Supervisors approve $150M to relocate Public Health Department, replace hospital chillers

Board OKs mayoral appointment of Rachael Tanner to Planning Commission

San Francisco moved forward Tuesday with plans to spend $150 million to relocate the Department of Public Health from its Civic Center offices and replace dysfunctional hospital chillers incapable of maintaining required air temperatures.

The City has planned for years to relocate everyone out of the seismically unsound Department of Public Health building at 101 Grove St., where hundreds of city employees work.

The Board of Supervisors’ unanimous approval Tuesday of $150 million in borrowing known as certificates of participation puts the The City on track to realize the relocation plan in 2023.

The lion’s share of the funding, $84 million, will go to renovate two vacant former patient care wings at the Laguna Honda Hospital.

“The Laguna Honda project will create office space for more than 400 DPH staff that are currently working at 101 Grove and are also located in other various Civic Center area leased office spaces,” Kathy Jung, director of facilities and capital planning at the Department of Public Health, told a board committee earlier this month.

Jung said that Public Works will finish the design of the project early next year with construction expected to also begin next year and finish in 2023.

The board’s approval also includes $34.7 million in “urgent funding” to replace two dilapidated chillers at the San Francisco General Hospital campus.

The existing chilled water system to keep the air temperatures from getting too hot are broken down. The system is being used for 750,000 square feet of space at the hospital’s Ambulatory Care Building (No. 5), Research Building (No. 3) and the central Service Building (No. 2).

One of the two chillers is 46 years old and no longer operational while the other is 14 years old and prone to breakdowns, according to a City Controller memo.

“On extreme heat days SFGH is not able to maintain required building air temperatures,” the memo said. “The existing Cooling Towers are suffering from worn construction and failing foundations and are considered structurally unstable.”

The project will replace the steam driven chillers with electric chillers, “thereby reducing the demand for natural gas.”

“The new centralized chilled water system will also be able to supply cooling to other buildings as they are retrofitted,” the memo said.

Two other relocation-related projects funded include $2.5 million to relocate AITC Immunization and Travel Clinic from the first floor of 101 Grove St. to the city-owned building at 25 Van Ness. The clinic provides US-licensed vaccines. Public Works will start to ready the new space next year and the move is expected to occur in 2022.

And $5 million will go toward the relocation of the Tom Waddell Clinic at 101 Grove St. to the 1064 Mission St. development of housing for the homeless. The clinic will become part of a center of other homeless services at the site.

In other business Tuesday, the board unanimously approved Mayor London Breed’s nomination of Rachael Tanner to the Planning Commission. Tanner is a SoMa resident who has served on the Board of Appeals and is employed as a city planner in Palo Alto.

“I will be a voice joining in the chorus of our city crying out for racial and social equity, for equitably-planned housing, and for a brighter future despite the pandemic,” Tanner said in a statement.

The board also approved legislation introduced by Supervisor Catherine Stefani to change the way The City’s Behavioral Health Commission is run by removing a city-contracted nonprofit fiscal agent that provides staff and instead having the Department of Public Health provide the staffing.

The proposal comes as questions were raised about the nonprofit’s mismanagement of finances like a failure to submit timely invoices and the body’s effectiveness in reviewing behavioral health programs.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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