Campus Remembers Longtime Community Adviser

By Lisa Cisneros

By Lisa Cisneros Sue Bierman, who died Monday in a car crash in Cole Valley, is remembered for her work as a founding member of the UCSF Community Advisory Group (CAG). Bierman, 82, a former San Francisco supervisor and member of the Planning Commission who still served on the Port Commission, was a charter member of UCSF's CAG. Bierman, who lived nearby on Shrader Street, began serving on the CAG in 1992 and continued to serve on the CAG as a fierce advocate for maintaining the unique character of San Francisco's neighborhoods. After a period of difficult relationships with surrounding neighborhoods, UCSF formed the CAG in 1992 to foster an ongoing and candid dialogue with representatives of neighborhood, civic, ethnic, labor and business groups. Today, the CAG and its committees with representatives from various neighborhoods, including those surrounding the Mount Zion and Mission Bay campuses, are partners helping to guide the growth of the University. Bruce Spaulding, vice chancellor of University Advancement and Planning, credits Bierman and the CAG for helping improve relations between the community and UCSF. The CAG has proven to be an effective vehicle to build trust and understanding with neighbors. Spaulding says that Bierman was "a dear friend who will be greatly missed. We, at UCSF, are proud of pointing out how we have turned around our relationship with our neighbors from one of hostility to one of cooperation. From the late 1980's, Sue has been a mentor who played a pivotal role in this transformation."

Bruce Spaulding, vice chancellor for University Advancement and Planning, points to features of UCSF's first research building at Mission Bay at a meeting of the Community Advisory Group. Pictured from left, are Gloria Bonilla, Steve Arcelona, Phil DeAndrade, a resident of Mission Creek, Sue Bierman, then a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Elaine Johnson.
Photo/Chris T. Anderson

In an interview before she retired, Irene Agnos, former associate vice chancellor of University Relations, explained her idea of the CAG. "Instead of nominating supporters of UC to the CAG, we looked for reasoned folks who are respected in the community, and who are able to take the information we present and come up with an opinion to help guide the growth and development of UCSF," she said. "The results have been spectacularly successful. Their feedback and advice may not always be what we want to hear, but what we have to hear." Indeed, Bierman was chosen to serve on the CAG because of her passion for protecting neighborhoods around Parnassus, says Barbara Bagot-Lopez, who has worked for UCSF's Community and Governmental Relations since 1990. She recalled a story about how Bierman tied herself to a tree to prevent expansion of the freeway into the Golden Gate Park Panhandle. Bierman was one of the key community leaders who persuaded UCSF to accept an agreement to limit the growth of its flagship Parnassus campus. UCSF's growth at Parnassus Heights is limited by the space ceiling restriction negotiated by the UC Board of Regents and the State Legislature in 1976. Under that agreement, UCSF cannot build any new facilities without demolishing existing facilities of equal size first. "She always worked to keep us on our toes," said Bagot-Lopez. "That's exactly why we have a CAG." Bagot-Lopez's experience with Bierman began long before they used to meet at community meetings at UCSF. "I met Sue in 1977 when she championed my neighborhood group's cause -- Bernal Heights' fight against gentrification -- as a city planning commissioner. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and the scores of San Franciscans who will feel the loss of this great San Francisco hero." Links: "Ex-Supervisor, 82, crashes her car, dies"
San Francisco Chronicle