Will the Southeast Campus of City College at 1800 Oakdale become a PUC office building?

by Bethaney Lee

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is proposing to relocate the Southeast Community Facility Commission building at 1800 Oakdale Ave., the decades-long home of the Southeast Campus of City College, to the corner of Third Street and Evans Avenue.

Bayview residents gather for SFPUC’s Taco Tuesday at 1800 Oakdale, the building they fought for decades ago to house the Southeast Campus of City College and have taken great pride in ever since. – Photo: Bethaney Lee
Bayview residents gather for SFPUC’s Taco Tuesday at 1800 Oakdale, the building they fought for decades ago to house the Southeast Campus of City College and have taken great pride in ever since. – Photo: Bethaney Lee

On April 19, SFPUC hosted a Taco Tuesday for neighborhood residents to view two different proposals, plans for what the new Evans building could look like and another of a remodeled 1800 Oakdale Ave. building.

“What the SFPUC is really trying to do is to tee up a community driven process to get input on what is the preferred option from the community’s vantage point – whether it’s building new at 1515 Evans or revitalizing 1800 Oakdale,” SFPUC Communications Coordinator Leamon Abrams said. “But nothing has been decided.”

“The 1800 Oakdale building would become SFPUC administrative building,” he added. “It would largely become office space for the SFPUC if we build new at Evans.”

SFPUC has already done some preliminary outreach to key neighborhood groups and key commissions, like “Wastewater CAC (a subcommittee of the PUC Citizens Advisory Committee), Southeast Community Facility Commission, as well as some other key stakeholders in the neighborhood,” said Abrams. “We went to them and said, ‘This is what we are thinking; tell us what you think.’”

After the PUC had done some rehabilitation on the first phase on the facility, the Phelps Wing, “it became clear to us that we needed to reconsider if making additional improvements to the rest of the facility was the best use of scarce public resources.”

On April 19, SFPUC hosted a Taco Tuesday for neighborhood residents to view two different proposals, plans for what the new Evans building could look like and another of a remodeled 1800 Oakdale Ave. building.

A source for debate, word of the proposed plans has trickled down to Bayview residents who have plenty to say about the revered neighborhood community building.

While the appeal of a new building may entice some, 45-year Bayview resident and CCSF Southeast alumnus Henry Iulio said: “The education that is being provided for the community here, it’s very powerful. It should stay here. If you were to move it to a different location, then you aren’t looking at the neighborhood and the people who have pride here, pride in this block.”

Other community members are just as vocal about the proposed plans: “I have a problem with the 1800 Oakdale building leaving and changing locations,” said Bayview resident Sala Chandler. “An SFPUC representative made a statement at the second funeral service in memory of Dr. Espanola Jackson. He said that the 1800 building would not be touched. And furthermore that the building would be named after Dr. Espanola Jackson. I was there and hundreds of people were there. That is what was said.”

Bayview community leaders like Dr. Espanola Jackson have been relentless in the conservation of the heritage of the 1800 Oakdale building. With the funeral still heavy on her mind, Sala Chandler added: “I’m taking this matter to heart. The community has a response for SFPUC and it is ‘Hell no!’ It’s not happening because they gave their word. We can’t live in a political system filled with individuals who don’t display integrity.”

SFPUC also acknowledged the rocky relationship between themselves and Bayview residents, making mention of paying homage to the old building, should the new Evans building be constructed.

Plans for renovations or relocation are set side by side for residents to view, compare and discuss. Some officials have long sought to move the college from Oakdale to Evans, saying it would attract more non-Black students if they didn’t have to travel through the neighborhood to reach it. Evans is on the north edge of Bayview Hunters Point. – Photo: Bethaney Lee
Plans for renovations or relocation are set side by side for residents to view, compare and discuss. Some officials have long sought to move the college from Oakdale to Evans, saying it would attract more non-Black students if they didn’t have to travel through the neighborhood to reach it. Evans is on the north edge of Bayview Hunters Point. – Photo: Bethaney Lee

“The PUC does have a history in that neighborhood. The Southeast Treatment Plant was built in 1952. We would be remiss to say that hasn’t had an impact on that neighborhood,” Abrams said. “People have fought passionately for that building. If there is a new building, we do want to somehow reflect the history that the old building has and the people who have fought for it.”

