Despite a split among community groups, unions and residents on the $2.5 billion California Pacific Medical Center hospital project, the San Francisco Planning Commission gave the nod late Thursday to the controversial development that could place a massive new hospital at one of The City’s busiest corners.
After a nearly 10-hour hearing — the majority of which was public comment — the commission voted 5-1 to certify the environmental impact report for the project, and also gave approval to several other parts of the deal, including a development agreement between The City and the Sutter Health affiliate that took months to negotiate.
The deal is not done, however. It now moves to the Board of Supervisors, where hearings could begin as soon as next month.
City and hospital officials have estimated that the project — which includes a new 555-bed hospital at Van Ness Avenue and Geary Street on Cathedral Hill, and a rebuild of St. Luke’s in the Mission, both conforming to new state seismic regulations — will create 1,500 new construction jobs.
CPMC CEO Dr. Warren Browner said after the hearing that the shovels were ready, pending the board’s approval.
“We’re hopeful,” Browner said. “The mayor’s been incredibly supportive. We’ve spoken to many members of the Board of Supervisors and tried to address their concerns.”
Thursday’s hearing was the second in a month before an overflow audience at the commission. Public concerns about the project ranged from massive traffic problems and noise along the already congested Van Ness corridor, to whether the deal would compel CPMC to improve access to health care for the poor, elderly and disabled. Other residents, business owners and community leaders said it would improve neighborhood blight and modernize much-needed health care services.
Construction unions lauded the deal, while nurses and engineers at CPMC lambasted the hospital for being heavy-handed towards the unions.
“We cannot in my mind expect one project to be the panacea for all the ills, and to do everything for everybody,” said Commissioner Ron Miguel, who voted in favor of the project. “It’s not going to please everybody,” he said. “It’s just what it is. And besides that, it’s just going to go on to the board, and they’re going to do what they’re going to do.”
Commissioner Gwyneth Borden, who also expressed misgivings about the hospital’s dealings with its labor unions, nevertheless voted in favor, saying further delays by the commission would not benefit the project.
Commissioner Kathrin Moore, who voted against certifying the environmental impact report as well as some other aspects of the project, said the Cathedral Hill hospital development represented a departure from The City’s long-term plans to turn Van Ness Avenue into a residential boulevard. Still, she said the agreement had been “skillfully executed.”
Two new seismically safe hospitals, including California Pacific Medical Center management of St. Luke’s for at least 20 years
Source: Mayor’s Office