San Francisco Off-Campus Program

Contact Information

Faculty Coordinators
R. Thomas Jones, AIA,

Staff Coordinator
Arlene Gomez,, 001 (805) 756-1316

San Francisco Exchange Program Coordinator
Prof. R. Thomas Jones,
Design Studio: TBD
Phone: 001 (805) 756-1316 Office, or Jones Cell Phone: (415) 926-0080
Fax: 001 (805) 756-1550 Office


The San Francisco Program is an urban immersion experience, providing an opportunity to live, study, and work in a stimulating and professional arena known for its social diversity, cultural vibrance, environmental leadership, and design innovation.  The program includes an unpaid professional internship component, along with courses orchestrated to capitalize on the learning opportunities of the city and region.

As our design professions are increasingly asked to foster greater urban livability, even as cities become more dense, San Francisco and the Bay Area provide an abundance of historical and contemporary buildings, communities, and landscapes that serve as models for livable and sustainable new development.  Additionally, many San Francisco-based design and planning firms are engaged in large-scale projects internationally, and they provide a tableau of practices that are in the vanguard of shaping the future of our professions.

The San Francisco Program was founded by Cal Poly Professor Sandy Miller in 1988, and to date has enrolled over 650 participants.  Many past program participants are now successful practitioners in Bay Area firms, and they form a strong Cal Poly network of mentors to our current students in their respective internship firms.

The newly created 2- quarter version of the program continues all of the features of the highly rated one-quarter program, with some new additional coursework.

The program is structured as a two-quarter sequence, with a concentrated Design Studio at the beginning of the winter quarter, and at the end of the spring quarters.  Between these five day per week studio courses, which simulate professional practice, there are eight weeks of credited Firm Internship spread over the two quarters. 

The integrating theme of the coursework is on: “Design in the public realm, and for the public benefit.”   Each quarter, sites and projects are selected for which there is a substantial component of public interest, public participation, and neighborhood or community interest involved.  For the winter quarter, the project will normally be an educational, community, cultural, or recreational building and project typology.  For spring quarter, the project will include housing, along with other related uses.  

The winter quarter segment begins with extensive walking tours of San Francisco neighborhoods, projects, and a variety of offices to introduce students to the broad range of professional opportunities and career directions to be found in major metropolitan areas.   

In addition to the Design Studio and Internship, the additional coursework in winter quarter includes Arch. 472, Housing Concepts. This course combines case study based presentations by practitioners, with knowledge and skill building around the history and contemporary practices related to multifamily, higher density housing across a wide range of income groups and cultures.   The course includes economic and public interest fundamentals related to the financing and development of housing, review of contemporary housing unit and building typologies, and exercises in common site planning and building design strategies for multifamily housing.  

Guest presenters and the instructor’s own experience provide comparative learning from a wide range of market and affordable housing projects as seen from the perspectives of users, neighbors, developers, architects, landscape architects, planners, and investors.  Housing Concepts 472 is an elective that counts for both the Sustainable Development Minor, and the Real Property Development Minor

In spring quarter, students will take a Design Studio, a continued or new Internship, and Arch. 443 Professional Practice.  The practice class includes a series of lectures on contemporary design firm modes of practice and business models featuring some guest presenters, coupled with a student case study professional firm report.   Students work in small teams and meet weekly with principals and architects in leading firms to produce the in-depth case study report, based on research methods developed by the AIA.

Office visits, architectural tours, and lectures at local museums, colleges, the AIASF, and other public interest groups round out the San Francisco Urban Program experience.

The program is now designed to welcome Landscape Architecture and City and Regional Planning Majors, as the course contents and projects are conceived from a multidisciplinary viewpoint.  The internship and professional practice components of the program can be tailored to connect students in other majors to local firms representing those majors.   

The San Francisco Program is also available on a limited basis for majors from other Cal Poly programs and from other Universities, where immersion in the issues and built-environment projects of San Francisco and the Bay Area, coupled with professional internships, could be a suitable independent study focus.

Working alongside accomplished architects, participating students will begin building a valuable network of professional relationships and real work experience, before they graduate, which can directly impact their careers and future employment.  San Francisco firms who host our students for internships and the case study course are typically well represented in the Top Ten COTE (Committee On The Environment) national AIA awards and other regional and national design awards each year.


Arch 452 Winter and Arch 453 Spring (5 units): Fourth year Design.

