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UC Hastings Law School to Construct New Building
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Snodgrass Hall, a building that UC Hastings Law plans to tear down to make room for new buildings.

Summary: UC Hastings Law School has exciting plans to revamp and expand its campus.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, UC Hastings College of the Law has daydreamed of a more beautiful campus for the past six decades. According to Wikipedia, the school was founded in 1878 and was the first law school of the University of California. Its Tenderloin location has been less glamorous than other law school campuses, as it lacked manicured landscaping and impressive libraries.


However, the Tenderloin area is being revamped, and the law school plans to take advantage of it. New housing, boutique hotels, and tech firms are moving into the area. The law school has submitted plans for a new academic building and a residential hall for students.

If the proposal is approved, Hastings will construct an academic building on a vacant lot located at 333 Golden Gate Avenue. The school’s original facility was housed in Snodgrass Hall, a building opened in 1953 that is located at 198 McAllister Street. Snodgrass Hall would eventually be demolished so that a new tower with 400 residential student units could be built.

In 2013, the school created a fellowship that allowed students to work in nonprofit and government agencies that proved successful.

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Bruce Simon, an alumnus of the school who is a member of the board of directors, said, “I’ve never seen a revitalization around Hastings like the one that is going on now. It’s important that Hastings keep up with the neighborhood, especially since the school is so central to that part of town.”

Although it’s just the beginning of the process, Governor Jerry Brown is already on board. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 included $38 million for construction, and another $7 million to renovate the annex, which is a portion of Snodgrass Hall that would not be torn down.

David Seward, the chief financial officer of Hastings, said that Snodgrass Hall has only a few years of “life” left since its plumbing, electrical, hot water, and HVAC systems all need replacing. The building, which houses about 83 percent of the campus’ classrooms, would cost about $39 million to repair, which is about the same as constructing a new building altogether.

Seward explained, “The law school environment is a very competitive one. Having a building where the AC system may not work in two or three years is not acceptable.”

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For some, the new construction ideas are ironic. In 2002, neighborhood activists fought the school when it wanted to build a parking garage on Larkin Street. The activists argued that housing should be built instead that would accommodate local residents and students. At the time, the school said it was not in the “housing business” and went ahead with construction of the garage. At the time, a protest was held that ended with many arrests, including that of then-Supervisor Chris Daly.

In November, Arizona State University broke ground on its new law school building.

The school currently provides housing for a fifth of its students, who live in “the Tower” at 100 McAllister. At the new residential hall, some space would likely be leased to UCSF students.

Students have a difficult time finding housing in the city. Joy Sui, the president of the law school student body, said that most students “go onto Craigslist and hope for the best.” She added, “Law school is an expensive endeavor. Having to compound tuition with (market) rent is a heavy burden to take on when you are a new student and don’t know if you are going to be able to capitalize on your degree yet.”

Affordable housing in the Tenderloin, Mid-Market, and lower Nob Hill areas is also no longer a possibility. Seward explained, “Hastings students, just like UCSF students, are competing against the same kids who work for Twitter, Zendesk and are getting healthy paychecks. We cannot allow that barrier to access to deter students from attending the school.”

Randy Shaw, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic Executive Director who opposed the construction of the garage in 2002, said that the school has “done a 180” under Seward. He credited the school with bringing three new tenants to the garage’s ground floor: Philz Coffee, Subway, and Golden Era, a vegan restaurant. Additionally, the school is building a $2.2 streetscape improvement on McAllister Street that will provide wider sidewalks, new greenery, and new lighting. Of Snodgrass Hall, Shaw said, “That building was garbage when I started law school there in 1979, and 30 years later it’s no better. All of Hastings’ buildings are terrible.”

Supervisor Jane Kim, a representative of the area, said that Snodgrass Hall was a “walled-off fortress” to keep street life out. She said, “I’m most excited that Hastings is looking at designs that are more transparent with glass and light, which will support public safety and activity at the street level.”

Here are 50 of the best law school buildings.

The up and coming Tenderloin area offers advantages to new law students, according to Seward. “For students who want rolling green hills, UC Davis is fine. If you want an urban dynamic where there are opportunities to get involved in real law right outside your door, that’s where we come in. The students who elect to come to Hastings have the opportunity to participate in the real world—the good and the not so good.”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

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