by Tom Pendergast
The fate of the University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) Laurel Heights campus, located at 3333 California St., appears to be in limbo – for the moment – as U.C. regents focus on what to do with the university’s Mission Bay projects.
A statement released in February said UCSF is evaluating opportunities to consolidate UCSF’s properties (including the Laurel Heights facility), to save operating and occupancy costs and to improve collaboration across campus.
“Teams from UCSF’s campus planning and real estate units, in collaboration with campus leadership, continue to consider options for the Laurel Heights facility, including whether to sell or lease the property. These decisions will be made within an overarching campus real estate plan, which is in progress but not yet finalized,” said Barbara French, vice chancellor for university relations.
“We aim to know more about how Laurel Heights fits into our larger real estate strategy sometime this spring, so campus leadership can make a decision about the future of the Laurel Heights facility. Our hope is to be able to update the UCSF faculty/staff community as well as the broader community on these decisions before the end of the current fiscal year, or June 30, 2014.
“If the university decides to vacate the Laurel Heights facility – whether by sale or lease – any moves of this sort are not expected to occur for at least four to five years.”
Since UCSF announced that it was thinking of selling off the property in 2012, numerous suitors have presented themselves as worthy of attention but so far the administration has played coy.
A Matier & Ross report in the SF Chronicle in February said a dozen offers were submitted in 2013 and UCSF paired them down to three. Although the contenders have not been publicly disclosed, the Matier & Ross report said the two firms were the Prado Group and the Prometheus Real Estate Group.
Speculation in the local media is running rampant. The possibility that 10.3 acres of property containing 447,000 square feet of building space in the middle of San Francisco attracts a lot of attention.
Condominiums, rental apartments and senior housing have all been offered as possibilities, but none have been confirmed.
According to Alex Bevk of the http://www.SFcurbed.com website, the move is seen as a part of UCSF’s shift toward Mission Bay, with its new $1.6 billion hospital opening up later this year.
J.K. Dineen of the San Francisco Business Times reported that UCSF has held the property since 1985. It is now zoned for residential development with a 40-foot height limit. A deal with a developer could be either a sale of the property or a ground lease arrangement. The zoning allows one dwelling unit per 800 square feet of land, which translates to about 550 housing units, according to Dineen. If the project were approved as a “planned unit development” under the San Francisco Planning Code, the number of allowable units would jump to 700.
According to a post by UCSF, the decision to identify development opportunities for Laurel Heights was informed by a six-month feasibility study conducted by UCSF Real Estate Services, with assistance from an outside team of construction, economic, real estate and legal advisors. An earlier study found that in the next four to 10 years, the university would need to make substantial investments in the Laurel Heights campus to maintain it as an efficient and effective facility. The university decided to explore whether its financial resources could be better spent at another location.
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