EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT: Jeff Bond — UC's Designated Flak Catcher
night, at the HVNA [Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association] meeting on UC's
proposal for the old Extension site, I almost felt sorry for Jeff Bond, a
senior planner for UC, the designated flak catcher for the night. He was
hammered relentlessly by almost everyone who spoke, especially after his
in essence: UC has to turn the site into a profitable commercial housing
development because it needs the money. UC will have to increase tuition
and fees to students and cut academic programs if it doesn't get fair
market value for the extension site. And as long as the property is zoned
Public Use, he complained that UC couldn't get more than 50% of the fair
market value if it sold the property. Besides, the property has serious
seismic, asbestos, and ADA issues that are going to be expensive to deal
with. Even the landscaping is in bad shape, Bond told the group Monday
night. All this is going to cost millions, and UC doesn't have the money.
The site is no longer suitable to be used for an educational institution.
On the other
hand, a parade of people to the podium pointed out, among other things:
* That UC has had the 5.8 acre property since 1957 and, as a public entity, has
never paid any taxes on the valuable property to the city. The city gave
UC a huge, tax-free gift, and now it wants to cash in its chips by
shoe-horning 400-500 commercial housing units into the middle of an
already densely populated neighborhood.
* That UC has allowed the property to deteriorate on its watch and therefore
should be responsible for fixing it up.
the HVNA sent a letter to the UC Regents last year and never even got a
A number of
people asked Bond for some money numbers: What did he think the site is
worth? What's UC's financial arrangement with developer Evans? What is UC
paying for the two huge floors at 425 Market St. where the extension
program is now operating? What is UC paying for that new property on
nearby Third St.? Bond was not forthcoming, which irritated his audience.
He said he was sorry, but he was operating under UC guidelines against
divulging such information.
But Bond is
a good flak catcher: He took a lot of shit Monday and never lost his
composure. He was on the defensive all night, but he maintained an
apologetic affability throughout what must have been an ordeal for him. He
earned his salary Monday night.
performance was not helpful for UC, though it's unlikely anyone else could
have done better. UC's problem: The more people learn about the proposal,
the less they like it.
Mirkarimi arrived a little late, but he should be forgiven, since he had
probably been on the job for 12 hours by the time he got there. Actually,
his timing was perfect, since, after being pummeled for 90 minutes by
nearly everyone in the room, Bond was ready for Mirkarimi's coup de grace.
Ross started off by saying, "I don't like this project at all." And it
went downhill for UC from there. Ross said that UC was a "Leviathan," and
that he didn't like its high-handed process. He favored the New College
alternative to a commercial housing development. Ross told Bond he wanted
to send a message to the Regents: There is serious opposition to their
proposal in City Hall, and, finally, that he opposes changing the zoning
from Public Use.
statement could be the nail in the coffin for the whole grotesquely large,
arrogant, greedy proposal: If UC can't get a zoning change, there will be
no commercial housing project on that site. (Interestingly, Mirkarimi
suggested that Supervisor Dufty — most of the site is actually in his
district — is also unhappy with the UC proposal, which is good news for
UC's critics: A majority of the Board of Supervisors is likely to defer to
the supervisors in whose district the project is located.)
Monday what would happen if UC didn't get the zoning change, Bond said
that we would probably soon be facing a similar proposal in the near
future. And he's probably right about that. If UC's critics can't figure
out how to wrest control of that parcel from UC, stopping this proposal
will have been a waste of time. A suggestion: Supervisors Mirkarimi and
Dufty could ask the City Attorney to map out a legal strategy to reclaim
that property from UC for the city. At the same time, since it's unlikely
UC can be forced to bring it up to code, we need to figure out a way to
pay for the rehabilitation of the site to make it useable, perhaps through
a special bond on the ballot.
If that can
be done, there is a practical alternative: If New College occupied the
site, the wall would come down — nice symbolism in itself — and the site
would be more integrated into the community: The gym would be saved from
demolition and made available to local kids; there would be no residential
highrises on the site to spoil neighborhood views; and, more importantly,
New College will make its free clinics available to the neighborhood,
including a public interest law clinic, another operated through the
graduate psychology program, and a family literacy clinic through its
teaching credential program.
The next UC
meeting is on May 9, at the same location: the First Baptist Church, #7
Octavia St., 7:00-9:00. This meeting will feature the Planning Dept.,
which favors the UC proposal and is on record as being "excited" by the
housing "opportunities" for the site. The Hayes Valley Neighborhood
Association — actually, the HVNA Transportation and Planning Committee, in
this instance — is doing a huge public service by sponsoring and hosting
this series of meetings. For more about the group, see their web site:
publishes a blog at