With one day’s notice, City College staff mobilized, in mid-April, to clear college property from the Southeast Center campus at 1800 Oakdale Ave in San Francisco’s Bayview district. A March 30, 2023, letter from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) informed the college that due to needed repairs, the building was no longer usable and the college’s lease had been terminated.
On April 19 and 20, during the few hours of allowed access, staff from the City College library, ITS and facilities departments were on site filling moving boxes with books from the library, and salvaging computer and network hardware. Both Cynthia Dewar from the Educational Technology Office and Alberto Vasquez from Facilities and Capital Planning directed questions to the chancellor’s office.
City College opened its campus at the Center in the early ‘90s, offering as many as 25 classes annually according to Chancellor David Martin. Four classes were taught there in Spring 2020; the center has been shuttered since then. As early as last summer, ITS staff were told that no more classes were to be scheduled there.
Inside, four floors of classrooms and offices surrounded a pleasant light-filled atrium. The library looked up-to-date; the computer lab did not. Dusty bulletin boards celebrated African American heritage. According to the PUC notice, the building requires seismic upgrades and ventilation repairs totaling more than the value of the building, and it is likely to be demolished.
In the 1970’s, following passage of the federal Clean Water Act, the city undertook a major expansion of the wastewater treatment plant located in the historically black neighborhood. Powerful community protests won a mitigation agreement that led to the construction of the South East Community Center on Oakdale, adjacent to the plant. A mural beside the entrance celebrates the community leaders who led the fight.
Today, next door to the center, giant cranes tower over yet another massive rebuild of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
But a brand new Southeast Community Center has just opened nearby at 1550 Evans Ave, at the corner of Third St, built by the SFPUC. As City College cleared classrooms at the old center, the SFPUC staff were leading tours of the new one.
San Francisco voters approved bond measures in 2005 and 2020 to fund the construction and upgrading of City College’s campuses, with $30 million earmarked for a new southeast educational facility next to the new community center at 1550 Evans Ave.
There are two City College sites in the Bayview. The trades-only Evans campus is just down the block at 1400 Evans Ave.
At his community hour in Dogpatch, District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton said, “I would love to see that building that was committed to the southern sector go up at 1550 Evans so we can have a beautiful state-of-the-art education center.“ He noted that the allocation has been reduced to $25 million.
Many questions remain.
Although the City College trustees have confirmed their commitment to a new Southeast Center, the details surrounding that facility are unclear. What would the $25 million buy? Who would own it? The SFPUC, City College and the San Francisco Unified School District are all listed on the project. Who would decide what courses are offered there?
In recent years classes have ended at the college’s Airport, Fort Mason and Civic Center campuses, and now at the Southeast Center as well. Does the college really have the resources and commitment to staff and run a new center?
At a recent City College Board of Trustees meeting, speakers expressed fears that it could be merely a training center for the SFPUC. Will there be ESL classes for the Bayview’s large immigrant population?