UCSF: DON'T TAKE CITY FIRE PROTECTION FOR GRANTED!
The Westside Observer’s January 2021 article "Supes to Regents: Hold on a minute buckaroo!" isn't the whole story of the mishandling of public input and missed opportunity to draft a truly beneficial MOU between UCSF and the City. The whole process of receiving, recording and acting on public comment for either crafting the terms for the MOU or for discussing the many community impacts of UCSF's major expansion plans has been inadequate at every level.
UCSF Violated its own Rules
UCSF violated its own rules described in the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) Overarching Principles. UCSF is supposed to consult with the community before decisions are made "to intensify use of existing property because of potential negative effects of UCSF's development." When intensification happens, UCSF is to discuss and agree on impacts with the neighborhoods so that potential "cushioning actions" [including money] can be identified to offset those impacts. Then everything is documented in a formal agreement between UCSF, the community groups, and the City. This did not happen.
The Berkeley-UC Precedent
I was motivated by Mayor Breed's interest in drafting a new MOU between the City and UCSF that will describe the commitments of both parties and processes for moving forward. I was invited to participate by the LRDP Overarching Principle that values community consultation about UCSF's physical development plans for both on- and off-campus sites. I was encouraged to learn from Mayor Breed that the new MOU would be analogous with other campus-city agreements here and in nearby cities that deal with campus expansion plans. Then I was thrilled to read the City of Berkeley-University of California Agreement that included UC paying money every year to Berkeley for fire and emergency services and equipment, capital improvements, including maintenance and repair of equipment. The Berkeley Agreement is a precedent for the City to require UCSF to offset our currently unreimbursed City costs that will continue to mount as UCSF expands its population and physical structures.
... the City of Berkeley-University of California Agreement that included UC paying money every year to Berkeley for fire and emergency services and equipment, capital improvements, including maintenance and repair of equipment. The Berkeley Agreement is a precedent for the City to require UCSF to offset our currently unreimbursed City costs that will continue to mount as UCSF expands its population and physical structures”
Here is our chance with the MOU for the City to negotiate with UCSF to start paying for the currently free services provided by the San Francisco Fire Department after all these years! State institutions are exempt from paying property taxes by our state constitution. So, the normal way that taxes are collected to pay for city services does not apply to UCSF. They also benefit from improvements financed by our voter-approved General Obligation Bonds, but they do not pay anything towards the debt service on those bonds. So, the City should also ask UCSF to contribute funds to the general obligation bond project that expands the auxiliary water supply system (AWSS) of high pressure pipelines, hydrants, and non-potable water into the unprotected western parts of the city, so that the Parnassus Heights campus can be better protected from fires following a major earthquake.
In my nine-page public comment letter to the Planning staff in charge of collecting public requests for adding terms to the new MOU, I requested that the City negotiate with UCSF to compensate us for Fire Department fire protection services and contribute to the expansion of the AWSS network, which are a reasonable requests by the City. I also requested that UCSF require the City to prioritize protecting UCSF from major fires by completing the AWSS network and oceanside pump station by 2034 which is a reasonable request by UCSF. I provided detailed justifications for adding these issues as terms of the MOU and even cited enabling legislation that authorizes the City to impose a capital facilities fee on UCSF (Government Code Section 54999 et al).
Nothing happened. Planning acknowledged receipt of my comments but that was all. No mention of my requests at the community meeting, nor posting them on their website, much less including them in the 21-page MOU. Did Planning staff share my good ideas with Planning Director Hillis and Chancellor Hawgood? Was Mayor Breed sent a copy for her consideration? I don't think so. This is another example of the unsatisfactory public engagement referred to in Doug Comstock's Westside Observer article.
Sole and Absolute Discretion
To finish this travesty, I will quote from the draft MOU agreement. Section V. General Provisions, Subsection C. Other General Provisions, 1. Miscellaneous (c), "All approvals and determinations of [the] City ... under this MOU may be made in the sole and absolute discretion of the Director of Planning or the head of the City department with jurisdiction over the matter. Any request for approvals or consents under this MOU by the staff (as opposed to boards or commissions) of either party will not be unreasonably withheld." So, no elected official, including the Mayor, will be involved in approvals and determinations under the MOU, and staff are free to make requests for approvals or consents under the MOU. What could possibly go wrong?
UCSF does need to worry about how the Parnassus Campus will have adequate fire protection if both the AWSS westside pipeline and hydrant expansion project along with the project to supply unlimited water are not essential commitments for the City to complete. There is no agreement in place that requires the City to make suppressing catastrophic fires at or near the UCSF campus after a major earthquake a top priority and that the infrastructure and water are in place to ensure maximum protection. UCSF - don't take fire protection for granted!