The growth and expansion of UCSF’s 107-acre Parnassus Heights Campus, which includes the 61-acre Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, was limited to a total of 3.55 million square feet of developed, non-residential space back in 1976, a limit which it has slightly exceeded by around 150,000 square feet.

But faced with an aging campus; a need for more clinical, research and administrative space (particularly in light of having offloaded their Laurel Heights Campus); and a shortage of housing for its students and staff, UCSF is positioning to amend its Long Range Development Plan to allow for another 2.05 million square feet of space to be developed across the Parnassus Heights Campus as massed and rendered by Perkins Eastman below.

In addition to 1.37 million square feet of net new clinical and research space, including a new hospital on the eastern edge of the campus, the proposed plan includes the development of 750 new housing units for students and staff, split between the Aldea Housing area near the top of Mount Sutro and along a restored 4th Avenue at the western side of the campus between Parnassus and Kirkham.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Comprehensive Parnassus Heights Plan (CPHP) will soon be released and UCSF is positioning for Board of Regents approval and a formal amendment to its Long Range Development Plan and current space ceiling by the end of this year.

And if all goes as planned, the ground for the new hospital building will be broken in 2022 and be construction complete in 2029 (keep in mind that the existing Moffitt Hospital needs to be seismically retrofitted or decommissioned for inpatient care by 2030), followed by future building(s) to the north and west.

68 thoughts on “UCSF’s Ambitious Plan to Expand Its Parnassus Heights Campus”
  1. That’s a LOT of new space for a hospital that just expanded into Mission Bay. As a resident of the neighborhood, I’m also not a fan of expanding what is already a massive campus looming over the homes/residents below.


    1. seriously, you dont like having a world class medical center “looming over” your house. Frankly, this is much more important than your house

      1. There’s reasonable development, and then there’s looming eyesores. That new triad tower on the western end is grossly out of scale, and will stand out for miles around, silohouetted against the preserve. I’m usually against NIMBY opposition, and the rest of the UCSF plan seems fine – but that tower has to go.

        1. The reason that high-density triad tower exists on the east (not west) side – and not appropriately nestled on the western edge of UCSF’s Mount Sutro property across multiple buildings, where renderings show a stepped-down cluster of lower-density buildings – is due to Inner Sunset septuagenarian and octogenarians that claim their OG HANC crowns as the “rightful” reps for the community, rail against the woes of dealing with any construction (worthwhile or not) in their self-delineated fiefdom, and boast of their home-ownership status and sub-$2K annual property taxes. These factors all culminated in their unique role serving as oligarcharchs on a UCSF Community Advisory Committee, set-up to determine UCSF’s long range development plans for Parnassus (albeit from an incredibly narrow lens).

          1. *Certainly don’t know what an oligarch-arch might be, but I definitely meant “oligarch”.

          2. The tower is on the east side because it’s the new hospital’s tower and must connect to the existing Hospital buildings.

  2. Someone bought a house in the area where the hospital campus already existed, and they thought the hospital would get smaller? Give me a break.

    1. Who said smaller? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take exception to an additional 2M square feet of development beyond the current “limit” of 3.6M square feet.

  3. The view and feelings of a rich liberal is more important than increasing healthcare supply to citizens.

    1. LOL, make generalized assumptions much?

      And if supplying healthcare is the concern, then maybe those healthcare services should be more broadly spread throughout the city – you know, like keeping the Laurel Heights campus open?!

      1. There are no healthcare services at the UCSF Laurel Heights campus. It’s purely research and administrative space.

        1. I seem to recall reading that UCSF had originally intended to have a lot more functions there, decades ago… but were defeated by NIMBYs.

          1. Laurel Heights was supposed to house UCSF’s School of Pharmacy; both the administration and labs. Only one wet lab and one NMR lab ever moved in before lawsuits stopped those plans. That lab was closed after a few years due to a personnel issue, and the NMR eventually moved to Mission Bay. A mishmash of administration was moved there over the years when no other space was available for the programs, but it was never fully utilized and cost a ridiculous amount of money to maintain the facilities as the building was in poor condition from the get go. UCSF has not unloaded it, it has been leased for 99 years. If UCSF sold it they would get no money from the sale as it would all go to UC’s Office of the President.

