By Alex Lamp
City College is a huge institution with satellite campuses all over San Francisco.
Ocean Campus, its flagship, has a big impact on the neighborhoods that surround it—Westwood Park, Ingleside, Sunnyside and Mission Terrace. The issues range from transportation to engagement with nearby businesses that serve student and faculty.
How should City College be involved with neighborhood concerns and to what degree?
“Naturally, both the administration and students should be actively involved in the civic life and activities adjacent to the schools,” said District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, who represents the neighborhoods east of Ocean Campus.
City College Trustee Brigitte Davila, who lives near Ocean Campus, also supports the idea of community relations development between the college and surrounding neighborhoods.
“City College can work with the community to develop better strategies to enhance the neighborhood,” Davila said. “As a resident of San Francisco’s District 11, which includes part of Ocean Avenue, I know the college is a key stakeholder regarding improvements in the area.”
Although participation in the surrounding community is expected of the college, members of the community are not impressed by its involvement over the years. The Ocean Avenue Association is one community organization that wants to work closely with the college as the neighborhood is undergoing a transformation.
“In the past, the college has not been involved in corridor planning efforts,” said Ocean Avenue Association Executive Director Daniel Weaver.
Avalos concurred with Weaver.
“If anything, I hear about the lack of attention to the impact of the school on the surrounding neighborhood,” Avalos said. “Especially related to parking and noise, but at the same time people really value the school for its excellence.”
There are several projects that will require City College to work with the community and local government. Citing Avalos and Weaver’s concerns, The Guardsman asked City College about its involvement with the neighborhood.
City College has been a member of the OAA, a community benefit district, since its inception in December 2010, but a review of the organization’s minutes show they have rarely sent a representative to the monthly meetings since they acquired a seat on the board of directors two years ago.
When queried about how involved City College should be with the Ocean Avenue Association, Director of External Affairs Jeff Hamilton said: “As for the Ocean Avenue CBD (Community Benefits District,) we will need to examine the proposal carefully. There are generally financial costs associated with joining a CBD and we would need to consider those first before committing.”
When told the OAA was already in place, Hamilton said, “They’ve canceled the past several meetings.”
The OAA’s minutes show that only one meeting—Feb. 18, 2015—had been canceled in the past two years. Hamilton attended the April meeting after we pointed this out, minutes show.
By car, Muni, BART and bikes, students from all over the city and Bay Area commute to Ocean Campus. The daily influx of students overcrowds the streets and sidewalks along Ocean Avenue, making it hazardous during rush hour.
Safety along the corridor is gradually improving. However, there is still work to be done.
“Cycling on Ocean Avenue is getting better with the bike lanes and sharrows, but there’s still a ways to go,” Avalos said. “Bike and (pedestrian) safety is made difficult by congestion.”
Weaver believes City College could work together with the Ocean Avenue Association to find a solution to this prominent issue.
“Definitely they should be involved on these matters,” Weaver said. “And the new leaders at the College are getting involved in the current Ocean Avenue corridor planning process. The college’s participation could make a huge positive difference in the results.”
Among the newest leaders at City College, Davila recognizes the problem and fully supports strategizing with the community.
“Ocean Avenue is very congested, not to mention downright dangerous,” Davila said.
In 2014, Mayor Ed Lee announced his Public Land for Housing program to combat San Francisco’s housing crisis. His plans include creating 10,000 affordable housing units and 30,000 total units, marketable by 2020.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission owns the seventeen-acre lower lot of the twenty-seven acre Balboa Reservoir. It is currently used for parking.
“We are engaging with the Mayor’s office on transportation and housing issues very actively—including discussions around the Balboa Reservoir, Civic Center and 33 Gough,” Hamilton said.
Over 150 people attended City College’s May 5. community discussion where it was announced that a proposal for approximately 500 units will be released this Fall Season with a developer chosen by 2016.
Avalos was in attendance, along with officials from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
Announced was the upcoming creation of a nine member Citizen’s Advisory Committee by the Board of Supervisors.
MCDs: ISSUE OF THE DAY
Today, a contentious neighborhood issue is whether Sparc, a medical cannabis dispensary, should open its second location near Ocean Campus. Many residents are opposed to the project.
While Weaver said City College should not be involved with Sparc or MCDs at all, Davila had no position on the whether Sparc should open, but was concerned with the dispensaries as a neighborhood issue.
“I do have concerns about so many medical cannabis clubs moving into the neighborhood,” Davila said. “While a ‘pot club’ is a legitimate business there are aspects that make it difficult for the surrounding community, like loitering around the business, noticeable odors, etc. This is manageable when there are only one or two in a district, but District 11 has way too many.”
Avalos has a different position.
“I am not opposed. Sparc will be a good neighbor and will want to work well with the community,” Avalos said.
It has been suggested that City College hire or assign a community liaison to work with neighborhood groups, sources told The Guardsman.
Ultimately it all depends on what happens to the college’s accreditation. For today, it remains to be seen what sort of efforts will be taken to engage and work with the community.