After a long, contentious battle in which both sides walked away numerous times, a deal to build two new hospitals in San Francisco has been brokered, marking a win for everyone in The City.
The need for seismically safe hospitals is not likely to be at the forefront of people’s minds. But after a major earthquake, they will be needed. Some hospitals in San Francisco, such as Kaiser Permanente, already have been seismically upgraded, while other such upgrades are in the works. In the event of a major temblor, however, it is essential that every medical facility able to handle patients remains standing.
Now, after a deal was announced Tuesday, it appears that California Pacific Medical Center, a Sutter Health affiliate, will build two more seismically safe hospitals in The City — one at Cathedral Hill and the other in the Mission district, where St. Luke’s Hospital currently stands.
Although the idea of building hospitals that can withstand an earthquake does not seem divisive, the projects had brought opposing sides to loggerheads many times. The original proposal at Cathedral Hill would have torn down the Cathedral Hill Hotel and constructed a 555-bed hospital. For size comparison, that is nearly twice as big as San Francisco General Hospital. The size of the proposed hospital at Cathedral Hill became an issue, especially because it will be located at Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard — two of the busiest thoroughfares in The City.
In addition, the original project called for reducing the size of St. Luke’s, which primarily serves low-income people in the surrounding neighborhoods. There was a clause in the initial agreement that could have allowed CPMC to shutter St. Luke’s at some point in the future. This possibility also ruffled feathers.
The combination of these two issues led to project approval delays at the Board of Supervisors.
The talks, when there were some, became so heated that an outside negotiator — Lou Giraudo of the Boudin Bakery company — was called in to broker the deal, which took months of negotiations. People close to the talks have said that Giraudo kept bringing people back to the table after they walked away.
So it was a relief when Mayor Ed Lee and supervisors David Campos, Mark Farrell and board President David Chiu stood at a news conference Tuesday with CPMC officials to announce the deal for a smaller, 304-bed hospital at Cathedral Hill and a new 120-bed facility at St. Luke’s. The deal also included money from CPMC to go toward several city funds, including for affordable housing and transportation.
The Board of Supervisors and other city agencies should now sign off on the project, which ought to be done in an expedient manner since no one knows when the next big earthquake could hit.