Residents Concerned about University of California,San Francisco Expansion

in / by

Residents are concerned about potential impacts on community cohesion, economic activity, and transportation caused by University of California, San Francisco developments in Dogpatch. Some say UCSF is expanding far beyond its intended footprint when it first moved to Mission Bay.   

“UCSF made promises to not come south of Mariposa Street when it was granted the Mission Bay site,” said Katherine Doumani, president of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA).  “More medical services reduce spaces for local businesses and don’t serve the local community. They also do not contribute impact fees, infrastructure and taxes. It’s unacceptable. UCSF is continuing to expand their footprint in Dogpatch without commensurate cushioning.” 

Among spots of concern are 777 Mariposa Street, planned as a place to provide customized medical treatments, such as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy for cancer patients; Corner Market, a grocery store at 602 Minnesota Street, located on the ground floor of UCSF student and trainee housing; the Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building, a 150,000-square foot building at 675 18th Street for mental health researchers and providers; and a new 500-spot parking garage and clinical building at Mission Bay Block 34 on Illinois Street. 

According to Doumani, the 777 Mariposa Street site is an example of UCSF’s “land banking,” buying property for future use. DNA members are unhappy that UCSF is presently leasing the site to Thermo Fischer Scientific.  UCSF hasn’t contemplated measures to mitigate the adverse consequences of its expansion, said Doumani, such as cyclist safety improvements on Mariposa Street or ways to enhance transportation.

J.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters, said UCSF should work with community members to explore how the 777 Mariposa Street development might change the neighborhood. 

“Residents are also looking to have more talks about what the streetscape of Minnesota Street should look like. Dogpatch residents hope to make Minnesota Street a permanent “Slow Street.” UCSF can share how it wants the Corner Market to fit into that,” said Eppler.

Eppler is pleased that UCSF found a proprietor for the Corner Market. “It’s a helpful resource for the community and UCSF students,” said Eppler. 

“Dogpatch residents have expressed they feel UCSF is treating them as part of Mission Bay,” said District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton. “Dogpatch has its own culture and community and comprises a separate neighborhood. The way that UCSF engages with Dogpatch residents should reflect that. What’s necessary is that UCSF hold more focus groups and charrettes, digital or virtual, to hear what residents have to say. The conversation started before the pandemic. They can continue during the recovery. There are many ways that UCSF can engage residents, including mailers, phone calls, and socially distanced door-to-door visits.”

Francesca Vega, vice chancellor of UCSF community and government relations, said the university is increasing its commitment to under-resourced populations, in part by hiring, buying, and investing locally.

“Part of our community commitment includes the UCSF Anchor Institution Initiative, which we launched in an effort to further leverage our resources and talent to improve the long-term health and social welfare of our communities,” said Vega. “The initiative draws on partnerships with the City that extend back to our founding as a medical college to support the San Francisco County Hospital in 1864, as well as our partnerships in every public health crisis since the 1906 earthquake.”   

In 2017, UCSF established the Dogpatch Community Task Force as a way to identify and discuss potential impacts of the university’s proposed development in the neighborhood. 

“UCSF held a series of public meetings over eight months with the task force, composed of Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighbors and merchants, City staff, and UCSF. The Dogpatch Community Task Force process afforded an opportunity for UCSF, neighbors, and City staff to engage in frank, unvarnished conversations regarding one of the most historic and iconic neighborhoods in San Francisco. UCSF recognizes and appreciates the hard work, thoughtful dialogue, and spirit of cooperation evidenced by neighbors to ensure that Dogpatch is a safe, vibrant, and welcoming community,” said Vega.

According to Vega discussions held in 2017 led to a $10.55 million investment to address potential effects of proposed UCSF projects on the neighborhood, including $5 million for Esprit Park renovation, $4.2 million for the Dogpatch Community Hub, $600,000 for a traffic signal at 18th and Minnesota streets, $500,000 for the 22nd Street Stair Connector, and $250,000 for the Caltrain Gateway. 

