San Francisco is counting on voters to approve a $350 million bond this June to fund seismic upgrades to health, fire and homeless facilities as part of the continued investment outlined in The City’s long-term capital plan.
Proposition A, the Public Health and Safety Bond, was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee. Passage of the bond would require two-thirds approval.
The largest portion of the bond, $222 million, will continue the efforts to seismically upgrade the Department of Public Health’s campus around the soon-to-open new San Francisco General Hospital. The money will pay for improvements to a 1970’s era facility housing urgent care and The City’s only psychiatric emergency services.
Some $30 million would go toward renovation of the South East Health Center and another $20 million toward other health clinics around The City, including Chinatown Health Center, Castro Mission Health and Maxine Hall.
Another $20 million would go toward homeless shelters for seismic improvements and redesign that could make them more inviting.
“New design really helps people feel more comfortable,” said Barbara Garcia, director of the Health Department. Improvements could include an area for homeless to put their pets during their stay.
The Fire Department would receive $54 million of the bond money, with $14 million for continued ongoing work to upgrade the 42 neighborhood fire stations.
The remaining $44 million would construct a new ambulance deployment facility at 2245 Jerrold Ave.
Assistant Deputy Chief Ken Lombardi said the department has outgrown its current facility at 1415 Evans St. over the past decade as the ambulance unit has grown from 36 paramedics with 15 ambulances to 200 paramedics and 54 ambulances.
He added the new facility could decrease response times through the more strategic location and better design, allowing refueling and restocking of ambulances to occur in 15 minutes rather than the current 45 minutes.
“There will be more ambulances on the street, i.e. the response times should come down,” Lombardi said.
Voters historically approve these types of bonds. But for those who share the view of the Libertarian party, the only group to submit an argument against the measure, The City should be funding these needs through the annual revenues and reduce overall the property taxes.
The bond would not raise property taxes, which will stay at the current level as the bond is timed to replace retired debt.
Brian Strong, the capital planning director, argues the bond is needed to pay for such projects and The City is far from abusing the funding method.
“I’ve got $3.8 billion of unfunded general fund capital needs,” Strong said. “We just would never be able to afford to spend that much money in one year to address any of these projects without really impacting services and employees.”
He added, “We are not doing as much bonds as a lot of other jurisdictions of comparable size.”
As of April 23, $291,507 was raised in support of the bond, including $100,000 in contributions from Airbnb and $100,000 from Nicholas Pritzker, director of Tao Capital Partners, a company that invests in real estate and technology companies like Tesla and Uber.
Early voting begins today at City Hall for the June 7 election.
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