Courtesy Skidmore

Courtesy Skidmore

VA hospital invites public to comment on environmental effects of development plan

The San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center is inviting the public to weigh in on the potential environmental impacts of a long-planned expansion on the 29-acre site in the Outer Richmond.

The VA on Monday released a draft environmental impact statement for its Long Range Development Plan, which includes a new research building that crews are slated to begin building in 2016, as well as the seismic retrofitting of four other buildings at the site, said Judi Cheary, a spokeswoman for the medical center. Some $300 million in federal funding has already been approved for the seismic retrofits and the research building.

The EIS addresses potential construction, operation and cumulative impacts including air quality, noise, and traffic and parking concerns.

Parking especially has been a hot-button issue for the VA and nearby residents, who have long pushed for the Clement Street medical center to offer more parking spaces to patients and staff. Ray Holland, president of the Planning Association for the Richmond, said residents have been impacted by VA staff and patients parking on surrounding streets for years.

“We've been inundated with cars parked in the neighborhood and in the parking lot of Legion of Honor,” Holland said. “What we've been asking is that they increase the on-campus parking so they don't have that situation.”

The medical center opened a new four-story garage last summer that created an additional 300 spaces, but some 700 spaces are still needed, Cheary noted.

“We recognize that's a major concern for our community, and it's a major concern for our veterans,” she said of the lack of parking spaces.

The VA's development plan outlines the need to retrofit existing buildings to meet current seismic-safety requirements, as well as more than 500,000 square feet of additional medical facility space to continue offering clinical, research and educational programs to veterans in the Bay Area and north coast.

The environmental impact statement and 60-day public-comment period represent a turning point for the VA and community, which historically have quarreled over planning issues. In fact, a lawsuit filed in 2006 by neighborhood groups against the VA ultimately led to the facility producing its Long Range Development Plan in January 2014.

“We have a more respectful working relationship [today],” Cheary said.

Comments on the environmental impact statement must be received by May 8. The public is also invited to attend a meeting on the development proposals on April 14 at the medical center, 4150 Clement St., in the auditorium, Building 7, Room 112.

Bay Area NewsdevelopmentOuter RichmondParkingPlanningSan Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center

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