UCSF's Neighbors File CEQA Lawsuit
Local residents oppose UCSF Parnassus expansion that would tower over the neighborhood and Golden Gate Park
Neighborhood groups filed a Petition February 19th in Alameda County Superior Court challenging UC’s Environmental Impact Report for the massive UCSF Parnassus expansion proposal.
UC proposes a project that would add over 2 million square feet to the currently over-built campus — the equivalent of a Sales Force Tower and the TransAmerica Pyramid combined. The oversized project would be thrust between two mature neighborhoods – contrary to a 40-year commitment by the university to strictly adhere to the current envelope of the Parnassus complex. Neighborhood organizations and the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club as well as the Affordable Housing Alliance have concerns about the project’s effects on housing, transit, Golden Gate Park, and wildlife, as well as the failure to keep promises to the community it “serves.”
UC proposes a project that would add over 2 million square feet to the currently over-built campus — the equivalent of a Sales Force Tower and the TransAmerica Pyramid combined.”
“UCSF understated and misrepresented the project’s environmental impacts, including detrimental effects on housing, transit, air quality and resulting health impacts to residents, protected wildlife on Mount Sutro, and aesthetics near the UCSF Campus,” the neighbors maintain.
Dennis Antenore, a neighbor and a long-time member of the Community Advisory Group to UCSF said that "the objective of the suit is not to oppose the development of a new hospital that complies with Seismic Safety Standards coming into effect in 2030, but accomplish a return to the 2014 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).” The 2014 plan called for a smaller hospital to serve the San Francisco Community. The proposed expansion includes a massive hospital of almost one million square feet. “Over four decades the University has repeatedly promised the community that it would it would take steps to decompress the Parnassus Campus,” Antenore, a former Planning Commissioner said. “In exchange the community has enthusiastically supported expansion to other locations, most notably the new campus at Mission Bay, which alone almost doubled the size of the University.”
“The aim of the lawsuits is not to stop this project,” former Mayor Art Agnos said, “but to make it work for all of us.” Agnos has joined neighborhood leaders pursuing citywide efforts to improve the plan. “We need to reimagine this hospital rebuild so that it serves all San Francisco communities, much like the Board of Supervisors did with CPMC several years ago that resulted in a smaller Van Ness hospital and a revitalized St. Luke’s in the Mission.”
Much of the anger from neighbors comes from UC reneging on the 1976 agreement the UC Regents made with them. The lawsuit also seeks to enforce that agreement which was made as settlement to a series of lawsuits challenging plans at that time to massively increase the Parnassus campus. The agreement was made in order to settle those lawsuits as well as to obtain critical State funding from the Legislature — the Regents agreed to a permanent cap on the size of the UCSF Parnassus campus. The Regents have repeatedly referred to that cap over the decades to justify expansion into other parts of San Francisco, such as Mission Bay.
“The courts will ultimately decide whether UC has met its burden under CEQA to properly examine the impacts to the environment of their project. That being said,”Supervisor Melgar, whose District 7 neighbors would be affected said, “I support UCSF's efforts to become a sustainable, modern hospital and research facility. 1976 was a long time ago, and modern health care delivery, the needs of the hospital, as well as San Francisco's needs for healthcare and housing have all dramatically changed.
“UCSF is the only acute care hospital on the Westside, and I want it to remain accessible and functional, while continuing to provide our residents with the high-quality healthcare services it is known for around the world. I am encouraged that they have negotiated good union jobs and affordable housing for their workforce as part of this agreement. As we enter the next phase of this process, I strongly encourage the UCSF team to work with the community in genuine and transparent ways to incorporate and address the needs of the surrounding community in the design phase of the hospital.”
A long-time neighborhood activist who was involved in the lawsuits against UCSF in the 70s, Calvin Welch, has joined the lawsuit to enforce the 1976 agreement which would prevent UC’s first attempt to break its agreement. He recalled the 1976 discussions with Chancellor Sooy, who assured him that the space cap was in fact intended to be permanent.
Doug Comstock lives near the Parnassus campus and also serves as Editor of the Westside Observer.