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Neighborhood / Campus History

Evolution of Campus
The area that the campus now occupies underwent rapid development in a 25-year period beginning in the late 1930s. The State of California acquired the land in 1939, following the introduction of the “M” streetcar line along 19th Avenue and the construction of Lake Merced Boulevard, whose original alignment made a pronounced eastward jog to avoid the northeast arm of the lake. The University’s earliest temporary buildings and athletic fields replaced farmland. The campus remained largely in this form during the first decade.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, construction exploded on and around campus. SFSU saw the construction of the campus core, while Parkmerced and Stonestown were fully completed by the end of the decade. New buildings continued to replace the older temporary structures, as the 1960s and 1970s saw the campus receive its first dormitories, a student center, two library expansions, and a pair of towering new science buildings. Even the valley, a remnant of the former stream canyon, had accumulated several structures. The last 15 years on campus have seen development across all building types, including an expansion in student housing, new academic and student support facilities, and an ongoing program of seismic upgrading of the University’s building stock.

A series of historical maps showing the evolution of the campus from 1935 to present

Barbara Holtzman, Professor, Department of Geography and Human Environmental Studies, SFSU, The Biogeography of Lake Merced, 2005.
John Westfall, Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography and Human Environmental Studies, SFSU, San Francisco State University: An Air-Photo History of the Lake Merced Campus, 1999.
San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan, 2005.

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