It is that very history that makes the building itself both a source of importance for many community residents and a sore topic for others. With funding for education given by the federal government in the 1970s, 1800 Oakdale was built to satisfy SFPUC’s requirements to provide community resources to the Bayview neighborhood.

Bayview community leaders like Dr. Espanola Jackson have been relentless in the conservation of the heritage of the 1800 Oakdale building.

“1800 Oakdale was built as a mitigation for the expansion of the Southeast Treatment Plant. The mitigation said that the Bayview community would be given some way to provide educational or workforce development opportunities,” Abrams said. “So in the event that the 1800 Oakdale building would go away, the underlying core issue of providing those opportunities will still be met at the new facility.”

This would mean that the 1800 Oakdale Ave. building would no longer be under the mandates attached to the education funding measure and SFPUC would have the right to do whatever they like with the property.

“I would be kind of upset if they tried to stop it and moved it somewhere else to benefit another neighborhood,” Henry Iulio said. “As a kid growing up here, I loved it. I didn’t graduate high school on a big stage, but it didn’t stop me. I picked myself up. This is a great place and it was here when I needed it. Now my kids come here.”

While SFPUC is “trying to figure out how to achieve a win-win for the neighborhood,” it’s clear a consensus will take some time to reach.

“We would like to have focus groups, community sessions and community organized events to get the public’s thoughts. By the end of the year we will have a good idea of the direction the community wants to take this,” Abrams said.

Should the community choose the direction of renovation versus new construction, a whole new set of concerns are raised that could dramatically effect all current tenants of the 1800 Oakdale building. This would include the City College Southeast Campus faculty and students.

“If you had to do renovations at 1800 Oakdale, there would likely be a short time where you would have to displace some of the existing tenants, because some of the improvements can’t be done while people are in place,” Abrams said.

As a line forms for tacos, residents discuss what will happen to their college at 1800 Oakdale. – Photo: Bethaney Lee
As a line forms for tacos, residents discuss what will happen to their college at 1800 Oakdale. – Photo: Bethaney Lee

This would result in the displacement of over 360 registered CCSF students and nearly 20 faculty members, in conjunction with all other tenants currently operating within the building. These includes the Human Services Agency (HSA), Five Keys Charter School (5 Keys), Hunters Point Family (HPF), Renaissance Parents of Success (RPOS) and Wu Yee Children’s Services (HeadStart).

Though Abrams said displacement would be for a short time, SFPUC Communications Manager Cherilyn Tran said, “Displacement would be about two to three years.”

Programs offered by CCSF Southeast Center take two to three semesters, on average, for a student to complete, which makes displacement a difficult position for current students to be faced with, in addition to the position residents are put in who currently obtain services offered within the 1800 Oakdale Ave. building.

The only option to avoid displacement currently would be the building of the Evans Street property. “Building new would take a little longer than renovating the 1800 Oakdale building, but you wouldn’t get displacement,” Abrams said.

“The idea is that if we build at Third and Evans, you would continue existing operations currently as they are in the Oakdale building. When the Evans building is done, tenants would get a moving truck and move right over.”

Should the proposed Evans building be built, the SFPUC plans to continue to offer its new facility to San Francisco City College first.

“Everyone who is in the building now would be made whole in the new facility. They are not at risk of losing space. We would give them right of refusal. That includes the other tenants there as well,” Abrams said.

With members of the community insisting that the Evans building “is not happening,” and “we are fighting this,” it’s still up in the air as to what will become of the beloved 1800 Oakdale Ave. building and its many tenants.

SFPUC says the relocation or revitalization of the Oakdale building “will be a public process,” and that right plans are “very preliminary.”

With members of the community insisting that the Evans building “is not happening,” and “we are fighting this,” it’s still up in the air as to what will become of the beloved 1800 Oakdale Ave. building and its many tenants.

“What the PUC is trying to do is turn the corner,” Abrams said. “We know that there is a history that the PUC has, but we are really trying to be cognitive of that history. At the same time, we are trying to pivot and learn from that. (We are trying to make) a positive step forward in terms of making Bayview a more welcoming and more participatory neighborhood in the city.”

Bethaney Lee is a student at City College proudly enrolled in the Journalism Department under the esteemed Juan Gonzales. After switching her major from nursing and pursuing science, she is happy to now be perusing her true passion, writing. She can be reached at bethaneylee89@gmail.com.