January 31, 2013

UCSF Seeking Developers For Their Prime 10-Acre San Francisco Site

UCSF Laurel Heights Campus (www.SocketSite.com)

UCSF's Chancellor's Executive Cabinet has approved the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) to redevelop UCSF's 10-acre Laurel Heights campus at 3333 California Street, seeking to realize "the highest and best use of the site [and] maximize the value of the property." UCSF will be exploring options for relocating its 1,200 Laurel Heights employees to other campuses in San Francisco over the next couple of years.

The Laurel Heights campus which was first developed by the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company in 1955 and acquired by UCSF in 1985 encompasses an oversized city block, with fronts on California, Presidio, Masonic, Euclid, and Laurel Streets.

UCSF%20Laurel%20Heights%20Campus.gif

The campus site with a current 40-foot height limit is located in an RM-1 residential zone which permits approximately one dwelling unit per 800 square feet of land or one dwelling unit per 600 square feet of land if approved as a Planned Unit Development. There are 43,560 square feet per acre. The property could also be used for offices, which is the existing legal non-conforming use.

Proposals are tentatively scheduled to be due in May with a developer and plan set to be selected in June. The selected developer "will be capable of achieving entitlement approvals from the City as early as possible" with an expected time horizon of 4 to 10 years to complete the development.

First Published: January 31, 2013 8:15 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I would be fascinated to see residential uses of this property; which has some of the best views in the city at both North and West faces.

If they did detached townhomes, it would be something special.

Posted by: BillyBalls at January 31, 2013 8:55 AM

Phenomenal news. That place is such a gigantic scar on the urban environment of the area and really, really terrible for the pedestrian feel of the area.

It should be changed from RM-1 though. That would be a ludicrous use of the area. Something like a grouping of 6-10 story buildings would be a nice fit.

Posted by: anon at January 31, 2013 8:59 AM

anon: I believe the UC system can go above the limits. A client and developer told me that when the UC built their new building on Divisadero and Post (SW corner), they didn't have to follow all the zoning. I know for they didn't have to file any plans with the city, but it might also be true that they have their choice of what they can do. This is purely anecdotal, however.

Posted by: Serge at January 31, 2013 9:07 AM

@ Serge...forget it...UCSF and other UC campus's around the state have, in the past decades, really tried to come together (town and gown). UC learned long ago that sometimes an image is better when it is not tarnished. Not worth the lumps.

Posted by: Good Neighbor at January 31, 2013 9:17 AM

I'm not saying that UCSF should not follow zoning. I'm saying that the city should change the zoning. Single family homes at this location would be absurd.

Posted by: anon at January 31, 2013 9:23 AM

Man, I have always been a bit jealous of the folks working here what with this great location and great views. Makes sense that UC wants to get top $$ for this prime piece of real estate.

This is a pretty big deal - can't think of many instances where this large and prime of a piece of real estate comes available.

Of course, if that unused old water tower/facility in Russian Hill came up as well...

Posted by: DanRH at January 31, 2013 9:37 AM

"... encompasses an entire city block ..."

It is actually more like 3-4 city blocks. When redeveloped hopefully this megablock will be opened up. Cross streets or paths should be added at approximately Pine and Walnut and open for public traffic. It should cost next to nothing to open those routes to at least pedestrians. That will improve walkability in this neighborhood.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at January 31, 2013 10:20 AM

If considered along with the busyards, Target complex and Geary/Masonic intersection -- how 'bout rezoning the whole area -- and encourage offices where people live? Mix it up. This area could be a mid-center city hub of small businesses and denser (tall housing). Create parkland and 'hood amenities in exchange for height.

Posted by: Invented at January 31, 2013 10:28 AM

There is some chatter about putting senior housing here. Ironic because the whole area used to be a cemetery back in the 1850s. Full circle I guess?

Posted by: niners at January 31, 2013 10:36 AM

It is actually more like 3-4 city blocks

Yet another sensible location for the Federation Headquarters tower that petty nimbyism is going to sink.

