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California Pacific Medical Center project will boost health system and create jobs

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San Francisco took one giant step forward last week toward moving The City’s health care system into the 21st century.

After nearly a decade of planning and months of negotiations, Mayor Ed Lee introduced a development agreement that will enable the California Pacific Medical Center to build two new state-of-the-art hospitals at St. Luke’s in the Mission and at Cathedral Hill on Van Ness Avenue. This long-overdue project will deliver unprecedented safety, economic and community benefits to San Francisco and should be greenlighted without delay.

The recent earthquakes in Mexico and Chile remind us of the need to be prepared. Today, San Francisco’s hospitals remain seismically vulnerable and must make improvements to meet California’s hospital building seismic safety mandate by 2015. The expedient approval of the CPMC development agreement will double The City’s number of seismically safe hospital beds and help ensure adequate capacity in case of a major emergency or natural disaster.

The economic benefits of rebuilding CPMC are enormous. In total, the project will inject $2.5 billion into The City’s economy and create 1,500 new construction-related jobs.  At least 30 percent of these construction workers and 50 percent of the entry-level administrative and engineering positions will be hired locally. These jobs are on top of the 6,000 existing CPMC employees who will now remain in San Francisco as a result of the development. As The City’s construction industry continues to rebound from the recession, the CPMC hospital projects will give a much-needed boost to the many tradesmen and tradeswomen still looking for work.

The project’s economic benefits extend well beyond the construction of two hospitals. According to one recent report, San Francisco’s hospitals have become one of The City’s healthiest industries, spending $15.3 billion annually and employing approximately 18 percent of The City’s workforce and growing. Adding new hospital capacity will help ensure that The City can continue to grow its burgeoning health care sector and solidify its reputation as a world-class health care hub.

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It’s hard to imagine how a project of this kind could be criticized. But this is San Francisco, and nearly every development sparks criticism. In this case, CPMC critics claim the agreement does not “go far enough” in providing benefits to the community. Yet, beyond providing two new hospitals at no cost to taxpayers, the CPMC agreement guarantees $1.1 billion in added investment for San Francisco.

Unparalleled in scope, these investments include:

  • $63 million for affordable housing.
  • $20 million for transit facilities and service expansions.
  • $13 million for streetscape improvements.
  • $20 million endowment to support clinics and social services in The City’s most underserved communities.

Above all, CPMC will spend more than $86 million on charity care every year for at least 10 years. By any measure, CPMC’s investments are sure to benefit thousands of residents and visitors.

The time to greenlight CPMC is now. San Francisco needs safe hospitals. The project will give a significant boost to the local economy. And our communities deserve state-of-the-art health care in world-class facilities.

The chamber joins Lee, the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Development, the Bay Area Council, SPUR and many others in urging the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors to approve the CPMC agreement and usher in the 21st century of health care in San Francisco.

Steve Falk is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

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