UCSF Development Process Continues

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In 2008, the City and County of San Francisco created the Life Sciences and Medical Special Use District, bordered by Mariposa Street south to 23rd Street and Interstate 280 east to Third Street, as part of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan. The District “is intended to support uses that benefit from proximity to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) campus at Mission Bay. These utilizations include medical office and life science (biotechnology) uses.” 

The District serves as a zoning overlay under Planning Code Section 249.36. A small southeastern portion of the area is designated an Innovative Industrial Special Use District, geared towards affordable office space for entities engaged in creative incubators and micro-enterprises.

“It is worth noting that UCSF is a state agency and is therefore not subject to local regulations and laws, such as zoning code,” explained Candace SooHoo, deputy communications manager, San Francisco Planning Department. “The presence or absence of such an SUD does not have any legal bearing on where the University could locate life science and medical land uses in Dogpatch, or any other San Francisco neighborhood.”

UCSF’s land use activities are subject to the UC Board of Regents, a governing body composed of 26 voting members, rather than municipal ordinances. However, UCSF consults with community members and the Planning Department about proposed developments. In 1992 the University launched a Community Advisory Board to monitor neighborhood expansion-related concerns.

Within the District UCSF has two projects in design and environmental review phases. UCSF acquired 560, 590 and 600 Minnesota Street to create affordable housing for about 810 University graduate students and trainees, along with their partners. If approved by UCSF’s Physical Planning unit construction will begin sometime this year, with completion estimated for 2019.  The unit oversees development projects in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and UCSF’s Long Range Development Plan, which covers land use activities from 2014 until 2035.

The Child, Teen and Family Center, at 2130 Third Street, is to serve as a UCSF Department of Psychiatry outpatient clinic and research and training facility, and provide space for Department of Pediatrics patient care and research programs. The property is owned by the John and Lisa Pritzker Fund, with SKS Partners, LLC and Prado Group Inc. the project’s development team.  A public comment period for the proposed 150,000 square foot structure ends on February 6.

Late last year John Loomis, Dogpatch resident and professor of architecture and design at San Jose State University, attended a presentation by UCSF, SKS Partners, and the Prado Group on the project’s design.  According to Loomis, community members’ concerns about the Center not blending into the neighborhood’s characteristics haven’t been addressed.  “It was a very lackluster presentation that the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association design committee and other community members heard,” offered Loomis. “The one thing that the community had expected, and that UCSF and the architects had promised, was something that fit into the neighborhood and did not look like a UCSF campus facility. However, that is just what it did look like. The proposed design was an unintentional demonstration as to why the UCSF Pritzker Psychiatry Center belongs on campus.”

Additionally, UCSF acquired a building at 777 Mariposa Street, and may seek to develop it after 2018, when the current tenant lease with Cal-Steam expires.

In adherence to the Community Planning Principles within UCSF’s 2014 Long Range Development Plan, which guides how the University communicates with its neighbors about development projects, UCSF formed the Dogpatch Community Task Force to provide San Franciscans with opportunities to weigh-in on potential impacts from the Minnesota and Third Street projects. The Task Force has 27 members, including Dogpatch and Potrero Hill residents, local business owners, UCSF staff and representatives from City agencies, such as the Planning Department. DNA, Dogpatch Business Association, Potrero Boosters, Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association and Dogpatch Northwest Potrero Green Benefit District are also represented on the Task Force.

Since last fall, monthly Task Force meetings have been held. Members have expressed the need for development to “bring needed community services, provide architectural appeal, preserve [the] community’s unique character and enhance the quality of life.” On January 19, community members on the Task Force presented their vision for neighborhood improvements, and Robin Abad Ocubillo, Planning Department urban designer, offered the City’s Central Waterfront/Dogpatch Public Realm Plan. UCSF representatives also spoke about a framework for cushioning potential development impacts.

“UCSF is committed to being a good and productive neighbor,” stated Christine Gasparac, director of community relations, UCSF.  “We understand that development projects generate community impacts, and we are working hard with the community to identify and cushion those impacts. We’ve listened to the issues raised by community Task Force members and are responding in various ways.  UCSF expects to present its vision for neighborhood improvements — also called “cushioning actions” – at the February task force meeting, which will incorporate the ideas and priorities expressed by neighbors for improvements to Dogpatch — recommendations that City Planning has developed with neighbor input and UCSF’s proposals for neighborhood improvements.”

According to Gasparac, any cushioning actions implemented would have to be responsive to both the needs of the neighborhood and the UCSF community. As Task Force members’ concerns have focused on building design, UCSF has woven the design and environmental review process for its projects into Task Force meetings. Other topics covered are related to public transportation, bike routes and traffic congestion.

UCSF’s Mission Bay campus is one of the Bay Area’s biggest biotech hubs, along with South San Francisco, Menlo Park and parts of Oakland, and is popular with recent University graduates seeking affordable incubator space for start-up companies. The Life Sciences and Medical Special Use District serves as a southern outpost of a growing sector with high demand for specialized lab and research spaces.

The next Dogpatch Community Task Force meeting will be held on February 22, 6:30 to 9 p.m., at the UCSF Mission Bay campus Genentech Hall, room number 114.