It seemed like a desperate trial balloon to fill vacant office space when Mayor London Breed asked the UC system to build an expanded campus in San Francisco, but now the university acknowledges they are at least “exploring” the idea.
Back in July, it felt like a long-shot bid when SF Mayor London Breed sent the University of California (UC) Regents a letter begging them to build a new campus in downtown SF. As you realize, downtown SF is struggling with a massive office vacancy problem, something her rivals in the mayor’s race can surely capitalize upon.
“Bringing students into the heart of San Francisco affords a set of remarkable opportunities,” Breed said in that letter, effectively pleading for UC to be a white knight for the SF office vacancy issue. Breed went on in the letter to hype SF as “a vibrant and world class metropolitan center, and could also serve to alleviate some of your critical student housing shortfalls at both UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco.”
Bringing a University like UC to our Downtown is a win-win. There is room for student housing, classrooms, lab spaces, and more. San Francisco is the center for innovation, and students can be part of the world-changing ideas we are creating here. https://t.co/k0TXOhfbgM pic.twitter.com/TxxJo8iuos— London Breed (@LondonBreed) January 13, 2024
But what do you know? NBC Bay Area reports that UC is actually considering the idea. Breed celebrated with a Saturday morning tweet of the Chronicle’s reporting on the matter, and a link to her “Roadmap to San Francisco's Future,” which makes absolutely no mention of a new UC campus.
And there’s probably good reason for there to be no mention of this, considering there is nothing definite planned yet. But the Chronicle got some vague statements out of the UC Office of the President, which said the UC system is “exploring opportunities to advance their research, public service, and education mission through an expanded presence in San Francisco.”
Moreover, UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof told the Chronicle last week that the school was “always interested in options that are viable” for additional graduate-level housing. And he adds they're having “exploratory discussions” with the city over “potentially buildings for academic purposes.”
“The only thing that’s not on the table for us is undergraduate housing in San Francisco,” Mogulof added.
Again, there are no specific buildings or properties mentioned in on-the-record comments by SF or UC officials. But the Chronicle does float the idea of a conversion of the former Westfield Centre mall, which has been surrendered to its lenders and is becoming a high-profile vacancy magnet.
The UC system, which consists of UC Berkeley and nine other schools statewide, already operates the College of Law in San Francisco (formerly UC Hastings), UCSF’s schools and medical centers, and a campus extension at 160 Spear Street. Last year, the school also opened an SF student housing complex at 198 McAllister Street.
Image: UC Law SF