University of California “exploring opportunities” for San Francisco space

Mayor London Breed asked UC system to open a campus to fill the city’s empty offices

University of California “Exploring” San Francisco Spaces
From left: Mayor of San Francisco London Breed and University of California president Dr. Michael A. Drake (Getty)

The University of California could fill some of the hollowed-out offices in Downtown San Francisco.

After a request from Mayor Londom Breed, the Oakland-based university system said it was open to expanding into a city whose offices were hit hard by a pandemic shift to remote work, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Almost 36 percent of the city’s offices stand empty.

Representatives from the UC Office of the President met with city officials Friday — but it’s not clear whether any specific Downtown commercial properties were on the table.

A spokesperson for the president’s office said both the 10-campus system and UC Berkeley were “exploring opportunities to advance their research, public service and education mission through an expanded presence in San Francisco.” 

Jeff Cretan, spokesman for the mayor, said UC and the city are in “continuing conversations.”  But there are “no concrete proposals,” he said. “We are exploring a lot of different options.”

The talks come after Breed last summer asked local schools and colleges to fill the growing number of empty offices in Downtown San Francisco. In May, Breed dashed off a letter asking the UC Board of Regents to consider opening a new campus Downtown.

Breed has also written letters with a similar request to San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Matt Wayne, City College of San Francisco Chancellor John Al-Amin and City Administrator Carmen Chu, whose office supplies services through the city’s real estate division.

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Breed seeks to find viable reuse for San Francisco’s largest mall, the former Westfield San Francisco Centre at 865 Market Street. She has proposed redeveloping the mall into a soccer stadium, hiring Gensler to launch a feasibility study last summer. 

The 1.45 million-square-foot mall near Union Square, seized by its lenders last year after an exit by Nordstrom and other retail tenants, has lost $1 billion in value, according to a Friday report by Morningstar Credit Analytics. It pegged its worth at $290 million, down from $1.2 billion in 2016.

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Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for UC Berkeley, said the university is “always interested in options that are viable” for adding housing for its graduate students. 

The ongoing “exploratory discussions” also involve “potentially buildings for academic purposes,” Mogulof said. “The only thing that’s not on the table for us is undergraduate housing in San Francisco.”

In Southern California, UCLA has greatly expanded out of its Westwood campus by buying a former college campus in Rancho Palos Verdes in 2022; buying a 300,000-square-foot office tower in Downtown L.A. last year; and paying $700 million this month for a former mall in West L.A. for a future research campus. 

— Dana Bartholomew

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