SAN FRANCISCO — Some Chinatown community groups calling themselves Friends of Education Opportunities in Chinatown demanded that Hilton Hotels stay out of the debate over City College of San Francisco’s proposed new Chinatown campus.
The Hilton Hotel’s financial district branch is in the neighboring lot to the proposed new campus. Concerns have been raised that the campus plans are too large for the area and do not reflect enough community input.
In a letter to Stephen Bollenbach, co-chairman and CEO of Hilton Hotels Corporation in Beverly Hills, the group asked him to “publicly clarify” his company’s position and meet with them.
The FEOC letter was signed by Chinese for Affirmative Action executive director Vincent Pan, former state deputy superintendent of schools Henry Der and I-Hotel housing activist Linda Wang.
The coalition has also gathered over 1,600 signatures supporting a permanent campus.
Frank Noto — spokesperson for San Francisco’s Justice Investors who own the property — said, “Justice strongly supports a new Chinatown campus for City College,” but not a 17-story building.
Justice Investors cited that City College could use two parcels they own to develop two low-rise buildings as “originally proposed” instead of “trying to ramrod” a 17-story building without “adequate notice.”
Hilton Hotels Corporation is not involved, said Noto. The Beverly Hills-based corporation did not respond to AsianWeek’s request for comment.
The 31-story hotel is across from a proposed 6,000-student campus at Kearny and Washington streets. Late last year, City College of San Francisco solicited input for a preliminary 17-story, 255-foot building at the site. The community college district is drafting an environmental impact report and mulling last year’s criticism of the building’s size and aesthetics.
For three decades, City College has worked to find a permanent site for ESL, citizenship and vocational classes, which are currently housed in a deteriorating and crowded site leased from the S.F. Unified School District.
College Board member Lawrence Wong said the district was trying to address the Hilton’s concerns with a new campus.
“It is disconcerting to us that the Hilton has taken it upon itself to hire an attorney, to hire lobbyists organizing in the community against our efforts, to hire paid petition-gatherers,” he said. “Those actions — more than any comments made — speak volumes about where they stand and what is going to transpire.”
A third group — Chinese Cultural Center Foundation’s Albert Cheng, attorney Doug Chan and office supplies retailer Clifford Waldeck — supports City College constructing two shorter buildings to ameliorate the impact of density, traffic and shadows in the neighborhood.
Cheng said his group is not associated with Hilton’s campaign.
“Located in a 31-story tall building, Hilton Hotel Financial District has the audacity, the nerve, the gall to mislead and stir dissension in the Chinatown community about a proposed [facility] that is much smaller in height. HHFD opposition is nothing short of unadulterated hypocrisy.”
— Henry Der, former deputy superintendent of public instruction
“We do oppose the proposed 238-foot, 17-story high rise, because it violates local zoning, cast shadows on Portsmouth Square … exceeds City height limits by more than 200 percent, and provides no parking or ground-level open space onsite.”
— Frank Noto, spokesperson for Justice Investors
“[The delay] may cost us as much as a half million dollars per month because of the increases in costs of steel, concrete and labor. … The true costs … [is] how many students will not be able to matriculate at an accessible Chinatown campus.”
— College board member Lawrence Wong, hoping to break ground for the campus in 2007