USF neighbors wary of campus crunch 

New science laboratories are slated to be partly built beneath the regal campus of a private university, but neighbors fear they will draw more students to their sleepy corner of the Panhandle.

The University of San Francisco has raised roughly half the $50 million to $60 million needed to replace its aging science facilities, according to physics professor and spokesman Brandon Brown.

The number of science degrees, students and professors at the Jesuit university has doubled since Harney Science Center was built in 1966, according to Brown.

“We need 50 percent more space to do what our programs are trying to do,” he said.

The 59,000 square feet of laboratories and other teaching and gathering spaces will be enclosed within a four-story, aboveground building that will also stretch vertically and horizontally underground. A sunken atrium is planned as an anchor for an overhauled campus plaza.

The university’s biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and environmental science departments will use the new facility, according to Brown. He said construction could begin in 2011.

But neighbors have filed an appeal against a city ruling that said the project will not have any major impacts.

The University Terrace Association argued in its appeal that the new science building will lead to a spike in student enrollments, causing increased demand for housing and parking in the neighborhood. The association asked The City to order USF to produce a full environmental impact report regarding the plans.

“USF has grown in enrollment and staff over the years while decreasing parking and forcing more traffic onto Golden Gate Avenue,” the association wrote. “The addition of a four-story, 60,000-square-foot building with a loading dock is going to afford some opportunities to USF for growth.”

University spokesman Gary McDonald disputed the claim that the new facilities will increase student enrollment and said USF already significantly modified its plans on behalf of neighbors.

“USF originally planned to build the science center on Golden Gate Avenue,” McDonald said in a statement. “Out of respect for our neighbors, and at considerable expense, USF proactively changed those plans and created a new design to build in the interior of the campus.”

The City’s Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors will eventually rule on the dispute.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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