seat vacated by Mendoza, met with Bruce Agid, a Mission Bay resident who has headed the neighborhood’s school advocacy efforts since 2015, for a 90-minute walking tour that included a visit to the future campus site.
“I was blown away, being out there. I hadn’t had a full tour of Mission Bay since it was developed,” said Moliga, who grew up in Bayview-Hunters Point, and remembers acres of vacant lots where stores are now partially open under shelter-in-place orders, and green spaces are full of residential buildings. “What I saw with Bruce was completely different. The thing that really hit me the most is there’s a whole entire community that’s been developed in that area.”
An update on when construction of a Mission Bay public school may begin will be provided at a June meeting of SFUSD’s Buildings, Grounds and Services Committee, Moliga, who chairs the committee, told The Potrero View.
Currently owned by the University of California, San Francisco, Lot 14 will be donated to SFUSD through an in-progress title transfer. Laura Kurtzman, UCSF senior public information representative, stated that conveying the parcel requires two transactions: assigning the title to the site that was detailed in the original Mission Bay development agreements; and providing an easement to the balance of the site requested by SFUSD.
“We have prepared a term sheet for these combined transactions and have submitted it to SFUSD. They have provided comments and requested changes,” Kurtzman said. “We are currently reviewing these changes and are preparing a revised term sheet.”
Gould Evans, a national architectural firm with an office at 95 Brady Street, has been hired to design the school.