Arch 472 Winter (3-4 units): Housing Concepts
Arch 480 Winter and Spring (4 units): Architectural Internship in the Firm.

Arch 443 - 88 Spring (4 units): Professional Practice/Case Study, lecture and discussion.

All Courses are Cal Poly courses and are taught by Cal Poly faculty R. Thomas Jones, AIA with the possible addition of lecturer-practitioners from the SF Bay area.

Estimated Program Costs

(Estimates from Fall 2012 and Spring 2013)

The following is an estimate based on the experience of previous students. Personal expenses vary and depend upon your habits. The costs are higher than studying in San Luis Obispo. Since students are enrolled at Cal Poly, they generally have the same access to financial aid as when they are on campus. However, some state grants are not eligible for CE sponsored programs.

Note 1: Cal Poly tuition and fees are subject to University increases
Note 2: Please consult with your host institution to get an updated room & board, transportation, and books/supplies expenses.

Item Cost
Cal Poly Extended Education Tuition & Fees TBD
Total 1 TBD
Student Roundtrip Travel $ 0.00
Field Trip $ 0.00
Lodging (assumes $800-$1,000 per month for 5 1/2 months) $4,400.00-$5,500.00
Student Local Bus/Taxi (monthly transit pass) $350.00
Cultural and Event Admissions $120.00
Books and Supplies $ 500.00
Personal Daily Spending ($20/day) $ 3,200.00
Total 2

$ 8,570-$9,670

Total 1 and Total 2 TBD

2012-13 Firm sponsorships

The Architecture Department is proud to recognize the following San Francisco firms who have generously committed to co-sponsor the San Francisco Program through the provision of studio office space at their firms:

DLM Architects: 77 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94102, Contact: Wally Gordon

NBBJ: 88 Kearny Street, Suite 900, San Francisco, CA 94108, Contact: John Pangrazio, Seattle Office and Kaz Babba, San Francisco Office

Firm Internships

Cal Poly Students have worked in over 45 different firms since 1988. A full range of firm types are represented: Small Boutique, Medium, Civic and Mixed Use, Experimental, Large International, Industrial Design/Architecture/ Fabrication, Sustainable, BIM and IPD innovative, Affordable Housing, Residential and those firms purposely Generalist. These contacts have led to permanent positions for most of the graduates.

Recent AY 2009-Present Firm Internships include:

Firm Name Web page
Aidlin Darling
BAR Architects Current 2012-13
David Baker + Partners Current 2012-13
Case + Abst
Design Partnership Current 2012-13
Fougeron Partners
Gensler Current 2012-13
Gould Evan Baum Thornley
Handel Architects Current 2012-13
HOK Current 2012-13
Interstice ArchitectsCurrent 2012-13
Iwamoto Scott Current 2012-13
Jensen Architects
Levy Design Partners Current 2012-13
Mark Horton
Mark Jensen
Material Systems
Sand Studios
Studios Architecture
Woods Bagot

Case Study

Recent Case Studies and Mentors include:

  • George Sim Community Center, Sacramento
    www. Field Paoli, Architects
    Mentor: Mark Schatz, Principal, FAIA
  • Salvation Army, Tenderloin, SF Affordable Housing & Ray Kroc Community Cntr.
    www. HCLArchitecture
    Mentors: Robert Herman FAIA & Susie Coliver
    SF AIA Design Award 2009, CCAIA Design Award 2009
  • 147 Laidley Residence
    ZackDevito, Architects + Built Form Construction Mentor: Jim Zack, Principal
    National Design Awards (numerous) +SF AIA Design Award 2009
  • Neuva School, Hillsborough, CA
    LMSArchitecture Mentors: Bill Leddy, FAIA, Principal + Jason Bohlander, Project Architect Sustainability Award, COTE, National Top 10, 2009 and other awards
  • Palace of Fine Arts, Restoration, Bernard Maybeck, orig. architect
    Carey & Co, Restoration Architect
    Mentor Charlie Duncan, Principal
  • Christ the Light Cathedral, Oakland SOM Architects
    Mentor: David Diamond, Senior Associate
    National AIA Design Award + numerous other awards
  • Orinda City Hall
    Siegel & Strain, Architects Mentors: Henry Siegel, Principal, Burton Edwards, Associate
    AIA SF Sustainability Award 2008
  • BIM INNOVATION: U.C. David Veterinary Medical 3 HOK, Architects
    Mentor: Casey Visintin, Architect, SF Program participant

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