UCSF ‘Re-envisions’ Parnassus Campus; Aims to Expand by 30 Percent

By Connor Fitzpatrick

An open house titled the “Parnassus Heights Re-Envisioning Process” was held on June 12 to lay out the plans for a 30-year project in which the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Parnassus campus will be renovated, updated and expanded by 30 percent in order to keep up with the advances of modern medicine and science.  

The open house at the campus’ Millberry Union drew about 40 community members to listen to ideas from UCSF leaders and to offer an opportunity for public feedback on the plan.

“If we had the opportunity to re-envision this campus, what would it look like?,” asked Barbara French, the evening’s moderator and vice chancellor of strategic communications and university relations. 


Panelists (left to right) Lindsey Criswell, MD, Tamara Alliston, PhD and Suneil Koliwad, MD discuss a plan to expand and open up the UCSF Parnassus campus at a recent open house. Photo by Jonathan Song.

Vaughan Davies, principal of the Perkins Eastman architectural firm, laid out the proposed renovations in further detail. According to Davies, the essential plan is to update the campus while also creating a more engaging experience for the surrounding community. The goal is to create a campus that offers a more open and “porous” experience to the surrounding neighborhood, rather than being a “wall on a hill,” and to make Parnassus Avenue a “pedestrian-first experience” rather than a thoroughfare for service and delivery. 


“(The buildings) don’t meet the needs of current science, let alone the science of the future,” said Dr. Lindsey Criswell, vice chancellor of research.

“It’s not a scientific hospital, per se, it’s also a community hospital,” said Dr. Suneil Koliwad, associate professor at the Diabetes Center. “What we do here, what we invent here and what we optimize and create here is going to be the way that community hospitals will be run all over the country 30 to 40 years from now.”

UCSF also has plans to add housing to the campus. The goal is to increase housing units at Aldea Housing, located adjacent to the Parnassus campus, from 172 units to 504 units, as well as building 426 units on the west side of the campus.

The addition of housing has been met with some concern from members of the Community Working Group, an organization that was formed to allow neighborhood leaders and representatives from local non-profits and city agencies to review and give feedback on the Comprehensive Parnassus Heights Plan as it was being developed. 

“UCSF intends to expand its non-housing facilities at Parnassus Heights, far exceeding the current space ceiling,” said Rupert Clayton, member of the Community Working Group and housing and land-use chair of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council. “More space means more employees, students and patients, which is great for UCSF but risks straining the capacity of services in the neighborhood.” 

Clayton compares this possibility to the increase in office space in the downtown and mid-Market areas. 

“No one opposes creating jobs, teaching students or treating patients, but a 30 percent expansion far exceeds any relief provided by adding 758 housing units,” Clayton said.

Regarding the location of the housing, Clayton said he would prefer that new units be moved away from Aldea.

“I’d much rather see these families housed on the west side of the UCSF campus, where they have easy access to schools, shopping and six Muni lines,” he said.

Ultimately, the emphasis of the re-envisioning process is to update the hospital so that it allows for natural engagement with the community as well as updating facilities to allow research to advance with science, medicine and technology. 

“I really do envision a day when I can see a patient in my clinic, walk with that patient to a laboratory suite, conduct some studies that are beyond the scope of what we can normally do in the clinic, learn things that we can’t learn in the normal clinical environment and then use that information to instruct the way we treat that patient moving forward,” Koliwad said.

For more information, visit https://space.ucsf.edu/parnassus-heights.

1 reply »

  1. Your statement “The addition of housing has been met with some concern from members of the Community Working Group, an affordable housing advocacy organization” is misleading in two ways:

    First, the Community Working Group is not an affordable housing advocacy organization, but a volunteer group comprised of community leaders, neighbors, merchants, city representatives, and UCSF staff. The group advises on UCSF’s re-envisioning process for the Parnassus Heights campus, and identifies potential improvements that would further neighborhood goals.

    Second, the Community Working Group includes members who strongly support the improvements and expansions described by the Parnassus re-envisioning process.


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