  4. Is there (offsetting) demolition, too ?? Note the sugar-cube building, prominent(ly in front of the new triskelion shaped building) in the rendering, but seemingly missing in the model.

    1. The “sugar cube” is a privately owned building that is primarily rented for medical offices. It is not part of UCSF.

    2. No, it’s still there – it’s brown in the model bc it’s an existing building (lower left).

      1. Thanks : I blew up the photo and you’re right (for some reason the ‘cube’ has some kind of shadow on it that camouflages it, but you’re correct it’s there…and it’s also outside the boundary dashing on the aerial)

  5. What with viral pandemics and rioting police officers brutalizing people protesting police brutality, we’re definitely gonna need a bigger hospital! Forget the increased housing, man, we need ICU’s STAT!

  6. Perfect location for expansion since it utlizes an existing campus and expands the square footage.

  7. As a liberal, but non-rich, San Francisco resident, I do agree with Anna and Michael’s sentiments.

    But I can’t tell whether or not this will be all infill or if they’ll be reducing green space to build more housing.

    I’m all for infill but against reducing our green space.

    And, it was UCSF’s own decision to sell-off their Laurel Heights campus instead of redeveloping it.

    1. It’s pretty clear what the new construction is – the white blocks in the model – which can be compared to the aerial shot: so medium sized blocks replacing somewhat smaller ones and the open spaces not reduced but reconfigured…which means few of those carbon-sequestering devices we call “trees” will make it thru (at least in the construction areas)

    2. While the boundaries would be adjusted, the intent is to maintain the current size of the 61-acre Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve. In addition, the plan includes new public (and private) open spaces and paseos between and atop buildings (as well as upgraded streetscapes along Irving, Parnassus and 4th Avenue).

  8. this is excellent news and much needed. We are blessed to have a top 5 US medical center in the US, but they cant stay that way with a small, old and dilapidated campus. hopefully there will be no opposition to this.

  9. What a wonderful project God knows we need a lot of healthcare and the place to do it and expand is at UCSF

  10. That hill is beautiful but UCSF is a great medical school with great people that does a lot for us and should be allowed to update their HQ whoever they need. But hopefully they plant new trees as part of this.

  11. i’m am most certainly not anti-development, but this expansion at Parnassus seems like a really bad idea.

    I lived in and around this neighborhood for 20 years, and Parnasus really doesn’t need any more traffic. The site is difficult to get to from other parts of the city. Why not expand down on Divis or in Mission Bay? They could have picked up the Kirkham project around the corner, for the housing, that would have netted almost 500Ksf and almost 500 units.

    I’m calling foul on UCSF.

    1. Completely disagree.

      – Death, taxes and concerns about traffic. Traffic is rarely an argument with merit.
      – Parnassus is already a major campus. Having more people co-located is more effective / convenient / efficient than spreading people out.
      – They are continuing to build out Mission Bay as well. There are plenty of under-developed lots there that are already earmarked for development. It will take them a few decades to fill it out completely most likely.

    2. seriously the traffic is 5x worse on Divis and in Mission Bay than Parnassus. they are also adding housing here so people can walk to school and their jobs. transportation to parnassus is better than most parts of the city. The NIMBYs are in full display on this thread. this is a world class institution and is something we should all support. it is literally crumbling and will need massive redevelopment to keep its status. they are bringing housing here which is desperately needed and not taking open space.

      1. There’s more traffic at Divis and Mission Bay because those areas are major transportation arteries and in my opinion the right spot for institutional development. The problem is they don’t own the land in that area.

        And just because someone is against a project doesn’t make them an NIMBY, that’s too easy of a dismissal. I’m certainly not a NIMBY. I fully supported the Kirkham project just around the corner and the other housing project on 7th Ave. Not many developments I don’t support.

        Parnassus has a beautiful campus with great views, but set right in the middle of residential area, I’d support additional density for housing, but not addition institutional program. That kind of use pulls regional workers not just local residents.

        To you point, about transportation, it is well served by the 43, 6 and the N, but it’s a long way from Bay Area suburbs to get on BART, to Muni.

        But to put this in perspective, 2Msf of additional are is 2/3s of the office space that’s being developed for the transbay, which has 3M of office space planned. That just doesn’t smell right to me.

