For years, California has been falling behind in the construction of UC campuses. (The last, Merced, was started in 1988, and it’s up to only about 9000 students). The latest report from the Board of Regents calls for adding capacity for 33,000 students system-wide. That’s why the SF mayor’s call makes sense, but there are solid reasons why there will be no follow-up.

Let’s start with the fact that only two American universities have made big investments in central business districts in the last 50 years- Arizona State in Phoenix and Duke in Durham, NC. Arizona State is led by Michael Crow, an aggressive, visionary leader who is now opening branch media and public affairs schools in LA, and Duke had a problem that rapes and murders in the surrounding city were pulling down its reputation. Arizona State used a city bond measure (over $200M in 2006) and Duke its big endowment.

It’s a great idea to bring teaching, research, and residential learning to the canyons of the Financial District, but none of the other UC campuses will let a new one get built, simply because of rivalry for state funding. Maybe a school like Northeastern, which is trying to expand beyond Boston to connect with more software companies for its intern program.