California College of the Arts cleared for SF expansion 

click to enlarge This empty lot is cleared for California College of the Arts' expansion. - ANNA LATINO/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Anna Latino/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • This empty lot is cleared for California College of the Arts' expansion.

California College of the Arts, which has been in Potrero Hill since the 1980s, is looking to grow in the next five years — a plan that is now possible due to special approval from San Francisco.

The private art and design school is considering adding more buildings and even dorms for its students, but first the college needed the Planning Commission to create a special-use district to allow it to exist in the area. The use was required because the zoning in the neighborhood had changed four years ago.

“Today’s art and design activities require lots of space and equipment,” said David Meckel, the college’s director of campus planning. “Our goal is to continue to build out this campus and make it a really cool, urban, innovative space.”

College of the Arts, which was founded in 1907 in Berkeley, moved into the Potrero Hill neighborhood in 1986. The school purchased its current location in 1996 and has recently purchased a vacant lot behind the school’s main building to house the expansion. The school  offers 21 undergraduate programs and 11 graduate programs in art, architecture, design and writing.

Last month’s planning approval of the special-use district means the campus will be able to expand to meet its goals of increasing student enrollment to 2,500 students — up from the 1,900 currently registered. Plans are still being developed, but the approval allows for the campus to expand with new buildings as well as a new dorm with up to 750 beds for students.

“If we could grow a little bit, it allows for a richer environment for students to grow in,” Meckel said. “We don’t have ridiculous expansion plans.”

Tony Kelly, president of the Potrero Hill Boosters, said the school has been a good neighbor for years, and the group supports the growth.

“They’re working with us and following the law,” he said. “They’re helping us organize and get improvements for transit, and organizing the tech company shuttles as well as working with the neighbors to showcase the square.”
Planning Commissioner Michael Antonini said having the school take over the former industrial space is a good use of the land.

“It’s an excellent project,” he said. “And it’s keeping with some other things happening in the area.”

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