  12. Economies of scale and network effects are powerful forces. Closing Laurel Heights and instead doubling down on Parnassus makes complete sense.

    750 units of housing feels a little light. Not that it will ever happen, but I’d be fine with the small outcropping of park east of Medical Center Way (far left of the top photo) being converted into a few new mid-rise residential buildings. Housing will always be a constraint to this campus. Between staff, grad students, visiting researchers and their families, it would be an asset. Worst case, rent it out!

    1. Uh, that outcropping of trees is Edgewood Ave. adjacent. I think you might do better swatting a hornets nest.

      1. Unless they’re murder hornets! Anyway, I don’t have a problem with this other than I wish there could be more housing. Doesn’t UCSF own some of the directly adjacent blocks? I had a physician there at one time and that is what he told me. If so could they not be developed (re-developed) to increase the housing? Insuring existing residents are given replacement housing.

  13. Not to mention UCSF is a public institution and has a fiduciary responsibility to the tax payers. Building in Mission Bay vs Building on a Hillside, I garuntee it’s less expensive to build the facility somewhere else, but I suspect land you own is cheaper than land you don’t own, but would love to see some of those metrics as well.

    1. Mission Bay is pretty much built out. Many remaining blocks are for housing. UCSF wanted to build higher there but Potrero Hill folks stopped that. There is no way the expansion proposed for Parnassus could be done, at this point, in MB. Basically It is allow for more UCSF medical research facilities in SF or see them go to other Bay Area locales These jobs would be well paying and provide a boost to the tax base at a time when we likely will see a big exodus of tech jobs from SF. It has already started. Last, there are issues with building at MB in terms of infill and such – not sure they are economically less demanding than building on the Sutro hillside.

      1. UCSF Mission Bay is 85% parking garages by volume. It’s not “built out” it’s just wasted.

  14. UCSF Parnassus is a major health science university campus with research, graduate education and an academic medical center.

    UCSF, like UCLA, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, etc, are structured with the hospital, research labs and education close to each other physically, culturally and operationally. Clinicians moving between bench and bed side are what fuel medical breakthroughs and a high level of patient care. In my view, this is why expansion at the existing campus is needed. Also, the hospital’s Moffitt tower is obsolete and has to be replaced with a new building. The hospital’s expansion must be directly adjacent to the existing on the only available site (at LPPI). Note, UCSF was on this site long before any residential development.

    Having said all this, how big is too big is a legitimate question. There are ongoing public meetings with UCSF to raise these issues.

    1. UCSF is by far the number 1 ranked medical facility on the west coast. we should do anything we can to help support their growth and the ability to keep medical research here. the entire biotech industry was created with the founding of genentech, by Herb Boyer, a UCSF scientist and Bob Swasnan, a VC. UCSF creates thousands of jobs, adds significant benefit to the community and the state, and indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of high paying biotech jobs in California. they’ve earned the right to do what they want at this location IMHO.

  15. Great idea! The City needs development in the Parnassus area. Great transportation already exists, and we need a great hospital/medical center to serve our part of the City. If Seton closes we will be even more dependent upon UCSF for the entire western half of the City. The only other remaining medical centers are at Kaiser, and you need to be a member to use their services.

    UCSF Parnassus has many great doctors, nurses and researchers doing valuable work for our area, and for the world. Let them grow and modernize to help all of our healthcare in the future.

  16. Love to see the hideous parking garage right by the Irving and Arguello N stop turned into something better. I hope they work with the city on street changes to make the N faster and more reliable, and biking safer and more comfortable, so as to meaningfully improve the somewhat car-centric (by SF standards) nature of this campus.

    1. The parking garage is used almost exclusively by patients, visitors, and clinical faculty, many of them coming from far beyond the Bay Area. UCSF effectively discourages staff commuting by making it too expensive and providing better alternatives, i.e. commuter buses, van pools, locked bicycle parking, and subsides for public transit. In my 45 year working there, I can’t readily recall any of my staff or colleagues who commuted by private car on a regular basis.

  17. its funny to hear people say the expansion is “out of proportion” with the neighborhood.

