UCSF: Under Construction… So Forever?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I don’t remember what our little patch of grass haven looked like, but I do know that the last time I saw it, at least I could breathe. With dust and mud constantly growing across the walkway between Cole Hall and the Nursing Building, the construction doesn’t seem like it’s getting anywhere. As if being in our little cube campus wasn’t bad enough already, we are slowly being funneled into narrower and dirtier paths through school.

You would think that with such a great buzz of construction going on throughout the entire campus there’d be at least one sign explaining what’s going on, or even a futuristic picture of some crazy underground park they’re building on our school. But all you see are old tattered green drapes that do a horrible job of blocking what little signs of improvement they’ve been making.

I decided to look up why they needed to break down the entire school and for such a large scale change. What I found was in a small link in an email sent back in October of 2015. There, under the Campus Announcements, underneath an absurd post about a UC Campus Climate Change Competition, was a link to campus construction.

The first words on the website read “Modernization of Parnassus Heights: Seismic Program Renovations.” As part of the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), UCSF has decided to retrofit and renovate parts of the school to make it comply with seismic standards. From there it went on to list a very vague series of dates and projects that were set to be done by 2020.

Okay. I get it. We live in California where we get earthquakes all the time so we need to be in seismically sound buildings. But how did it take this long to realize that something should be done with all the major earthquakes and disasters over the last 30 years — one of them in San Francisco?

When the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake hit, parts of the Bay Bridge collapsed and San Francisco was in chaos. But since then, UCSF decided to renovate the Nursing building with café space (which they had to renovate again for Leaf Ladle), rebuild its Dental School Pre-doctoral Clinics and made an entire new campus in Mission Bay.

Did no one think that maybe they should start by making sure their main school campus was able to withstand another earthquake first? Aren’t we overdue for the next big San Francisco earthquake by about 30 years now?

Here we are now, living through the inconvenience that should have been taken care of many years ago, squeezing into tighter quarters and there seems to be no end to construction in sight. With budget cuts going on in the UC system so bad that some schools like UC Berkeley are about to cut their Athletic Program, I don’t know if we’ll ever see an end to the ugly green drapes all over school.

But on the brighter side...

Along with each step the school makes towards finishing the construction, they got something right. Overlooking the once-green dirt patch, people see life again through the long lines for overpriced soups and sandwiches — but maybe not as long as when those 50% discounts were available.

Oh, and we’ll be safer now. Or at least will be when they finally finish.

If you have a topic you’d like to rant about, please send suggestions to synapse@ucsf.edu - or comment on our social media pages and website. Together, we can find the ray of light in the clouds of higher education!