What sets this woman apart from her classmates is not what happens in school, but what happens afterward. At night, when her friends go home to study, cook and shower, Amy N.– who asked that Xpress not use her full name because of the stigma– sleeps in her car.
“My family is especially concerned especially after my mom told my brother,” according to Amy, who said her brother worried about the long-term effects. “His idea is that you can only be successful if you have a stable place to stay.”
Amy’s situation is not unique. SF State students and faculty are feeling the impact of the city’s increasingly expensive landscape. In response to rising demand for on-campus housing, President Leslie E. Wong announced plans for a new housing development in University Park South, set to begin construction September 2016. The University has narrowed down their choices to four development teams, whose proposals for the project are due Oct. 15, according to the project’s request for proposals.
“There is no question that housing for students and employees is the number one issue on my desk,” Wong said.
“I jump from house to house,” Tescallo said. “I have three different friends (whose houses) I stay at regularly, and if none of them can house me during the week then I’ll go to another friend. Then, during the weekend I go back to Sonoma County and stay at my parents’ place.”
Because living on campus became too expensive, Tescallo said he was forced to look for more affordable housing. After searching unsuccessfully for more than four months, he said he had no choice but to couch surf.
As securing a place to live becomes more difficult, and SF State’s waitlist for student housing continues to grow, obtaining a spot on the list plays an increasingly vital role in many students’ decision to attend SF State, according to Porth.
“There’s that kind of threshold question: will they end up here?” Porth said. “If they’re not in student housing, which is more affordable, then they’re on the open market, living in situations where there’s a lot of students to a room. That clearly impacts quality of life, and I would imagine it impacts the ability to succeed academically.”
Phase one of the proposed on-campus housing project would overhaul the block at Cardenas and Varela avenues across from SF State into a mixed-use development, comprised of ground-level storefronts and approximately 90 units of student housing above the ground floor, according to the concept approval from California State University’s finance committee in March 2014.
Wong’s development would provide additional recreation space as well as housing for upper-division students, Porth said.
“The waitlists (for housing) here on campus are incredibly long, and we’re eager to help meet that demand,” Porth said. “There’s also a need (for) more campus amenities, places to meet up with friends and colleagues (that are) better than we currently have here, and this project would help fill that void as well.”
The project will be funded through a public-private partnership agreement, which places all financial, construction and management responsibility on the chosen developer, said Stephanie Thara, CSU Public Affairs Specialist. As per the CSU concept approval, SF State will provide a ground lease to UCorp, which will then sublease the parcel to the project developer, Porth said. The developer would then stand to earn income off the housing and retail rent on the project, as well as provide UCorp and the University a means to pay off bond debt that currently is owed on the parcel, according to Porth.
The four developers — Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions, Capstone Development Partners, Urban Pacific Properties and Integral — are required to outline their projected rent rates as part of the
proposal process due to the University Thursday, according to Porth. He stressed that the prices
would be below market rate.
“It will probably be comparable (to dorm rates) or a higher modest premium, given that it’s new
construction and it’s such a great location,” Porth said. “But one of the missions of this project is
to be able to provide additional housing stock for the campus community that’s affordable.”
If the development of the Varela and Cardenas block goes well, the University hopes to extend
construction to the rest of UPS, according to Porth.
“There are all kinds of needs that we have — space is tight here, so we need to make sure we’re
utilizing every parcel to its fullest capacity,” Porth said.
As part of District 7, SF State is represented on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by Supervisor Norman Yee, who said the struggle students face affording rent results from the city’s housing crisis.
“I had to work through college pretty much on my own, but the reality is, when I was going to college, I could work and pay for it,” Yee said. “Now, you can work two jobs and you still can’t pay for (rent).”
SF State students forced to sleep in their cars or couch surf is not a new, pressing issue, according to Yee, who said he remembers students sleeping in their cars while he was in school.“Students will do whatever they need to do,” Yee said. “That’s not the ideal situation, but a lot of that depends on what other resources you have.”
Sheila Tully, San Francisco’s chapter president of the California Faculty Association and SF State anthropology professor, said she has personally experienced the Bay Area’s housing crisis. Tully said after living in the same outer Richmond home for 28 years, where she and her husband raised her daughter, her family was suddenly evicted.
“That was our neighborhood; we knew the bankers, the tellers, the dry cleaners, the coffee shop,” Tully said. “We had pizza parties with our neighbors and the kids watched videos. (The eviction) was right up there with the death of my father as one of the most incredibly devastating experiences of my life.”
Salaries of SF State faculty and professors are insufficient to cover housing in the Bay Area, according to Tully, who said the CFA is currently fighting for a 5 percent increase in faculty pay in a collective bargaining agreement with the CSU, which is holding firm at 2 percent.
Matthew Silverman, an SF State lecturer in health and social sciences, said he endures a two-hour round trip commute every day from his parents’ house in Mountain View. He said the extra driving time is exhausting and makes it hard to pursue outside interests.