S.F. General Hospital bond could flatline

A bond measure aiming to raise approximately $800 million to rebuild San Francisco’s public hospital is slated for the November ballot, along with other ballot measures, which Mayor Gavin Newsom said could put the project “in peril.”

California law requires a number of seismically vulnerable hospitals, including San Francisco General Hospital, to construct new buildings for acute-care patients that can better withstand earthquakes. Hospitals that don’t meet the requirement by early 2015 could be stripped of their intensive care licenses.

A hospital bond measure is expected to raise around $800 million, according to health department spokeswoman Eileen Shields.

For years, various city leaders have discussed putting a funding measure before voters to raise the needed funds for the hospital rebuild; during his re-election victory speech in November, Newsom said that passing such a bond would be one of his top priorities.

Passing the bond, which will need a two-thirds majority, will “require overwhelming political support,” Newsom said on Wednesday, because of the high dollar amount and because other measures are expected on the same ballot.

“I’m concerned about it,” Newsom said. “If you load up the ballot with other big tasks I think we could put it in peril.”

Also on the November ballot is a charter amendment sponsored by Supervisor Chris Daly that would see yearly city spending on below-market-rate housing increased to more than $100 million.

Local political analyst David Latterman said he expects November’s ballot to be packed with at least 10 or 12 initiatives, which he said will make it more difficult to get voter approval for each.

Nonetheless, Latterman said the hospital measure “won’t be a gimme,” but expects it to pass.

“People intrinsically understand that you’ve got to have a working general hospital,” he said. “In my gut, I think this thing has to pass.”

Wednesday night, The City held a public meeting that was attended by about 50 people to discuss the plans for rebuilding San Francisco General Hospital. Unveiled was a design for a circular, nine-level building.

The curved design will help nurses monitor patients from centrally located hubs, said project architect Paolo Diaz before the meeting, and the new building will be connected to the existing building through three tunnels and walkways.

If the bond is approved, construction on the new hospital is expected to start in July 2009 and be completed by mid 2014.

jupton@examiner.com

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