Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerWith a new trauma center set to open in December

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerWith a new trauma center set to open in December

SF General Hospital seeks solutions to parking headache

San Francisco General Hospital has a parking problem, and without intervention it may only get worse.

That was the message at a Health Commission meeting Tuesday, where officials said new construction projects at San Francisco General may need as many as 500 new parking spaces by 2020, or a resulting car crisis may drive patients to competing hospitals.

In response, the Health Commission voted unanimously to approve a resolution urging the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to expand a nearby parking garage, in the first of many goals meant to address the need for more parking.

“Even with the most aggressive programs, we project will have deficits in parking,” Kathy Jung, director of facilities and capital planning at the Department of Public Health, told the Health Commission.

San Francisco General Hospital is on the cusp of a renaissance, as its new hospital and trauma center (with a timely $75 million donation from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his wife) is slated to complete construction by December. But that new hospital, as well as other new buildings on site, will soon eliminate some existing parking at San Francisco General.

And those same new buildings will simultaneously drive demand for more transit. All told, the Department of Public Health estimates the hospital will need more than 900 parking spaces after 2020.

To help alleviate the problem, the hospital aims to expand capacity of its garage on 24th Street, adding 362 spaces to the current 807. Efforts will also be made to expand bicycle and public-transit access. Approval by the SFMTA board of directors is still needed.

But even if those measures are approved, officials said, the effort won't be enough.

“Parking capacity will still not meet projected demand after implementation of aggressive transportation demand management efforts and possible expansion of the garage,” the Department of Public Health wrote in its presentation to the Health Commission.

“I think it's going to be a challenge,” Jung told The San Francisco Examiner outside the meeting. “In this competitive environment we're trying to attract and retain our patients.”

She noted that the Affordable Care Act has provided more choices to health care seekers, who now may choose options other than San Francisco General Hospital for their care. This increased competition is spurring the hospital to find ways to remain appealing to patients.

Robust parking capacity is part of that appeal, Jung said.

Competition to provide various amenities for patients is fierce now, she said. St. Francis Memorial Hospital, for instance, has valet parking, according to its website.

“When you have a chronic disability or diseases,” Jung said, “you don't want to take a bus to the hospital.”

The hospital is served by public transit, via five Muni bus lines. It also boasts bike racks and bike lockers. According to a 2009 survey of hospital staff, more than half of its employees drive alone to work. A quarter of staff members commute to work via public transit, 11 percent carpool, and the rest walk or bike.

Parking-wise, San Francisco General is already feeling the squeeze, as employee parking permits at the nearby garage has a two-year waiting list.

Thousands of UC San Francisco physicians and staff work at SFGH, alongside the hospital's own staff.

The DPH has partnered with the SFMTA to work on the parking deficiency problem the last two years. The issue will now go before the SFMTA's Policy and Governance Committee to brainstorm additional solutions. Expanding the parking garage and other new ideas will go before the full SFMTA board on March 17.

“The hope ultimately is that Muni and other forms of transportation would be so good that we wouldn't need all that parking,” Tom Nolan, president of the SFMTA board, told The Examiner, referring to the projected 900-space deficit.

Muni will better serve General Hospital one day, he said, “but probably not that quickly, and not that much.”

He also anticipated a tough battle from stakeholder groups.

“Every parking space in The City is fought over,” he noted.

Bay Area NewsneighborhoodsParkingSFMTATransit

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