September 6, 2007 Special 10 a.m.
Special Meeting Minutes
Commission Chambers - Room 408
City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
Thursday, September 6, 2007
COMMISSIONERS PRESENT: Olague, Antonini, S. Lee, W. Lee, Moore and Sugaya
COMMISSIONER ABSENT: Alexander
THE MEETING WAS CALLED TO ORDER BY VICE-PRESIDENT OLAGUE AT 10:02 A.M.
STAFF IN ATTENDANCE: Dean Macris – Director of Planning, Linda Avery – Commission Secretary.
A. SPECIAL CALENDAR
(Tape IA; IB; IIA)
800 KEARNY STREET - northeast corner of Kearny and Washington Streets, Assessor's Block 195, Lots 9 and 10 - An informational hearing on the new Chinatown Community College Campus to be constructed at the northeast corner of Kearny and Washington Street. The presentation by San Francisco City College will include the project proposed in the Draft Environmental Impact Report and will include classrooms, laboratories, lobby, multipurpose room, library, faculty lounges, student lounge alcove, advise and testing rooms, language labs, computer labs, ancillary administrative offices, registration, storage, building services, and meeting rooms in a 16 story, 244 foot tall building with a large mechanical penthouse so that the building will appear as 17 story building. Alternative design schemes will also be discussed. The project is in a Chinatown Community Business (CCB) District and in a 65-A Height District.
SPEAKERS [Part I]
Dr. Phil Day, Project Sponsor
- We have faced struggles and challenges for a long period of time.
- The clock on our need and expectations for a permanent campus in Chinatown goes back to the middle of the 70's.
- We have eight campuses but none of them are our own; we lease.
- We serve approximately 6500 students and they are spread throughout that network.
- We did not really start to experience any progress on our dream until The Board approved us in 1997.
- The bond that included the development in the South East Quadrant associated with the Stadium, Zoo, San Francisco Unified School and City College of San Francisco.
- It was anticipated that out of that bond we will finally have money to acquire some properties for the permanent site location and indeed that was the case.
- However, there was a law suit but not against us – against the Unified School District or the Zoo - it had to do with the City and plan development.
- We were held up and delayed from acquiring the property. Once we did, we then moved quickly.
- We came to a resolution that was not an operable solution and we started to look for another site.
- At the same time we were working at the State level and were able to submit a proposal in 2002 and were approved.
- From the State perspective, because of the law suit, we had to delay the project and push it back.
- In 2006, the proposition 1D included for the third time the Chinatown North Beach Campus and it was approved by the voters.
- We are now ready to go but we got some very tight time tables in order to conform to, but we think we can make it by the Spring of 2008.
- I would not have any remarks right now; however I will be available for questions after the presentation.
Jennifer Deylin, Architect
- I would refer to a couple of different lots. One is lot 10 as the main site, and the other is lot 5 that City College currently owes.
- The Draft EIR project proposes a 16 story tower plus a mechanical penthouse.
- The program for this campus is to consolidate eight different locations into one building to improve functionality and create an exceptional education environment.
- First floor would be admissions and enrollment. A library is located on the second and third floors. A multipurpose room on the fourth floor, and notice on that section that there is a set back to express a podium. Classrooms and laboratories go up from the sixth floor.
- There are two floors in the middle that are for faculty and administrative offices.
- A typical tower floor includes five classrooms all seating between 35-45 students.
- The goal on this design was to create a distinctive and unique building that differentiates itself in form and layout as an institutional building.
- Some of the comments that we received from this particular design is that maybe it is too distinctive.
- There were two alternatives designs submitted as part of the comments on the draft EIR.
Tony Gantner, North Beach Merchant Association
- We were in favor of the earlier proposal of several years ago. It was much lower and that was abandoned for a monster 16 story proposal that is completely out of character.
- We have much growing concern about high rises from the financial district pushing their way into the historic low rise Chinatown, Jackson Square, and North Beach.
- San Francisco has a city policy that limits buildings in this area to 5-story for a reason.
- People in Chinatown and North Beach Neighborhoods have fought for years for zoning to prevent the financial district to come into our neighborhood and the line is clearly drawn at Washington Street.
- We urge the College to consider a genuine alternative for a smaller campus.
- San Francisco needs an independent environmental review of these issues.
Harrison Lim, President of the Chinese Consolidated Association
- Immigrants rely on ESL classes to survive and contribute to developing family, community and country.
- For the past eight months, the Association has helped in meetings and participated in the EIR process.
- We want the City College facility to meet the educational needs of the thousands of Chinatown adult immigrants to learn English and acquire job skills.
- We have voted overwhelmingly to endorse the 16-story proposal on Washington Street.
Jose Ricardo Bondoc, Educational Coalition
- There is no question that people want to have a new campus for City College of San Francisco in the North Beach area but there are several questions that have not been responded to adequately.
- Why does San Francisco need a large building for a community college? Half a million dollars was given to support this plan.
- [Submitted 1300 forms from the survey done and only 120 support the two tower proposal.]