    When the first campus was built in 1907, it was definitely “out of proportion” with the neighborhood, as there was no neighborhood there. What about the people that decided to build homes and live right near a major academic medical center, and now worry that it causes too much traffic?

    After 110 years, you would think that a major building comes to define the neighborhood, and anyone that moved in after, shouldn’t really be surprised by the size and scale?

    Imagine building/buying a home next an existing major sports arena. There are 200 events a year. They decide to increase to 250 events a year, and everyone cries foul: oh no, the traffic! the riff raff! How dare they host more events next to my house? 250 events is out of proportion for my neighborhood! We were only built for 200!

    1. Great point. It’s a testament to the primacy of the homeowner in California. People buy a house and then think they have the permanent right to veto any change to the neighborhood. Not how it should work… but you almost can’t blame people for trying, seeing as how the beautifully designed Kirkham Heights redevelopment was senselessly defeated.

      I do love the gripe about it being “already a massive campus looming over the homes/residents below.” That really takes it to the next level. Some of these people would actually prefer if the whole campus were demolished and replaced by single-family homes. The mind boggles.

  18. UCSF is scheduled to publish the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on this project at the end of the week. It is supposed to discuss construction, population, transportation and other impacts.

  19. I am as much a traditionalist as anyone, but UCSF needs to be modernized, and this is a thoughtful and prudent approach. Unlike the medical centers of Duke or Stanford, this campus is not surrounded by acres of university land. The hospital on Parnassus does not meet current American standards at many levels, and anyone who has been an in-patient there recently can confirm this. The doctors are great and the buildings are awful. This is an essential development, and while there can be adjustments, we in San Francisco and all of the west should welcome it.

  20. So the homeowners high on a hill cheefully vote for politicians filling every *other* corner of the city with homeless blight, feces and crime that benefits no one, yet complain about the visual and traffic inconvenience of modernizing a facility that unarguably benefits the entire city, including themselves. Why would anyone listen to them?

    The rest of the city should make a ballot initiative to build a 16-lane freeway straight up the hill so that they can never complain about traffic ever again.

  21. Will the new Parnassus facility be designed with infection control distancing and protected spaces in mind, or will it be just like mission bay, with its open floor plans and general lack of walls separating large numbers of employees?

  22. Part of me wants to support more medical research, but overall I can’t condone the reduction of any more green space in American cities. This seems very shortsighted to me.

  23. Having worked on a Parnassus UCSF project – and being a neighbor – I fully support. UCSF is going above and beyond playing by the rules trying not to reduce the amount of existing green space, while trying to keep neighbors happy. Many of the existing buildings there are just falling apart and are clunkers. Replacing a bunch of them will only help attract highest caliber students researchers and doctors. They are doing a ton to help green and improve the streetscape along parnassus.

  24. My family and I have lived in the Parnassus Heights neighborhood for 15 years and we are deeply concerned by UCSF’s proposed Parnassus Heights campus expansion.

    UCSF is proposing to unilaterally violate its 1976 “permanent” space cap commitment (which UCSF and current Chancellor Sam Hawgood reaffirmed in 2014) by building 1,500,000 sq. ft. of additional space on the campus. That’s a Salesforce Tower of additional square footage beyond the space cap.

    These new buildings would encroach into the Mt. Sutro Open Space Preserve, bring 10,000 more people a day to the Parnassus campus, and create significant negative impacts on numerous surrounding communities.

    My fundamental issue is the way in which UCSF’s proposed expansion completely ignores the space cap commitment. The space cap commitment was meant to address the very real and important issue of growing an institution of UCSF’s magnitude on a small campus in a neighborhood composed primarily of residences and community green space. These considerations are still valid today, and if anything, the growth of the city has made those concerns even more pressing.

    UCSF’s entire proposed building project is contingent upon UCSF unilaterally violating this 44-year-old commitment. If UCSF believes that the terms of the space cap commitment need to be modified, then UCSF should sit down with the community stakeholders and negotiate a new commitment in good faith.

    However, UCSF has ignored the space cap commitment entirely, initially acting in bad faith by hiding the size and scale of its building plans, and instead focusing its disingenuous community outreach on trying to mitigate community opposition with small concessions. I feel that the community outreach UCSF is doing now is irrelevant until the University reaches out to the community and addresses the issue of reneging on the space cap commitment.

