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The controversial decision to build an eight-story garage on its property in San Francisco was rescinded Wednesday by the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law’s board of directors, and a committee was named to look into alternatives. The five-person committee will be headed by Joseph Cotchett, former Hastings College of the Law board member and managing partner of San Mateo, Calif.-based Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy. Before approving a motion to withdraw plans for the garage, board members voiced bitter disappointment at the power wielded by state Sen. John Burton, who fired off an angry letter to the college after the garage decision was announced earlier this month. Board Chairman James Mahoney said Burton had the power to take funding away from the college. “We cannot risk losing the state’s funding for Hastings, which is 45 percent of our budget,” said Mahoney. “We have no choice but to rescind our decision.” Board member Blaine Pettitt likened Burton’s actions to “political blackmail” and “political thuggery.” Wednesday’s decision caps a tumultuous set of events for the normally quiet law school. Earlier this month the board had decided to proceed with plans for an 885-space garage, but not before community members and neighborhood activists staged a rowdy sit-down protest that resulted in 11 arrests. Compared to previous meetings, Wednesday’s gathering was downright sedate. About 25 people showed up to hear the board’s decision, and most were quiet during the 45-minute meeting. Hastings took extra precautions, with police and security officers going through purses and bags before letting people enter. A sign at the entrance told audience members that bullhorns and whistles — which were in evidence at the last meeting — were prohibited. Prior to giving audience members a chance to talk, board member John Knox asked if any of the previous meeting’s protestors were present. “We shouldn’t even entertain people who break the law,” he said. There were, in fact, a handful of people present who were part of the fray at the earlier meeting, but they remained sitting quietly this time. San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, who was arrested at the June 7 meeting, did not attend. Knox said the school’s decision to withdraw the garage proposal was because of the “political actions of a prominent member of the Legislature” and not because of the riots at the last meeting. Board member Brian Monaghan agreed. “I object to this, and I will rule against it. I cannot abide by this; we did the best job we could,” said Monaghan. Board member Eugene Freeland had a different take. “This is indeed a painful motion, but you can always learn something new,” he said. “We should always welcome additional input.” The board voted 4-1 to rescind the decision, with Monaghan voting against it. Dean Mary Kay Kane said that along with Cotchett, the committee will include two Tenderloin neighborhood leaders. The three remaining spaces were to be filled with people not employed by the city or the college. Pettitt again voiced his frustration, this time with the creation of the committee. “I think it’s a mistake to set up a high-profile committee to take shots at us. I have no faith in San Francisco politicians or this neighborhood,” said Pettitt. “Blaine, I ask you to consider turning the other cheek on this — you never know what you might learn that is acceptable to us and to our neighbors,” said Freeland. Pettitt agreed to the committee, but said he was voting “with great reluctance.” “We want to bring the community and the school together on this. Hastings cannot operate as an island and neither can the neighborhood,” said Cotchett, who wasn’t present at the meeting. The fate of the property is a “purely bricks-and-mortar decision. If we act in good faith, we are going to get this done quickly,” he said.

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