SF Planning Commission Approves UC Berkeley Extension Project

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday January 22, 2008

The San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the 55 Laguna mixed-use project last week. It proposes to develop the historic UC Berkeley Extension site for private use. 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual affordable housing activists forced a compromise less than two weeks before the planning commission’s decision by getting the City of San Francisco to kick in money to make the 110-unit building built by OpenHouse, a non-profit LGBT senior services organization, 100 percent affordable to people at 50 percent of area median income or less, with 20 percent of the remaining 340 units meeting the city’s inclusionary requirements.  

This 15 percent increase was possible partly due to efforts from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Office of Housing and San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. 

The campus, which was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Jan. 7, is built on 5.8 acres of public land, 15 percent of which is owned by the City. 

It is also the former home of the San Francisco State Teacher’s College campus.  

The proposed project would result in the demolition of two of the five contributing buildings—Middle Hall Gymnasium, the oldest building on the campus, and Richardson Hall Annex.  

Preservationists rallying at the meeting said they would appeal to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to save all the buildings and sue to protect the National Register Historic District.  

They also plan to encourage UC, project developers A.F. Evans and the OpenHouse team to modify their design to prevent demolition of any of the buildings. 

According to the project’s website (www.55laguna.com), the proposed plan will “preserve the historic buildings on the site by transforming them into market-rate and affordable rental apartments housing and a public community center. 

The listing of the campus on the National Register makes A.F. Evans eligible for a 20 percent Federal tax credit for all work on the historic buildings.