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Posted 12:36 pm
August 26, 2014

Wong seeks funds for new facility, considers demolition of Science Building

President Leslie E. Wong announced Monday that SF State may soon look toward private or public sources to fund the construction of a new, 200,000 square-foot science building on 19th Avenue and Buckingham Way within five to six years.

With support from city officials and California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White, Wong plans to establish what he said could be the only scientific research facility in San Francisco, and one where students and faculty could work alongside industry professionals.

“Whether we demolish or not, we haven’t made that decision yet,” said Wong of the current Science Building, which he added has become unsuitable for science classes. “But we’re not gonna even think about rehabbing it, remodeling it, fixing it, etcetera.”

The announcement follows almost two months of remediation completed on the Science Building, where SF State officials have been working under deadline to abate several health and safety violations after California knocked the university with nine citations and a $4,765 fine July 1, according to campus officials.

“The university considers all violations important,” said Ron Cortez, vice president and chief financial officer of administration and finance, “regardless of the penalty amount and relative rarity of such violations.”

At the start of summer, the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal/OSHA) cited SF State for a lack of maintenance on hazards within the Science Building and for a shortage of safety trainings and warning signs for employees who worked near asbestos, according to Sheila R. Tully, president of California Faculty Association (CFA) campus chapter.

“My understanding is the goal was to get (repairs) done by this semester,” said Wong, though two violations remain unresolved in the building. “We’re well underway there. I don’t know for a fact that it’s done, but I know they’ve been working pretty diligently.”

In compliance with an initial 30-day deadline given by inspectors, the university worked to complete three outstanding violations, which included the provision of asbestos awareness training for employees before Aug. 6, according to Cortez.

Cal/OSHA has awarded the university an additional 30 days, into September, to abate the two unfinished violations; signs warning of asbestos and the confirmation and location of asbestos in the Science Building, according to Cortez.

“Regulations require that locations and quantities of asbestos be determined,” said Tully, who added that of the nine citations, two were asbestos related. “This needs to be done in the Science Building as well as in other buildings on campus.

Cal/OSHA met with SF State officials, CFA and union representatives from other colleges at a closing conference July 1, where inspectors issued the general citations against the university.

Several of the violations had been abated by SF State prior to the conference, which included the clean up of surfaces where lead was detected, according to Tully.

At the conference, inspectors also reported that investigations provided no evidence linking elevated levels of mercury in the Science Building to the anthropology department, according to Tully.

“There was no evidence to indicate a definitive source. However, the inspectors were very clear that it was not anthropology,” Tully said when asked of the presence of mercury in rooms used by the anthropology department as reported by an environmental consultant in January.

Not unlike the statements of university contractors in February, inspectors from Cal/OSHA said at the end of the conference that the health of employees who worked in the Science Building before its closure was not at risk, according to the email from Tully.

For exclusive background information on the Science Building shutdown, visit Xpress’ article, Minimal Exposure: Piecing Together a Broken Science Building, at http://www.goldengatexpress.org/2014/03/05/minimal-exposure/.

Additional reporting by Thomas De Alba