UC Extension Landmark Denial Appealed

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday July 17, 2007

The San Francisco Preservation Consortium appealed the San Francisco Planning Commission’s decision not to landmark the UC Berkeley Extension Laguna Street campus last week. 

The Planning Commission’s 4-3 vote last month not to landmark the five-building historic campus was a blow for community members and preservationists. 

After citing prohibitive maintenance costs, the university closed its Laguna Street campus in 2004 and leased it to private developers AF Evans to turn it into a mixed-use development featuring residential rental units and retail space. 

First used as a city orphanage from 1854 until the San Francisco State Normal School was established in the 1920s to accommodate public school teachers, the campus has also served as the original home of San Francisco State University. 

The San Francisco Preservation Consortium consists of neighborhood and historic preservation organizations including the Friends of 1800 and Save the UC Berkeley Extension Laguna Street Campus Group. 

The association’s appeal is based on the grounds that, the Planning Department and its historic preservation consultant, the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board (LPAB) and the State Historic Preservation Officer all agreed the former San Francisco State Teacher’s College Campus at 55 Laguna St. was eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources. 

In a letter to the Board of Supervisors on behalf of the consortium, Joseph Butler, AIA Chair, stated that landmarking the site would “provide the much needed LPAB oversight to ensure this National Register-elible historical resource is protected.” 

Since the Planning Commission would be asked to certify the 55 Laguna Mixed Use Project final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in the fall, local preservationists are accelerating efforts to save the campus. 

The proposed construction would demolish Middle Hall and the administrative wing of Richardson Hall. 

In a letter to the Planning Department, Grey Brechin, author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin, described the site as an “early example of an urban campus.” 

“These properties have historical relevancy within the context of California’s teacher education system and architectural significance as an excellent example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style in the City of San Francisco,” his letter stated. 

The SF LPAB voted unanimously on June 20 to file a concurrent appeal of the commission’s decision.