CPMC construction projects approved after outcry

With reservations, the Planning Commission gave initial approval Thursday to major new California Pacific Medical Center construction projects at Cathedral Hill and St. Luke’s.

The commission will reconsider the hospitals April 26, and issue recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, which must then make the final decision about the deal, which followed months of negotiations with city officials.

The $2.5 billion seismic safety projects will include a new 555-bed hospital at Van Ness Avenue and Geary Street and a rebuild of St. Luke’s in the Mission. And $1.1 billion will go to local hiring, affordable housing, charitable giving, health care access for the poor, and transit and streetscape improvements.

Mayor Ed Lee rallied hundreds of construction workers outside City Hall before Thursday’s hearing. “Today is not about suits and ties,” he said. “It’s about going to work.” The projects are expected to create an estimated 1,500 new construction jobs.

Yet some commissioners later echoed critics’ concerns about local hiring, the availability of psychiatric care at the hospitals, whether CPMC’s charitable giving is sufficient and the need for transit improvements near Cathedral Hill. Others worried about CPMC’s 20-year agreement to run St. Luke’s, which serves poor residents in the southeastern neighborhoods, and what might happen after that.

The nurses union has expressed concern about a reduction in hospital beds, long-term jobs and the ability of nurses transferred to Cathedral Hill to remain union members.

The commission ultimately voted 5-2 in favor of initial amendments to the projects.

CEO Dr. Warren Browner said he was “very pleased” with the vote. He called some of the criticisms “fundamental misunderstandings” of the deal, but conceded that other areas may need “additional clarification.”

“This is an incredibly important project for the folks who live and work and visit here, and we want to see it happen,” he said.


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