This Date in UCSF History: Housing Crisis Looms

Originally published in Synapse - The UCSF student newspaper on March 16, 1989.

Student housing at UCSF is undergoing a transition, another result of the ongoing space crisis on this campus.

The west wing of Millberry Union, which used to house students in dormitory-style rooms, was converted to administrative office space last year. The east wing, which currently houses 80 students, is slated fora similar conversion after the ’89 - ‘9O school year.

The conversions were decided upon by the chancellor and the deans, who reasoned that university-owned houses on Third Avenue (between Parnassus and Irving) and on Fifth Avenue (between Parnassus and Kirkham) were appropriate for student housing, and thus the upper floors of MU could be freed for administrative purposes.

But the fact that students had little visible input in the decision — and the prospect that housing in the refurbished apartments would be more expensive than MU — raised questions about the way in which students made their views felt on housing issues.

To make sure that those needs are addressed now and in the future, a group has been formed — the Housing Planning Committee — to make recommendations to the vice chancellor of personnel and student services, Thena Trygstad.

Members of the 17-person committee include seven students, representatives from student government and residents of student housing. The committee is chaired by Janice Babula, assistant dean, Graduate Division, and includes representatives from the housing office, capital planning and student relations.

One of the committee's key jobs is to help plan the new student housing on Third and Fifth avenues. The low rent previously paid by Millberry residents cannot be maintained because the students are being moved out of "Group A" housing (built with UC systemwide bonds) and into buildings whose remodeling costs must be paid for by rents.

In addition, the new housing on the avenues is more luxurious — spacious apartments rather than cramped dormitory rooms. At the February meeting of the Housing Planning Committee, it was strongly suggested that students should be compensated for loss of low-rent housing by current and future occupants of the less expensive MU floorspace.

The Housing Planning Committee plans to advise the Vice Chancellor on what renovations would make the Third and Fifth Avenue residences most suitable for students. The Committee intends to question UCSF students as to what housing options they want.

A survey to be conducted this spring is likely to include questions such as:

· Would you prefer a dormitory style room to a room in a suite if this meant lower rent?

· Would you prefer a very small single room to sharing a room?

· Would you be willing to share a room in order to keep your rent to a minimum?

Other questions would be geared towards students who choose to live off campus.

Would they, for example, have benefited from a rental referral service accessible through the university? Were they made aware of the MU housing bulletin board prior to arriving in San Francisco?

The housing market The Housing Planning Committee is also considering the extent of the university's obligation to provide adequate student housing. UCSF provides housing for only 15 percent of its students, while other UC campuses attempt lo house 30-40 percent of their students.

At the moment, finding affordable housing is not a problem because of the “soft” housing market in San Francisco. Student housing is not fully occupied, especially single rooms, because apartments with comparable rent are available in the community.

But in the recent past, such housing was very difficult to find.

If rents in San Francisco were to rise again, the university would not be able to provide affordable housing for all who want it.

The administration is constrained by general campus space issues, community interests and cost ramifications. (The Turk St. residence was purchased when interest rates were high, and thus the university is not able to offer the apartments to students at lower rates.)

The most likely option for increasing university housing for single students would involve leasing buildings and/or clusters of apartments from local landlords.