The University of California, San Francisco announced its support for the construction of a new kindergarten through fifth grade public school in Mission Bay last month. “UCSF strongly supports the San Francisco Board of Education designating a portion of the November 2016 General Obligation Facilities Bond to be used to build a new school in Mission Bay,” UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood said. “By 2017, it is expected that the neighborhoods surrounding the UCSF Mission Bay campus will grow by more than 15,000 new residents, including many young families. In order to be a complete neighborhood, Mission Bay needs the public services and amenities that make neighborhoods livable. This includes schools, as well as universities, hospitals, parks, playgrounds, recreation, public transportation and small businesses. With the addition of a SFUSD school, together UCSF and SFUSD can ensure that our youngest learners and future innovators can take part in this vision. We look forward to welcoming SFUSD to Mission Bay and continuing and growing our many partnerships.”
The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has an option to build a campus on a 0.7-acre school site, located next to 1.5-acre of open space that could serve as a schoolyard, on Lot 14, off the traffic circle near Mission Creek and UCSF-Mission Bay. The institution would serve roughly 500 students and take five years to build. The option expires in 2027.
Development of the school was contemplated in the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure’s (OCII)’s Mission Bay Infrastructure Plan. Students would come from Mission Bay, Treasure Island, Bayview-Hunters Point, and Candlestick Point.
“There’s a huge amount of families in our neighborhood,” said Sarah Davis, spokesperson for Mission Bay Families (MBF), a group of approximately 80 households that support development of an elementary school. “Even the schools we have do not match the capacity,” she said, referring to Daniel Webster and Starr King elementary schools.
MBF was founded in 2007 with about 300 families. According to Davis, who lives on a houseboat in Mission Creek, many members left because there was no school in the community. The households that’ve arrived “are a new generation of young families that have babies: young families moving in to continue their education at UCSF, people moving into the area, and some existing residents,” she said. “Public schools are more than just schools. They are the foundations of community and culture.” Davis noted that school campuses are often utilized as meeting spaces and for workshops for adults, as well as places to engage in after-hours recreation.
“I support getting the Mission Bay school as soon as possible,” Corinne Woods, chair of OCII’s Mission Bay Citizens Advisory Committee, said. “We have hundreds of children living in the neighborhood. We want them to grow up here and for their families to be able to stay and build Mission Bay as a community.”
Under SFUSD’s placement policy, entering students are given their highest-ranked school request as long as there are openings. There’s no guarantee that a student who lives in Mission Bay would be admitted to a school located in the neighborhood.
The South Beach District 6 Democratic Club also supports development of an elementary school, and encourages its members to advocate for one by emailing school board members and speaking during the public comment period at school board and school board committee meetings. SFUSD officials declined to respond to a request for an interview.
Family House, Inc., a nonprofit organization located at 540 Mission Bay Boulevard North, which provides housing and support to families of children being treated for serious illnesses at health care facilities in Mission Bay, favors building a public school. Family House serves approximately 80 families for as little as one night to up to two years. “When families know they’re going to be here a long time, they enroll their kids in elementary school,” Alexandra Morgan, Family House’s chief executive officer said. “That is a real way for a family to maintain some sense of normalcy and stability.”
According to Morgan, although UCSF has an accredited school a patient’s siblings can attend, it doesn’t provide the same social, emotional and academic experience as a regular public school. “It’s very important for the siblings of a patient to have their own lives, friends and responsibilities. A school helps maintain that independence,” said Morgan.
Constructing a school in Mission Bay, which consists of fill, could be costly; it’s expensive to drill to bedrock. There’s also a need for schools in Bayview-Hunters Point, where construction may be less costly.
Davis said the risk of not building an elementary school is that students and parents will have to spend at least an hour each way commuting to school. “What if we could channel that into PTA and volunteer work at the school?” said Davis.
Davis grew up in Mission Bay, and regrets having had to spend significant time in a car or bus to attend school. “If we want to be a transit-first neighborhood, a place where children and their parents can walk to school, we need to build a school in Mission Bay,” said Davis, who attended Buena Vista Elementary School in Potrero Hill, then St. Paul’s School in Noe Valley, followed by J. Eugene McAteer High School, which closed in 2002.
According to Tiffany Bohee, OCII executive director, under the Mission Bay South Owner Participation Agreement between Mission Bay’s master developer, FOCIL-MB, and OCII, FOCIL-MB is required to convey the school site at no cost to the City and County of San Francisco or SFUSD when certain conditions are met. These include the issuance of building permits for 3,200 residential units, a requirement that’s been satisfied; SFUSD has certified that it’s ready, willing, and able to commence school construction; and SFUSD assumes responsibility for developing the campus. Bohee said FOCIL-MB would be in charge of developing the 1.5 acre schoolyard. If SFUSD chooses not to build the school, FOCIL-MB will convey the 1.5 acre site to UCSF to be developed as open space; it’s zoned as a public facility under the Mission Bay South Redevelopment Plan, and cannot be used for housing.