UCSF Plans for Empty Mission Bay Land

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In just a few years, the Mission Bay campus of the University of California, San Francisco, has solidified into a destination, with foot traffic, a farmers market, housing and a plaza with a few small restaurants.

The campus currently focuses on laboratory research, with prestigious scientists pulling in prizes left and right. However, doctors and med students — along with patients and their relatives — will soon be on hand as well; UCSF says its cancer patient hospitals for women and children will be completed by 2014.

With a substantial campus well on its way, the university plans to fill out the rest of its Mission Bay property with a public school, more parking, open space and research facilities.

At a meeting on Thursday in UCSF’s Genentech Hall in Mission Bay (click here for a map of the region), the university kicked off the second phase of preliminary planning for these blocks, which involves community input.

One major issue is the entitlement UCSF holds to develop land in Mission Bay. The region is considered a redevelopment zone and falls under the purview of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.

Two buildings are being finished now, and after these open the campus will occupy 1.9 million square feet. If all the buildings now planned are constructed, the total will be around 3 million square feet, according to UCSF staff. That’s more than the 2.65 million square feet the university is entitled to develop under the current agreement.

When one audience member asked what happened — which parcel got built out more densely — Kevin Beauchamp, UCSF’s director of physical planning, answered “Pretty much all of them.”

The community is being asked to consider whether the entitlement should be expanded.

“Would changes require reopening the development agreement?” asked Corinne Woods, chairwoman of the Mission Bay Citizens Advisory Committee.

The development agreement, completed in 1998, sets out each entity’s stake in Mission Bay, and rules for development. Three-ring binders worth of land swaps created new roads and parks. Willie Brown was honored with the UCSF medal for his work to get land in Mission Bay to the university at no cost.

The master developer, Focil, is responsible for installing infrastructure like roads, traffic signals, utilities and parks. Focil, under Farallon Capital Management, pays the newly-formed Mission Bay Development Company to run the development.

The short answer to Woods’ question isn’t clear. Catherine Reilly from the Redevelopment Agency said the agreement was vague regarding the process of changing an entitlement. Any change shouldn’t impinge on any other entity’s entitlement. “We’re not looking to reopen the plan,” she said.

If the entitlement is changed, traffic impacts and parking might need to be reassessed.

Many members of the Citizens Advisory Committee were present, and several begged UCSF to oppose California’s high-speed rail project design for Mission Bay, which threatens to send a substantial portion of 16th Street underground, beneath the train tracks. If that happens, a large chunk of the region’s transportation planning will be unspooled.

“I’m hoping, praying that UCSF will join the CAC and [others] in opposing the undergrounding of 16th Street,” Woods said.

UCSF staff declined to state whether the university would oppose putting 16th Street underground. There are only a few days left to comment.

UCSF staff also presented some thoughts and data on parking use, speculating that it is less than was projected but adding that it needs to be more thoroughly studied.

Planning has been complicated by the massive development taking place across southeastern San Francisco. Pier 70, the eastern neighborhoods, Dogpatch, Bayview and seawall lot 337, all neighbors to Mission Bay, are each undergoing their own planning process.

Siting of the neighborhood school — slated to be an elementary, if the San Francisco Unified School District proceeds with it — also met with some concern. Several residents worried that it would be too close to the highway and train tracks.

“Personally, I would desperately like to see a school here in Mission Bay,” said Matthew Springer, a UCSF professor. But “My concern is first of with the health of the kids.”

When he and his wife lived at the nearby Edgewater Apartments, close to the Caltrain tracks, “we had this black dust charcoal that would come in the windows,” Springer said.

Others complained about the imposing and unfriendly appearance of the buildings on campus, and hoped that future projects would be more inviting and perhaps on a smaller scale, even if that means lower density. “All of Mission Bay is going to have that strong, forbidding stamp on it,” worried Dick Miller, also on the Citizens Advisory Committee.

Two more meetings will be conducted this fall to take further public comment.

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