Noe Valley Voice October 2000

City College Wreaks Havoc on Parking Near James Lick

By Suzanne Herel

What began as a temporary relocation of a City College campus to James Lick Middle School this summer has turned into a parking nightmare, neighbors say.

Some residents have rearranged work schedules to return home before the 6:30 p.m. classes. Others spend up to 30 minutes each evening searching for a place to park -- and then walk blocks to their homes.

Make no mistake: Parking along the streets bordering James Lick -- Noe, 25th, Clipper, and Castro -- has never been easy. But add 450 students per day and the situation becomes intolerable.

"We expected to live across from a school, not from two schools," said Dave O'Donnell, a Noe Street resident. "If I don't get home by 6:15 p.m., I'm out of luck."

O'Donnell's wife, a nurse, switched to a 6 a.m. shift to avoid parking hassles. The couple's downstairs neighbor, who commutes down the Peninsula, now stays at the office until 9:30 p.m.

O'Donnell has been contacting local politicians and school officials, trying to secure a promise that the Castro/Valencia Campus will return to its former home at Everett Middle School when renovations there are finished.

His next step will be to circulate a petition among his neighbors.

"I would never have raised a fuss if we'd been told," O'Donnell said. "But to just dump 450 people a night on a neighborhood is unfair."

Bruce Smith, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and head of the Castro/Valencia Campus, said he empathizes with the residents. His staff urges students to take public transportation, or to use the school parking lot, which can hold an estimated 180 cars.

Smith admits, however, that street spaces, which are not restricted by time or permit, have proven to be more attractive than the lot, whose exit gets clogged when classes end at 9:30 p.m.

But, he said, there's only so much he can do.

Smith said he himself only found out about the venue switch three days before the summer class schedule went to press.

"Had we notified the residents, what would have been different?" he asked.

"I was a little bit surprised by the complaints," he added. "I would have thought parking was already an issue here, being so close to 24th Street."

Smith wasn't pleased with the relocation either, primarily because Everett, on Church near 17th, is better equipped to accommodate students with disabilities. He expects the Castro/Valencia Campus to return there after the spring semester, or at the latest, after the 2001 summer session. However, the decision is up to the San Francisco Unified School District.

City College is paying the district about $30,000 to use James Lick for the fall and spring semesters. The campus offers classes in foreign languages, history, the arts, life planning, and other disciplines four nights a week and on Saturdays.

Such offerings are valuable to the neighborhood, said James Lick Principal Janice Daniels. "The convenience and low cost of the classes make them accessible," she said. "The campus is here for everyone."

Daniels, who is in her first year at James Lick, said she understands the neighbors' complaints. But, she said, the residents know they live near a school, which often holds evening programs such as PTA meetings.

"I don't even have a parking spot. I'm in the next county," she joked. "But if you have to walk a bit, well, we all need the exercise."