While many students were away for spring break, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved the long-awaited construction of a new dorm building, as well as a new cafeteria, recycling and waste management facility and ROTC building. Demolition of old structures are expected to begin as soon as this spring, and the executive summary says the buildings are expected to be housing students for the 2020-21 school year.
In a unanimous vote, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted to approve, with conditions, item 2015-000058CUA. In addition to a new dorm building on Lone Mountain, the project will also involve the construction of a new cafeteria in the Lone Mountain Main Building, a new recycling and waste management facility on Lo Schiavo Drive, just northwest of Lone Mountain North, and a new 4,000 square foot addition atop the Koret Health and Recreation Center to house the university’s ROTC program. Notably, just before the project was approved, the commission’s president, Rich Hillis, commented that he has USF students who live next to him and they pack into their apartment “like a clown car.”
Because the Lone Mountain Main Building is a historic landmark, USF cannot modify the structure of the building. Therefore, the new cafeteria on Lone Mountain will be two separate structures, according to the project’s executive summary. The Wolf & Kettle, the existing eatery on Lone Mountain, will be renovated into a larger cafeteria, featuring a full kitchen, multiple serving stations and a small grocery store. On the grassy lot between Loyola House and Wolf & Kettle, a large dining room with be constructed. The two structures will be connected by an open air rain canopy.
The new cafeteria will not only cater to students in the new dorms, but also provide an alternative to the cafeteria two blocks away on main campus. USF Policy Manager Elizabeth Miles told the San Francisco Examiner that the houses between Lone Mountain and main campus see “a lot of foot traffic.” With the new dorms, she added, “We hope this will lessen that impact.”
Chance Gabriel is a sophomore hospitality major who works with SHaRE. “This new residence hall will reduce the need for upperclassmen to stress about finding off-campus housing in the City, an endeavor which leaves many students broke, living at home, or even homeless,” he said.
“Students who live on campus do better academically and socially,” Father Paul Fitzgerald, president of USF, said in the meeting. He noted the university’s commitment to offering on-campus housing to as many students as possible.
Ian Fergosi, a representative of San Francisco’s District 1, which has USF on its eastern border, noted that 600 more students living on campus would lighten the pressures on the housing situation in San Francisco, especially Richmond and District 1.
A handful of USF employees and students also spoke in favor of the project. Notable insight came when two residents of neighborhoods bordering USF spoke to the commission.
Tom Gervin, who lives in Ewing Terrace, said he and his neighbors were originally strongly opposed to the project. “Having 600 students in your backyard can be daunting,” he said. But over the planning process, USF met repeatedly with the residents to listen to their concerns. Gervin said that he and his neighbors are now in favor of the project.
During her time for comment, Commissioner Kathrin Moore called the new dining hall a “lovely little piece of whimsical architecture,” but expressed concern about the university’s use of vinyl windows and stucco mouldings.
“The lifespan of vinyl windows is extremely short, and for something which has such a long future – this is like a 50, 100 year old building – that’s the way you can look at these types of solid designed buildings.”
Following the unanimous vote of approval, applause ran through the chamber for the first time all afternoon, five hours into the meeting.
“After many years of planning and really good conversations with our students about what they want in new on-campus housing, and conversations with our residents’ life staff and leadership, and then conversations with our neighbors, we have now come up with a win-win-win solution,” Fitzgerald said after the vote.
Featured Photo: Construction for a new full cafeteria in the Lone Mountain Main Building and a new dorm building connecting to the east side of Lone Mountain is expected to finish by the 2020-2021 school year. COURTESY OF THE SOBRATO ORGANIZATION AND MVE PARTNERS