Concrete and Chainlink Aren’t Forest

Pad #4: “will have retaining walls removed (unless there are geologic or safety reasons for not removing the retaining walls), and will be planted to blend in with the forest.”

Ten years ago, on 18 January 2000, UCSF issued an agreement with the community about its intentions for the Aldea student housing. [Edited to Add: Here is the letter: Aldea Housing Agreement 2000 01]

One section is directly relevant here. It was going to knock down two old buildings on “pads #4 and #5” and return them to Open Space :

“The sites targeted for open space will have retaining walls removed (unless there are geologic or safety reasons for not removing the retaining walls), and will be planted to blend in with the forest.”

Sounds reasonable to us.

On June 14th, we got a message from UCSF:

“I am writing to notify you that beginning this week (Monday, June 14, 2010) a new chain link fence will be installed at the Aldea Housing area on the site of pad number 4…   Per UCSF’s agreement with the community,  pads 4 and 5 will be returned to the “Open Space Reserve” and pad 4 will now be used as a seed propagation area in order to grow plants that can be replanted throughout the Reserve.  The fence will be installed around the existing concrete foundation of pad 4 and will include two emergency exit gates and one drive through gate.” [ETA: It’s been built. See photograph.]

chainlink fence in Aldea

Chain link fence doesn’t blend…

How does this conform to UCSF’s agreement with the community? A chain link fence with three gates over a concrete pad doesn’t resemble “planting to blend in with the forest.”

And why were neighbors notified only when work was due to start?

This is area of the forest once formed a dense screen between the Aldea campus and the Forest Knolls area. In fact, the Aldea student housing was not visible from Christopher or Clarendon. (See map on left.)

Now, mainly as a result of the SFPUC project, that screen is in tatters, the housing clearly visible, and wind speeds higher. A gap has been slashed through the forest where the water line was laid (pink line). A new pump-house has been put in (pink blob) and the trees on that whole area removed.

We would hope that UCSF would actually, as per their agreement, plant trees that would blend into the forest and improve the density of the forest screen. (Pad #4 is the one circled in yellow, and pad #5 the one next to it.)

[Edited to Add: Pad #5 still has a building on it, apparently still in use. Pad#4 was knocked down earlier and was open as shown in the first picture.]

[ETA2: We found an August 2009 letter which said:  “The renovation of three of the five original housing units (Buildings 2, 3, and 5) are nearly complete and will be open for occupancy in the fall of 2009. These three buildings will contain a total of 42 one-bedroom apartment units for occupancy by single students.

“Future plans for the site of Building 4 will be to allow the area to return to its natural open space environment. Plans are currently underway to build a new community center on the site of Building 1 . Construction for the community center will begin in the fall of 2009 with a target completion date of summer 2010.”

So by this time, plans for Building #5 had already changed to renovation, not demolition (we’re not sure when or why); but Pad 4 was still supposed to “return to its natural space environment.”

Meanwhile, we received an e-mail from UCSF that said they would paint the fence brown and grown elderberries on it…

ETA 3: At the community meeting on 30 June 2010, Vice Chancellor Barbara French said that something had gone wrong with the process, and the project was now on pause. However, she was not clear whether the fence would be removed or not, nor whether the concrete would be removed.

Aldea Housing is increasingly visible

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