“UCSF claims it has paid its fair share for fees to establish the Mission Bay Ferry Landing. But that deal with former Mayor Ed Lee has nothing to do with our relationship with them. That action does not mitigate traffic in Dogpatch,” said Doumani. 

Vega said that completion of the Pritzker Psychiatry Building has been delayed because of the City’s public health ordinance, which shutdown construction for five weeks in March and April 2020. 

“After (that it) …was designated as an essential project. Construction resumed under restricted working conditions for social distancing. Those restricted conditions extended the construction schedule and delayed the completion of the project. We are currently working towards a completion on September 9, 2021,” said Vega.

Susan Eslick, a DNA member, said despite numerous conversations, details regarding projects remain unknown. 

“(For) 777 Mariposa Street I am most interested in the architecture and design of the building,” said Eslick.

Eslick added she’s been concerned that UCSF had difficulty renting the Corner Market. 

“I felt it was not a good location for any retail. Dogpatch already has a nice grocery with Mainstay Market on 22nd Street and Third Street,” said Eslick. 

Art Agnos, who served as Mayor from 1988 to 1992 and is a Hill resident, said he’d like UCSF to shift from “(talking the issues) to death with community relations staff and wearing out community opposition. There is a monumental difference between UCSF as a developer and UCSF as a health provider. As a health provider, the doctors, nurses, and health personnel are the best. Whereas as a developer, UCSF’s administrators are heavy-handed…roll over neighborhoods wherever they choose to locate their next buildings,” said Agnos.

Agnos suggested that community advocates convey their concerns to California State Legislators David Chiu, Phil Ting, and Scott Wiener, Democrats representing San Francisco.

“They have the most significant influence over the University of California through the budget. Unfortunately, while the Legislature was deliberating over the budget this year, Assemblyman Ting could not find time to meet with constituents and delegated it to his staff. The University of California Regents also have important sway. The San Francisco Regents representing our City are Janet Reilly, Richard Blum, and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis,” said Agnos.

Agnos said an appeal to private donors could also be useful. He noted that a letter co-signed by him and former Mayor Willie Brown to Jackie Safier, Helen Diller Family Foundation president, earlier this year has been ignored. The Diller Family Foundation donated $500 million dollars to UCSF for expansions at the Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses. 

“To ignore two former mayors of San Francisco who want to share their views about health conditions in the southeastern part of the City was stunning,” said Agnos.

Janet Carpinelli, a DNA member, said the university has a pattern of insisting it’ll be a good neighbor, but proceeding differently. 

“This happened with the graduate and medical student housing at 590 and 600 Minnesota Street, which is now UCSF Housing at the Tidelands. UCSF talked with local residents for two years about the design. They listened to the fact that we wanted a building that would look good and fit in with the neighborhood. Then they came up with some junky-looking prefab housing. The design and colors are awful,” said Carpinelli. 

Carpinelli is presently concerned about the amount of trash left by cars in northern Dogpatch.

“It seems UCSF staff clean out their cars and leave all kinds of trash, including Personal Protective Equipment, in the gutter and on the sidewalks. This is not respectful. There’s also a significant amount of trash around the Tidelands. The university can change this with messaging to staff and hiring crews to pick up trash more often,” said Carpinelli. “The three things they should do are be forthcoming, make as little of an intrusion as possible into Dogpatch, and listen to their neighbors.” 

Last month, the Berkeley City Council approved a $82.6 million settlement with the University of California that dropped lawsuits challenging long term UC Berkeley development projects. The suits sought compensation for the environmental and community impacts of faculty housing planned at 2698 Hearst Avenue, and alleged that the university violated an environment impact review requirement during development of a volleyball facility. Under the settlement the city set aside its challenge of UC Berkeley’s 2021 Long Range Development Plan, and two projects that’ll house almost 2,000 students and overtake People’s Park and apartments located at 1921 Walnut Street.