Affordable Student Housing Coming Soon to San Francisco State

By Eric Althoff

SAN FRANCISCO—Officials from San Francisco State University, alumni as well as personnel from McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. and EHDD Architecture were on hand this spring for a groundbreaking held for a new living-and-dining complex at SFSU’s West Campus Green (WCG).  The $179 million budget for the buildout is to be largely offset by $116.3 million funded by the State of California’s Affordable Student Housing grant program, designed to make public college living space throughout the Golden State more affordable.

The WCG entails two adjacent buildings, one a 120,000-square-foot, six-story residence hall, and the other a three-story, 50,000-square-foot facility that will be home to a dining commons and the Gator Health Center.  Residences are being designed around a pod concept wherein 12 rooms of three students each will utilize shared bathrooms and study areas.  In addition to providing a home for 750 first-year SFSU students, the WCG will include various other amenities such as psychological counseling services and a wellness center.

SFSU purchased the site from the San Francisco Unified School District in 2012, which required tearing down an older, unused building for the WCG.  A temporary fence has been placed around the construction site while the remainder of the campus facilities stay open during the ongoing work, which is anticipated to be complete by the fall of 2024.

The design-build team of McCarthy and EHDD is working to overcome all manner of challenges, not the least of which is a rather ambitious schedule of getting “heads into beds” for the 2024 academic year.

“To meet this tight deadline, we decided to split the project into separate buildings.  This allows the housing building to take off on its own schedule, undergo an efficient design process and get into the ground more quickly—while simultaneously dedicating time and resources to address the needs of the dining and health center,” said Jack Carter, McCarthy vice president.

He added that having able partners at SFSU and EHDD will ensure the project timeline is met.  “Our teams have been able to streamline reviews, approvals and authorizations to work on this project in multiple areas concurrently, furthering our efforts to bring the overall vision of the campus to life,” Carter said.

Project Design Lead and Principal at EHDD Lynne Riesselman said that the architect’s wishes for the WCG were that it would function not merely as a place for students to reside but also in which to build a thriving community—especially for first-year students who have never lived away from home before.

“To achieve this, we created a residence hall that will support all aspects of universal design to ensure equity and access to all students,” Riesselman said, adding that the pod concept “will give students more agency in how they spend time outside of their room.”

“A notable challenge we faced during the planning process for this project was figuring out a strategic way to bring both units of the Gator Health Center under one roof,” Riesselman added.  “One way of doing this is by deciding to pair the health program with the dining hall, an active hub of the project that we anticipate will generate energy and celebrate its connection to the courtyard. This makes the building a familiar place students are comfortable with [and] a place they visit on a day-to-day basis.”

At the groundbreaking ceremony, SF State Vice President of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management Jamillah Moore said that the project will add critical student affordable student housing in the notoriously pricey Bay Area of Northern California.

“When students have safe, stable and affordable housing, they are more likely to enroll, excel and graduate,” Moore said.