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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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News + PoliticsEducationPrecedent shows there's hope for City College Bayview deal

Precedent shows there’s hope for City College Bayview deal

Mission Campus was built with a long-term ground-lease -- so the college doesn't have to own the land on Evans Avenue to build there.

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There may be hope that the simmering legal conflict between City College and the supervisors can be resolved.

It’s all a little technical and involves narrow legal interpretations, but the records I’ve found suggest there’s a solution.

Here’s the deal: Everyone agrees that, thanks to state rules and other funding cuts, City College needs a stable source of local funding to remain the sort of community institution that it has been for decades.

The Mission Campus is built on land that City College doesn’t own. Wikimedia image under creative commons license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

But the Board of Supes has been reluctant to move forward with any funding plan, in part because Board President Shamann Walton says the college has betrayed his district.

The last bond act passed to build and renovate college facilities was supposed to include $35 million for an educational center on Evans Avenue in the Bayview.

But the land for that center is owned by the city, through the Public Utilities Commission – and for months now, we have heard that bond lawyers hired by the College Board insist bond money can’t be spent on property that the college doesn’t own.

So the school wants to the SPFUC to give it the piece of land — but the SFPUC says it can’t do that legally. Which means the $35 million project is stalled. And Walton, who supported the bond issue with the understanding that his underserved district would get part of the benefits, is more than a little unhappy.

And as long as the college doesn’t commit to that project, he’s not going to support any additional city funding for CCSF.

But it turns out that the legal claim I’ve been hearing about isn’t true – at least, it hasn’t been true in the past.

Records in the SF Assessor’s Office show that the land under CCSF’s Mission Campus is owned not by the college but by the San Francisco Unified School District. The college has a 75-year lease – and with that lease in hand, the college used bond money to build a facility.

CCSF spokesperson Rosalinda Zepeta confirmed the details:

75 year ground lease from SFUSD; Paid in full at lease execution in 2003. SFUSD owns the land, we are leasing the land and CCSF was able to build the Mission Center and use the Bartlett Street building. After 75 years, SFUSD is entitled to the physical structures on the land above.

So back in 2003, apparently, there were no legal obstacles to using bond money to build on land the district doesn’t own.

Tom Temprano, vice president of the College Board, told me that his current understanding is that bonds can be used “as long as we have a lease that’s at least as long as it takes to pay off the bonds,” which is typically 30 years.

Board President Shanell Williams agreed: “That’s what we are working on,” she said.

Walton told me that he’s convinced the SFPUC would agree to a long-term ground lease – as long as City College agreed to and lived up to all of its commitments.

“I think there’s a path forward here,” he told me.

Let’s hope so. Because right now, the mayor’s budget doesn’t include a penny to help City College. Which means one of the city’s most important institutions continues to be in serious danger.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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