Mapping out the future in Mission Bay

Tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting focused on several facilities issues, the most interesting of which was a presentation on the possible options for a school site in the Mission Bay neighborhood. As part of a deal with the developer and UCSF (which has already built incredible biotechnology and science research facilities at the site), the school district has been given the option of building a school on a 1.5 2.2-acre corner lot. (A land use plan is here; the proposed school district lot is #14).

The research conducted by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency seems to bear out what anyone can witness with casual observation: there are a large number of very young children in the area. There also is not a school nearby: the closest schools are Bessie Carmichael in the South of Market neighborhood, and Daniel Webster Elementary in Potrero Hill (a school to watch!).

So the possibilities are very intriguing – we have a prime plot of land in the middle of a world-class research facility and a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood with a lot of young families; and a plot that is not far from some of the least-served (education-wise) neighborhoods in San Francisco. Originally, the idea from City Hall was a science and technology high school, but based on the preliminary analysis we’ve done as part of our student assignment redesign, it looks like what we really need is an elementary (K-5 or K-8) school. In addition, it would be smart to take advantage of the incredible intellectual capital at Mission Bay, and use it to establish a prestigious teacher-training institute that would grow sorely-needed math and science teachers right in our own backyard.

What will the site support? According to our Facilities Director, we could build a multistory building that would house a 500-student school and a teacher training institute without much trouble. But because a K-8 school would require more facilities (e.g., a gymnasium), his recommendation is that the site would more easily accommodate a K-5 school. On the other hand, in early conversations, UCSF has expressed deep interest in a middle school, with the idea that middle school students would really benefit from the exposure to the incredible science going on around the school.

Finally, what can we afford? We have existing bond authority to spend $30 million on a new school, which is good, but the Mission Bay site (because it is situated on landfill) is an expensive place to build. In addition, the Board has increasingly focused on the Bayview neighborhood as an area that needs better attention and resources. The Bayview and its surrounding neighborhoods are the areas where most of the public school children in San Francisco already live; schools in those neighborhoods do not currently have capacity for all the students who live there, and in addition they are generally our lowest-achieving schools. If, as it appears, the Board reverts to an assignment system that puts more weight on where children live in deciding school assignments, there are both practical and equity reasons to make sure that there are ample high-quality school choices for children in every neighborhood. So might it make more sense to construct a state-of-the-art school at one of our Bayview sites?

Unfortunately, my gut sense is that the Mission Bay AND the Bayview scenarios both make compelling sense, but there is not going to be bond money to do both, at least, not without going back to the voters. That is a risky proposition in today’s environment, and one that takes time and careful planning.

Anyway, deciding between the two options is not something the Board can do all at once, but it was important that we finally began the discussion at tonight’s meeting. Here’s how we left it:

  • The City is willing to commit funds to a study of the best uses of the site, but that study can’t move forward until the school district gives a clear indication of whether it’s interested in proceeding.
  • The new student assignment policy is a key “domino,” so getting this plan done on time (drop dead is March 2010) will be essential to moving the Mission Bay/Bayview discussion forward.
  • After the Board commits to a new student assignment policy, the Superintendent will formulate a recommendation on Mission Bay – the Board needs to either commit to moving forward or decide to put off the project for now.
  • The district has until 2027 to exercise its option to build a school at the site; after that, the land will revert to the developer.
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6 responses to “Mapping out the future in Mission Bay

  1. Rachel,

    Given there are great transportation links between BV/HP and Mission Bay (via Third st and the Third Street Muni line, I’d have thought a Mission Bay location makes more sense. Potero is underserved for K-8 as it is.

  2. Teresa Dulalas

    historical overview: many of the experienced residents know that there is a site allocated for the HIGH SCHOOL in the mission bay. yes, we’ve been mapping our future also since then and we have been waiting for this high school. the soma community started its momentum 12-15 yrs ago to build the capacity of fighting for the cause of our children and preserving its identity at the same time watching over and protecting all of district 6. when you’re people of color and being stepped on….we fight the system and people running it ALWAYS….most of the time so very hard…and its been very draining to many of our families and community advocates. but that’s not stopping us.

    there has been a void in the soma community when we’re talking about a high school. we are the only district in san francisco with NO HIGH SCHOOL. please i ask that we rally together as ONE! to build this high school. many children have ‘sacrificed’ having to go to another district high school. safety, stability, and quality education are big issues.

    many families have long been waiting for a high school in this neighborhood, with some waiting for 12-20 years. in the SOMA, we have Bessie Carmichael/Filipino Education Center School (K-8). if only everyone does look at the quality of the school environment: staff, curriculum, activities, community involvement, safety, caring and thoughfulness, parent and community outreach, it takes a village to raise a child. the community took on a tremendous undertaking amidst controversies and fought very hard to succeed in having a K-8 school at the Bessie Carmichael/Filipino Education Center School. the HIGH SCHOOL will complete the fabric of our SOMA neighborhood. please we must set aside our differences and come together as ONE to complete our neighborhood schools with the HIGH SCHOOL.

    as a parent, i’m angry with the school district’s very short notice and not making the outreach effort.

    the worst case scenario is to sue.

  3. i’m extremely disappointed that we did not have a chance to represent as parents in this new 3k person neighborhood during this vital discussion. i’m also equally upset that the district didn’t plan anything like this school with all this new housing 20 years ago when mission bay was drawn up. how little vision do you have to have to watch a community like this get built and not thing, gee, we might need a school over there? shameful!

  4. Thank you for this good summary of the recent discussion. but there are a few more important factors to also take into account:

    – 30% of the Mission Bay housing will be affordable housing, not market rate. so the “gentrifiation” perspective is not the whole story. the children of those households will certainly be a majority of the school age population there at all grade levels. and their total when the project is all built (by 2020?) will be a big number. did the Redevelopment Agency provide any projections?

    – the discussion did not address relevant perspectives of the adjacent neighborhoods. a major issue for the SOMA and Tenderloin communities is the lack of a Middle School in the Central City. their issues cannot equitably be excluded from consideration.

    – additionally, the future Treasure Island project will add another nearby neighborhood of about the same size and demographic profile as Mission Bay, starting in about 5 years. SFUSD has already indicated a goal to build an elementary school there, but the same issue regarding a Middle School will apply as well.

  5. Hi Jamie – there will be other opportunities, and last night there actually were two members of the public who spoke up in favor of a school in Mission Bay. The discussion last night was long overdue — other entities have been talking about a school in Mission Bay for years but the Board had never really started the conversation until last night. I think I hit the high points but you can always request an audio cassette from Susan Wong in the office of Equity Assurance (There’s a small charge for the service) if you don’t want to miss a drop. This will probably come back to us sometime next spring and now that I know you are interested I will make sure I let you know when.

  6. When is the next opportunity for Mission Bay, Potrero, Dog Patch, South Beach, South Park, and Rincon Hill residents to attend a School Board meeting to voice our strong desires to see a school built at the Mission Bay site?

    I’m afraid that hardly anybody in my neck of the woods knew that the potential Mission Bay school site was on last night’s meeting agenda until it was too late to get the word out – and only then because a friend at the Redevelopment Agency tried to get the word out immediately after learning yesterday morning about the topic being on the agenda.