Kaiser Permanente may check in to motel

Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco may extend its facilities by converting a nearby motel building into a medical facility with nonpatient offices. The plan was submitted for review to the Planning Commission and a decision is expected in the next two months.

The 122-bed hospital, built in 1974, would use the adjacent 99-room motel on El Camino Real for some of its administrative and other nonpatient offices. Kaiser is the newest in the motel’s line of owners, which has included Travelodge and Days Inn.

Kaiser Permanente has four facilities in South San Francisco but the main center on El Camino Real is pressed for space, spokeswoman Meg Walker said.

“When the hospital was built in 1974, we didn’t have CAT scanners, MRI machines or even computers,” said Dr. Michelle Caughey, physician in chief of Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco. “The requirements for running a hospital have continued to increase and the technology has driven much of the change.”

Caughey said Kaiser would like to renovate the former motel, which is not being used, and connect it with a driveway to the main hospital. Converting the motel into an office building would require several changes in land use, including changing the building from a Transit Village zone district into office zoning.

After a review Thursday, the Planning Commission decided to hold a joint study session with the City Council to determine the repercussions of the land use changes.

“We’re interested in Kaiser developing a master plan,” said Steve Carlson, senior planner for South San Francisco. “The sense was that the commissioners would be willing to allow the motel to be converted to some kind of use on a temporary basis if they knew that larger land use studies were going to take place. What will be the effect on the rest of the Transit Village? What’s the grand vision for that area?”

“We have increased our membership over the years, but the main reason we will need more space is the aging of the population — they need more medical services,” Caughey said. “For us to be responsible in the way we will need to have this extra space for offices.”

Carlson said the City Council will make the decision after the elections and hopefully before the holidays.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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