Walking inside the Harney Science Center, it is noticeably outdated compared to the more contemporary-looking buildings like Kalmanovitz Hall and the recently renovated University Center. Built in 1966, Harney Science Center’s timeworn tools and design clearly call for change. After years of planning, the University of San Francisco’s 50-60 million dollar project for new science facilities is finally underway. Boasting the latest equipment and laboratories to replace the almost half-century old amenities, plans for the Center for Science and Innovation (CSI) has created anticipation among the University community.
Originally, the Center was to be built on Golden Gate Avenue. Taking into account the noise and construction that would bother the community, the school proactively decided to relocate the building onto campus grounds where the Harney building now stands.
While the change in location satisfied many, USF’s neighbors were not initially on board with the project—they were concerned with the negative effects of the new building so close to their homes. City officials took the opposition very seriously, and slowed down the progress of CSI.
While the community currently faces issues with improper parking, and noise and littering, the Center was believed to only worsen the situation.
The USF’s campus layout already poses problems with the surrounding neighborhood. “This is unusual how our university has a residential neighborhood right in the middle of campus,” said Gary McDonald, associate vice president of the University’s Public Affairs and Communications. “Having a college campus divided by residential neighborhood almost necessarily creates problems.”
Therefore, the San Francisco planning commission began a hearing over the summer. The University Terrace Association (UTA), a group of about 70 residents living in the areas between Golden Gate Avenue to Turk Street and Masonic Street to Parker Street, banded together to show their approval of the new science building. A long agenda kept the planning committee and neighborhood association members late until evening hours. Although neighbors could have gone home, they decided to stay to demonstrate their support for the school. “At 9:30 at night, they spoke on our behalf in front of city officials,” Brown said. “At the meeting, not a single person voiced opposition of the project, and this was a meeting that was open to the entire city of San Francisco.”
In order to ensure complete advocacy at the San Francisco planning commission hearing, USF wanted to have an official written agreement between the school and the neighborhood associations. Although the agreement had been reached days before the actual meeting date, some final signatures had to be acquired from individuals who were not available beforehand.
In the written consensus between USF and the UTA, neighborhood associations will be more involved with the master planning of the University’s development. Improving traffic safety and parking have also been addressed for further discussion. Though the school cannot directly handle problems regarding improper parking, students are reminded to be courteous citizens.
Another part of the agreement included changing the operation hours of the University Center’s loading dock, located right across several homes on Golden Gate Avenue. Large delivery trucks create noise disturbances during early morning hours. The University has agreed to change delivery hours as well as to improve the dock’s facilities to better accommodate the flow of truck traffic.
With the Center for Science and Innovation, USF and the UTA came together and addressed various problems.“I think the community gets a sense that the school is trying to be a good neighbor. That’s why they agreed to let the project go through,” said McDonald. “Most of the neighbors want us to have a top notch university. It is all just a matter of getting together, talking and resolving our problems.”
Brown, who is also CSI’s associate dean of planning, has seen great response from the community. He has received e-mails from neighbors who are “pro-science” and embrace the University’s growth.
For more than 25 years, Community Relations Director Glenn Loomis has been working with those living around USF. Loomis’ duties include handling complains from the public. He works closest with the UTA. Advocates and opponents are normally stirred up at the idea of change, but Loomis said that USF is generally on good terms with the community. In regards to those against some of the campus revisions, Loomis said, “We’ve moved from being opponents to collaborating to make positive changes in the neighborhood.”
Although another main concern was the escalation in student enrollment, McDonald said enrollment will not increase. According to McDonald, “We need 21st century labs. The goal is not to grow the science program. The goal is to improve the quality of the science program.” Regardless of a new science center, student enrollment will be staggered by admission rates, as with any university, and CSI’s classroom capacities.
Physics and astronomy professor Brandon Brown stresses that USF’s small class sizes are not at risk with the new building. “The number of students per lab space will not increase at all in the new building,” he said.
“This new building project has coalesced some issues and now we’re figuring out ways we can work better together,” said Loomis. As for the CSI, nearly half of the funds have been raised. Students and staff are steps closer to acquiring the much-needed cutting edge, top-notch science facilities. The CSI’s breaking ground ceremony date is set for Dec. 10.
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