Frances Hsieh, Education Coalition for Responsible Development
- Everyone here today supports having the campus in Chinatown and we hope to have a plan that fits in with the neighborhood.
- We proposed some alternatives that we think will fit in to the space and cover the academic needs and be more in character with the neighborhood.
- The proposed building conflicts with the style, culture and character of the neighborhood communities.
- There is insufficient analysis of traffic and parking patterns as well as public transportation.
[No name stated]
- City College is putting up a huge building in our neighborhood that has been opposed by the neighborhood for almost 10 years.
- It took years for City College to say that they can not get the other site and they pulled back on that after spending a quarter of a million dollars and started all over again.
- This is at least the third design and what is the cost to do this? How much educational funding is being lost because these people are playing with urban real state?
- We can provide education to these students but we do not have to have a 16-story structure.
- I grew up in the neighborhood. Chinatown is one of the most densely populated and poorest areas of the City.
- The community needs City College and they want a building that is big enough for all the programs.
- I would like your support as individuals because we are talking about public school that is going to serve the immigrants of Chinatown.
- This is a very emotional issue for our community.
- Every time that Chinatown tried to improve itself and its living conditions, we are constantly opposed by neighborhood associations to protect historical resources.
- The DEIR demonstrates that there are considerable numbers of available public parking spaces particularly in the evenings and weekends.
[No name stated and it was translated]
- [Shared own experience of when they came to the United States and the first time they went to the Post Office they were yelled at because they could not speak English.]
- She has various credentials and has a good job with benefits but had to work really hard to accomplish all of this.
- She wants everybody to have the opportunity to learn English in order to get better jobs.
Bing Zhu [translated]
- He is a new immigrant and the language of English is a big problem for many of the students.
- English and job skills are very important issues for immigrants.
- The campus where he is now is very small and they have to squeeze 60 people in a classroom. The facility is old and not seismic safe.
- There is a lot of available money and it should be wonderful news for all parties involved.
- Having the adequate campus that is going to address the needs of everybody and is going to help the survival of immigrant students.
Zong Piao Yang [translated]
- Student of literature and shared an experience of spending half of the day in Chinatown to learn English and prepare for citizenship.
- He feels that the facility is cramped and dilapidated. A lot of people come to the campus.
- He urges support for the 16-story building.
Howard Wong, San Francisco Tomorrow
- We have three major objections to a 228 foot high rise design: excessive height and the resulting impact on historical areas; a high rise in a low rise district; and the impact of high rises in violation of the shadow ordinance on public parks.
- The current high rise design is in violation of several Planning Codes such as height, bulk, lot size and use, street frontage, shadows, set backs as well as many significant design issues.
Catarina Tang [translated]
- She came in July 2005 and started to go to City College and dropped out because something fell on her head when went to the bathroom.
- A teacher told her that a new school is anticipated and to enroll again. She hopes that this new building is built.
Lai Chimou [translated]
- Student of the Chinatown North Beach Campus. The current school building is not a good environment for students to learn.
- As for public transit, he takes the bus because new immigrants do not have money to buy cars. Please consider carefully the issue here and make a fair evaluation.
- One of the speakers before expressed what I wanted to say. I heard that Chinatown is being preserved and it is not true. All the Chinese facades are gone.
- I am in support of this tall building because in the Chinese community the elders have a lot of influence on the youngest and if they can come together in one building, it would be better.
- Also, I do not see any difference between the proposed building and the Hilton Hotel and Holiday Inn.
[No name stated], on the Board of Trustees of City College
- We are good in some things but we do not have anywhere near the experience that this Commission does in this land use issue. I welcome your input.
- This project has generated a lot of controversy for various reasons.
- The comments we got on the EIR from both sides have been very helpful. Some ideas were generated and we continue to look at them.
- The EIR did not have a preferred alternative and that was done on purpose because we have not settled on a preferred design. So we have different concepts on one lot and on two lots.
- All of the concepts that are currently being considered meet the needs of a college; there are some alternatives in the EIR that do not meet those needs.
- What is left is an analysis of the design and the location and I am hoping that we can get your expertise on that kind of feedback.
- I have been working constructively, I hope, with the community to get constructive solutions but we can use some input from the Commission.
Julio Ramos, Vice-President, Board of Trustees of City College
- The community has come out with their point of view and have expressed that they want the building and we want it too.
- I know that at least one set of plans have been submitted for staff's review. Last week we had an informational hearing for the Board of Trustees where we reviewed three different design concepts and all would basically comply with what is mandated.
- The Planning Commission is now playing a role here. I encourage you to make some type of persuasive authority presentation to the Board of Trustees so they see things developing at this point in time.
- There is political pressure on our part and we were told how to proceed forward. We have to take that into consideration because that is at the State level.
- City College of San Francisco will undertake a performance audit of all its activities relating to bond construction money. We will have a vote this September.
- The legislature has expressed to us directly that they will retain jurisdiction to hear the consideration of an audit going forward at a later date.
Bing Zhu [translated]
- He is a student and in his early days hurt his back and no body would help him fill out forms for the medical aid.
