School district sites under study for possible housing development 

In response to San Francisco’s housing crisis, every parcel at The City’s disposal is coming under close scrutiny for potential development, including the land holdings of the public-school district.

But school-site options may be limited.

“There is a perception in the community and in The City that we have lots and lots of empty buildings, and the reality is that simply is not true,” said David Goldin, chief facilities officer of the San Francisco Unified School District. However, there are some sites that are considered attractive to developers.

One is the McAteer campus at 555 Portola Drive that currently houses the School of Arts. With the art school’s planned move to 135 Van Ness Ave., it could open the door for the development of hundreds of housing units at the McAteer campus. While “the prospect of liquidating the entire property doesn’t look realistic,” the sloping portion of the site has “some serious development potential,” Goldin said.

Another site that has potential for housing development is the 1.9-acre parcel at Seventh Avenue and Lawton Street.

“It could take fairly dense housing,” Goldin said. But Goldin acknowledged that anticipated objections by neighbors could pose a challenge for development of the property.

Other ideas for include creating an edible school garden or a project with technology company Zynga.

“There are lots of ideas ranging from crazy to real, and right now we know it’s empty and we sell Christmas trees and pumpkins,” Goldin said.

A pending transaction for a lot behind and adjacent to 555 Franklin St., which currently houses the district’s administrative offices, could be a prime development site of up to eight stories high.

Another site at 170 Fell St. could provide opportunities for student housing or artist residences, he said.

Goldin’s comments on school district sites suitable for development came during a Board of Supervisors joint committee hearing with district board members. Supervisor Jane Kim said that the school district should have a seat at Mayor Ed Lee’s housing workgroup that is expected to begin meeting later next month to figure out how to achieve the mayor’s goal of building 5,000 units annually for the next six years.

“It’s going to be heavy lift for all of us and will involve all our thinking together to see how we can address our housing crisis,” Kim said.

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