Posted by: BobN at January 31, 2013 10:59 AM

@DanRH: actually, most of the offices at Laurel Heights have no windows whatsoever, and although it's in a nice area of the city, it's an inconvenient place to work since it's physically separate from all of UCSF's clinical facilities. This is a smart move by UCSF--nobody will miss the site once it's gone, and they'll make a ton of money in the process.

Posted by: vanillablue at January 31, 2013 11:38 AM

With CMPC likely to sell off the California Hospital after they construct the campus at Cathedral Hill, this section of California Street (Presidio to Arguello) could see quite a change. If done well, the zoning in this area could create quite an interesting little "village".

Anyone know the latest on plans for the Muni yards?

[Editor's Note: There's been no recent movement, but Is It Prime Time To Develop Muni's 5.4-Acre Presidio Yard?]

Posted by: hugo at January 31, 2013 11:57 AM

What an opportunity! It would be smart for the city to section this off into 25x100 lots and build all detached single family housing.

Posted by: Joe at January 31, 2013 11:59 AM

Single family 25X100 ft lots do not make sense here-- not dense enough. If lots were subdivided this way, there should be 4 flats/lot, over underground garages. However, given the terrain, large condo complexes, utilizing some of the existing road structure make more sense. It would be great if residential high rises could be built on part of the land, in exchange for a land donation for a public park with city views on the remainder of the land.

Posted by: Dan at January 31, 2013 12:15 PM

One of the great historical mistakes in San Francisco was setting out the northern streets in a simple grid, rather than curved to follow the terrain of the hills.

Here is a piece of property where the streets can curve and follow the hills. In an ideal world, unburdened by politics, one could imagine a splendid residential neighborhood of Presidio Heights style houses with wonderful views on irregular lots.

Of course, it will not happen because that would be pandering to the one percent who could afford $5-10 million houses.

Posted by: conifer at January 31, 2013 12:37 PM

this parcel (with mid-rise buildings, 8-10) and the near adjacent Muni depot lot at Masonic/Bush/Presidio/Geary (with 15-30 floor residential towers) would vastly improve this area--providing density, infrastructure improvements (re: somebody pave Masonic please!), and some life to these windy streets. go for it SF. Go Niners!

Posted by: SFOrange at January 31, 2013 12:57 PM

Conifer, some people's ideal world is $10 million houses, in which case they are in luck, because Presidio Heights is nearby. For most San Franciscans, an ideal world is on that is a little more accessible.

Posted by: Dan at January 31, 2013 12:58 PM

@Dan
It is always so easy to get people going on this site.

Posted by: conifer at January 31, 2013 1:41 PM

What's on that triangular lot between Masonic, Presidio and Euclid? I've driven by it a million times but I've never paid attention to it.

[Editor's Note: San Francisco Fire Station #10 and the San Francisco Fire Department Museum.]

Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at January 31, 2013 1:46 PM

In addition to the surface parking lots, there is underground parking for (I'm guessing) a couple hundred cars. I haven't been inside the buildings but I don't think they would get demolished. Maybe somebody like Avalon Bay converts the buildings to residential and adds a few more new buildings that are 50' tall. I think the land with condos on the 3300 block of California had a 50' height limit from when it was owned by the Catholic church.

Posted by: formerly%whatever at January 31, 2013 1:54 PM

In addition to the surface parking lots, there is underground parking for (I'm guessing) a couple hundred cars.

The 10-acre Laurel Heights campus currently houses 363,000 square feet of desktop research and administration space, a child care center, a café and 543 parking spaces.

Posted by: SocketSite at January 31, 2013 2:50 PM

What an opportunity! It would be smart for the city to section this off into 25x100 lots and build all detached single family housing.

How would this be smart?

It certainly wouldn't make the city more money in property taxes, it wouldn't provide more housing, it wouldn't do 100 things. So I'm curious how/why you think this would be "smart"?

Posted by: anon at January 31, 2013 3:57 PM

I won't miss the ten foot walls that encircle the place, that's for sure.

Posted by: Alai at January 31, 2013 6:10 PM

It would be great if they would make it a little easier to get to/from California from Bush / Pine. And divert traffic away from the back streets of euclid in laurel.