- He used to live near the Washington site and was very happy to hear that there was going to be a campus on that site and somebody mentioned that he will get paid to move out.
- He does not want the money because the campus is going to help the people and himself.
The Commission went into a recess and resumed at 1:40 p.m. in Chamber Room 400
The Architect, Jennifer Deylin, presented the project again to benefit of the public viewing audience since the morning session was not televised.
SPEAKERS [Part II]
Eric Lundquist, Coalition for Responsible Development
- We are here looking at alternatives and we think this is an opportunity for Chinatown and City College and we can make a lot of things [happen] in that area.
- This building does not need to go into [comply with] the Planning Code because it is exempt from it but if we look at it in terms of going into the code because we feel the size and bulk is not appropriate.
- The program for parking, if you are going to put it in this thing, requires 70 spaces in total. Our feeling is that parking should be part of this project.
- There is attendant parking and it works; you do it for many projects in the downtown; it is not perfect but is a workable solution.
- This building is going to cast shadow on Portsmouth Park Square. We tried to see ways around it.
- You can do that if you make the building into two sites. That did not work because it was awkward in terms of where the classes were. We put up a sketch to show that.
- The next step was to ignore the shadows on the park and see how much square footage we can get from the building and that was the 7-floor / 7-story and still keep it as a life safety building.
- The key point is that the Building Code requires 75 feet for fire exit access and we tried to keep it under that and also consider cost.
- We are trying to get more into the building and keep cost down.
- [Showed sketches of buildings and classrooms]
- The San Francisco Department has jurisdiction on this project. I urge you to take control of this project and conduct a thorough review.
- Other community colleges have decided to follow local zoning and planning laws.
- [Shared his experience of going to City College to learn English and job skills and was hired by the Post Office.] He is now retired.
- Urged the Commission to help build the school in what ever configuration as long as the students go there to learn the job skills that are needed.
- I am sure that you do not have jurisdiction over this project.
- There have been meetings with the community but no meaningful dialogue.
- I urged you to recommend to City College to work with the community.
- There is so much conflict and the project came to this Commission as information only.
- This is a building for students in the Chinatown.
- You have heard a lot of controversy on this issue and I think that you are able to see that the people who oppose this project are the ones directly or indirectly connected with the Hilton Hotel interest.
- They hired lawyers and architects and this so called Coalition for Education for Better Developments. They did not exist in the Chinatown community before.
- We started a petition in the Chinatown and we gathered 23,000 signatures in support of the 16-story tower.
- This is a very important issue in our community and City College has been willing to work with us.
Carolyn Blair, Director of the San Francisco Tree Council
- We would like to bring to your attention the threat that this project would bring to the Portsmouth Park.
- I urge you to protect the park, local laws and voters' decisions when they passed the sunlight ordinance to protect the park and height limits in Chinatown and preserve our trees.
- The alternative designs provide City College with the space needed and still protect our City.
Vincent Pan, Chinese for Affirmative Action
- We are in support of a permanent City College Campus in the Chinatown. For us it is a matter of education equity and immigrants rights.
- Students in the Chinatown have been subjected to substandard conditions as a result of unequal access to the political process.
- Our community has been consistently left behind.
- We have gathered 23,000 signatures in support of this project and they were gathered by volunteers. Education is very important for our community.
- We have shared 7 principals with the City College Trustees and the Planning Commissioners.
- Those are: (a) meet educational needs; (b) prioritize public transit, there is no need for more parking; (c) built to live by environmental standards; (d) maintain tower set backs along Kearny and Washington Streets; (e) no additional shadow impacts; (f) no delays on review approvals, and (g) request the Board of Trustees to vote for an exception from the Local Planning Department.
- You do not have jurisdiction over this project and this is the only time that I am glad you do not. Otherwise, this project would not be built at all in any form, shape or size.
- I hope that you will share your expertise with City College and remember that 100 people were here this morning to express their concerns.
INFORMATIONAL ONLY. NO ACTION REQUIRED OF THE COMMISSION
The Commission encouraged more dialogue between City College and the community as well as with The Planning Department, and for Director Macris to coordinate with Supervisor Peskin a meeting with stakeholders and to report back to the Commission.
Adjournment: 4:11 P.M.
THESE MINUTES WERE PROPOSED FOR ADOPTION AT THE REGULAR MEETING OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION ON THURSDAY, September 27, 2007.
AYES: Olague, Antonini, S. Lee, W. Lee, Moore and Sugaya
NOTE: Per Section 67.18 of the Administrative Code for the City and County of San Francisco, Commission minutes contain a description of the item before the Commission for discussion/consideration; a list of the public speakers with names if given, and a summary of their comments including an indication of whether they are in favor of or against the matter; and any action the Commission takes. The minutes are not the official record of a Commission hearing. The audiotape is the official record. Copies of the audiotape may be obtained by calling the Commission office at (415) 558-6415. For those with access to a computer and/or the Internet, Commission hearings are available at www.sfgov.org. Under the heading Explore, the category Government, and the City Resources section, click on SFGTV, then Video on Demand. You may select the hearing date you want and the item of your choice for a replay of the hearing.