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San Francisco mayoral candidate proposes university campus to revitalize downtown

For years now, San Francisco has been trying to figure out how to draw people back to the city’s embattled downtown corridor, and the idea to attract a university campus seems to be gaining steam — at least with one supervisor who is also running for mayor. 

Supervisor Ahsha Safai says he now wants to create an investment fund to lure a college, and help revitalize the city’s core.

He said he wants the city to be among those that are taking advantage of the local commercial real estate slump.

Safai points to the recent private purchase of the David Hewes building on Market Street for the bargain basement price of just under $7 million.

He says the deal shows there could be real opportunity for reimagining the city’s core.    

“So, we’re proposing today a downtown educational zone. We’re going to create a fund that includes city money, that includes the ability to go out and get philanthropy, and private foundation dollars, to purchase buildings in the downtown,” Safai said.

The mayoral candidate says his proposal would be aimed at trying to get a public university to move to downtown.   

If this is an idea that sounds familiar, it is.

Mayor London Breed has been pushing a plan to attract a historically Black college or university to the city’s downtown corridor.

In February, she hosted leaders from several HBCUs in an effort to move that plan forward.

“What this looks like long term is a real possibility to have historically Black college campuses, right here in San Francisco where they are choosing to lease space specifically in our downtown area,” she said on Feb. 2.

Safai’s plan differs because he’s proposing to buy properties rather than ask universities to lease them from existing owners.

His proposal was introduced during Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting.

At least one other mayoral candidate, Daniel Lurie, has also talked about trying to get a university campus downtown.

Candidate Mark Farrell’s campaign declined to comment on the idea.

But aids for fellow board member, and mayoral hopeful, Aaron Peskin voiced immediate skepticism.

With one of his legislative aids saying even though she hasn’t seen Safai’s plan, there are issues with the city facing a difficult budget year.

Jim Stearns, a member of the Peskin for Mayor campaign voiced similar skepticism saying, “It’s going to be very difficult when you have real programs on the chopping block to set aside any money for a vague idea.”

Safai says he’s hoping to establish a $20 million fund for his plan.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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