Posted by: eddy at January 31, 2013 7:54 PM

If debacle at 55 Laguna that UC Berkeley got themselves into is any guide, change will be a long time coming to this site!

Posted by: spruce at January 31, 2013 8:43 PM

While I think a through street would be great, Euclid is definitely up there as one of the more ludicrously oversized streets in SF. It's sixty feet wide and used as two lanes plus parking. They should switch it to perpendicular parking, or turn half of it into a linear park, or something-- it's just such a waste of space.

Posted by: Alai at January 31, 2013 8:43 PM

Why would the UC be so willing to give up such a prime piece of real estate? Granted, they have lots... But it's not hard to imagine that they could move or expand some of what occupies the dilapidated Mt. Zion buildings. UCSF is expanding so rapidly, and there's very limited SF.

It would be so nice if it was carved up into lots the size of the surrounding area, and developed individually into houses, flats, and small apartment buildings. That's really what gives the city its character, but most likely it will be another bland mega-project, like a Soma on a hill. ick. I live a couple of blocks away, and actually kind of like the underutilized piece of 1960s Brutalism.

Posted by: hugh at January 31, 2013 10:00 PM

Instead of concentrating high density development in Mission Bay, the city should be looking to increase density at locations where people would really like to live - this site, the MUNI yard, the Sutter/California campus - sites that have great access to public transport as well as the Presidio and other reasons why people from New York would actually consider moving here. Only by increasing density throughout the main transportation corridors will you actually get an economically viable public transport system - or at lest it can be a legitimate excuse for making the investment in one.

Posted by: tj at February 1, 2013 12:51 AM

"Why would the UC be so willing to give up such a prime piece of real estate?"

Give up? They're trying to cash in.

Posted by: Michael at February 1, 2013 9:28 AM

hugh, if I remember correctly UC bought this property (prior to the Mission Bay era) with the idea of it being a medical/research facility and expanding off Mt. Parnassus. Then they got into all kinds of heat from neighbors concerned about who knows what...escaped diseases, animal experiments, whatever. In the end UC agreed to ONLY use it for office style uses. So it's been a white elephant for them for a very long time... Now that they've developed so much space at UCSF they really don't need this and it's wise to cash in. (can't vouch for every detail, but I think I got that mostly right)

Posted by: curmudgeon at February 1, 2013 9:53 AM

@tj
"other reasons why people from New York would actually consider moving here. "

Why do we want people from New York to move here? What is wrong with people from other places, such as Boston or Detroit? Or London or Barcelona or Padua?

There is no shortage of people here, and no need to entice anyone, certainly not by building neighborhoods to their taste.

Posted by: conifer at February 1, 2013 11:51 AM

Curmudgeon,

It was purchased with the idea that the School of Pharmacy would relocate most if not all of their labs and offices to this location.

Locals were upset about so many labs being located nearby and the School/Regents blundered with the EIR they tried to put through. Residents had issue with emissions from lab fume hoods and increased traffic bringing in lab supplies.

After years of litigation and several million dollars of money thrown away the School backed out of the plans and UCSF has been trying to make use of the space as offices ever since.

Very few people that work there like the building or the location. And, of course, since it used to be a graveyard there are lots of stories about people working late hearing/seeing ghosts.

Posted by: gribble at February 1, 2013 12:40 PM

Maybe UCSF should trade this land for Salesforce's land in Mission Bay. Salesforce would get almost 400k SF of office space, with parking, that they could use right away. UCSF would get land to build more labs and clinics inMission Bay.

Posted by: Dan at February 1, 2013 12:45 PM

UCSF's decision to redevelop and likely sell this site is a great one and a long time coming. I happen to work there and let me tell you this is a most hated work location for UCSF employees. It is isolated from the rest of the campus, difficult to commute to, and an old and out-of-date building. It's musty, the heating/A/C does not work well, the electricity is questionable, and you can easily get lost in the maze of the building. It's also costly to maintain. I hope they come up with a great residential plan that improves the neighborhood and then get it off their hands.

Posted by: Kay at February 4, 2013 10:06 AM

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