    I understand and sympathize with UCSF’s urgent need to grow as an institution. However, the space cap wasn’t created based on the needs of the university, it was created to address the physical limitations of the Parnassus campus and its impacts on the surrounding communities. The space cap was in no way arbitrary, as Chancellor Sam Hawgood himself has suggested.

    The original space cap commitment is still in effect and must be adhered to. Therefore, UCSF either needs to bring its proposed project into compliance with the agreement, relocate the project, or renegotiate the space in good faith with community stakeholders.

    I implore the SF Planning Commission to prevent UCSF from disregarding its space cap commitment to the City of San Francisco, from building into Mt. Sutro Open Space, and from completely steamrolling the communities surrounding the Parnassus Heights campus.

    1. Don’t forget to bring this treatise to the UN as well.

      Maybe instead of just “understanding and sympathizing” with the University’s need for extra space you could even suggest where else that space would go!

      1. That’s UC’s Problem – to plan ahead. So long as your asking for suggestions:
        Maybe they should buy back the Laurel Heights property.
        CPMC in Pacific Heights is virtually abandoned.
        UCSF also has underutilized property on and around Mt. Zion campus.

        1. I’ll add to that list – I think the Presidio Trust still needs a big anchor where they rejected Lucas’s museum – and that would get hospital services on the north side of the City.

          Or how about becoming part of the Park Merced redevelopent?

          For that matter, there are UC schools everywhere … and Stanford medical facilities outside P.A. … so how about UCSF put a medical facility in Oakland, and help the underserved community.

          To be clear, I like UCSF Parnassus, and they literally saved my life. But that doesn’t mean that a Salesforce Tower’s worth of additional space – and thousands of more trips per day to the campus – should be whitewashed and accepted without examination.

          1. Disagree with you about The Presidio. There’s already a lot of traffic through it, and an “anchor tenant” as you’ve described would overwhelm the roads throughout the park.

          2. research institutions draw talent by close proximity to other talent and ability to work in a hospital, lab and other facilities in the same location. if they were just building another clinic, maybe that would work but they are updating the entire research institution.

    2. 15 years is a long time. Maybe it’s time to find a new neighborhood that better suits your need to not be near any progress?

      1. What a condesending and presumptive response. sockettome presented a detailed response (that even acknowledged UCSF’s expansion needs), and all you can do is be dismissively insulting?

    3. a lot changes in 44 years. its just amazing that they are only updating the space cap after 44 years. this should move forward ASAP and individual homeowners should have no say

  25. Looks like a fairly sensitive build. Whatever “shadow fan” (I love that word) there is probably matches that of the hill closely. The hospital desperately needs to be modernised, and it includes housing so that care providers can be close to their patients. The location is on a Muni line (unlike their other sites). A world class hospital is a good neighbor – your property values will go up. Also, when you get sick and find yourself needing to go into the hospital for infusions a couple times a week, you really want to head over to Mission Bay? I cannot imagine opposition to this, but this is San Francisco.

  26. Let’s not forget that the UC Trustees were within a couple of days of voting to abandon San Francisco and move lock, stock, and barrel to Harbor Bay Isle in Alameda because of the NIMBY opposition they faced at every turn at Parnassus. Fortunately, Willie Brown pulled a rabbit out of a hat and Catellus gave UC 40 acres at what was to become Mission Bay.

    Mission Bay bought UC some time, but it was never going to be large enough. Institutions, like cities, must grow and change and adapt, otherwise they whither and die. Anyone who bought nearby and thought the institution would not eventually expand was smoking something.

    1. +1 Jim.
      You really cant purchase a home next to a 110 year old institution, one of the leading academic medical centers in the country, with a $6bn annual budget, and expect it to never change.

  27. The article in the SF Chronicle this morning, about the threat by UCSF to destroy its famous murals is distressing. It was disingenuous (or worse) for the spokesman to say that UCSF is a public university and could not use taxpayer money to save the art. UCSF has huge private resources and many people have advocated for it to become a private institution. It receives only a small proportion of its support from the state. Even those of us who strongly support the redevelopment (as I do and posted earlier) will be appalled if UCSF destroys such important historical art.

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