UC Hastings received the Bro. Kelly Cullen Community Service Award May 17, 2013 from Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation for its contributions to the Tenderloin neighborhood, including long participating in TNDC’s Tenderloin After-School Program and involvement of the college’s Civil Justice Clinic in local issues.
“UC Hastings is a community partner and institutional anchor in the Tenderloin,” said UC Hastings CFO David Seward. “Like TNDC, we too seek to promote a vibrant, just and more livable community. UC Hastings is part of the fabric of the Tenderloin, and our students, faculty, and staff contribute to its improvement in numerous ways. In part because of TNDC’s success, we have a neighborhood where people of all social and economic strata can live. We need to transform it into a neighborhood where people of all social and economic strata want to live.”
Don Falk, executive director of TNDC, noted that UC Hastings has provided student tutors for TNDC’s afterschool program through the college’s work-study program for a dozen years. “Some 100 to 150 students have played crucial roles in that program and brought important benefits to the children and youth of the Tenderloin.”
The college’s Civil Justice Clinic, led for the last 20 years by Professor Mark Aaronson, has played a leading role in changing the direction of several projects affecting the Tenderloin, including California Pacific Medical Center’s plans to expand facilities on the west side of town while curtailing service to low-income residents served at its St. Luke’s facility. Additionally, several law professors have contributed by serving as board members of TNDC, Falk said.
Falk also noted that Seward has taken an active interest in the Tenderloin, serves on the boards of local organizations, and is genuinely concerned about the neighborhood. “The college engages with the neighborhood, instead of turning its back on it, ignoring it,” Falk said. “UC Hastings is more a part of the neighborhood as a result of David Seward’s activisim.”
Falk noted the award is especially meaningful, given UC Hastings’ sometimes rocky relationship with its neighbors over the years, including TNDC, particularly over its ownership of several SROs (Single Room Occupancy hotels) and its plan to demolish those for a large-scale commercial project.
As a state entity, UC Hastings is not subject to local ordinances such as zoning laws, rent control, and the city’s SRO Hotel Conversion Ordinance, which protects such housing from conversion into tourist hotel rooms or other commercial uses.
After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, UC Hastings demolished two residential hotels, citing the extent of the damage as the basis, and tried to pursue plans for a large commercial project on what was known as the West Block, now the site of the UC Hastings parking garage. Initially, the college hoped the site would be used for a new city and county courthouse or large commercial project.
A coalition of neighborhood groups, including TNDC, sued UC Hastings. The lead attorney, Marcia Rosen ‘75, then deputy director of the San Francisco Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, led the negotiations to open the process to the public and preserve the Tenderloin’s vulnerable housing stock, and they persuaded UC Hastings to scale down its plans and adopt a less aggressive development plan. In the process, the college sold two of the remaining SRO hotels it owned to TNDC, 250/260 McAllister Street, preserving that housing.
For a time, the negotiations were marked by student and neighborhood protests and raucous public meetings, one of which resulted in the arrest of then Supervisor Chris Daly in 2002 after a confrontation with police. No charges were filed.
“I am an eternal optimist about the struggle for justice and things getting better, and to that extent it is a pleasant surprise to come full circle on UC Hastings and to be able to recognize the positive things they have done for the community, after many years of criticizing them for things they did wrong or didn’t do at all,” Rosen said.
UC Hastings Chancellor & Dean Frank H. Wu, who accepted the award with CFO Seward, agreed with Rosen about the importance of looking forward to good relationships between UC Hastings and the neighborhood. "UC Hastings is proud to call the Tenderloin our home," he said.
Rosen presented the award to UC Hastings at TNDC’s 32nd Annual Birthday Dinner May 17 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. The award is named after Brother Kelly Cullen, a Franciscan monk who, as executive director, turned TNDC into one of the city’s largest developers of low-cost housing. TNDC now owns and manages more than 2,500 units for low-income residents. He died unexpectedly at age 57 in 2010.