VA hospital expansion runs into roadblocks

Officials at the 75-year-old, 1 million-square-foot veterans hospital in the northwest corner of the Outer Richmond district are weighing expansion plans, but must confront concerns from residents about parking.

The San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a hospital and research center at Fort Miley at 45th Avenue and Clement Street, serves 55,000 patients who have made about 400,000 visits to the aging structures in the past year alone.

An expansion during the next 20 years would accommodate a growing number of patients, about 2,000 employees and the approximately 700 UC San Francisco students who do research and reside there annually, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The facility as it is now certainly limits our opportunity to expand and grow to new programs. We’re the No. 1 research program in the entire [Veterans Affairs Department] system,” VA spokeswoman Judi Cheary said. “We have patients come from all over the country for some of our programs.”

But the expansion, on a site that already lacks 700 parking spaces, will have incredible impacts on neighbors, according to members of the Planning Association for the Richmond, a neighborhood group.

“They are good neighbors for purposes of treating veterans,” association member Jason Jungreis said of the medical center. “But it’s really already stressed to the limit and they are already having tremendous problems with sustainability.”

Cars from all around Northern California already circle the streets for parking that would normally be used by permitted residents, Jungreis said.

In 2006, the association and other neighborhood groups, such as Friends of Lands End, filed a civil suit against the VA because of plans to build a 200,000-square-foot research facility without performing an environmental review.

That suit argued that under that plan, by 2012 the VA would need more than 900 parking spaces to meet demand.

As a result of the legal action, the VA is now required to create an environmental impact statement for its 20-year institutional master plan and seek public comment on three expansion options — to build entirely on-site, build some on- and some off-site or to choose an entirely new location.

The VA is holding a public meeting for comments at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 in its auditorium.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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