The Planning Commission passed on to the Board of Supervisors the largest hospital development proposal in recent City history. The project would expand and centralize the Sutter/CPMC health center by building a new 555 bed hospital at Geary and Van Ness, building a new 80 bed facility at St. Lukes at Mission and Cesar Chavez, expand the Ralph K. Davies hospital at Duboce and Noe and close down the old Children’s Hospital in Laurel Heights. The biggest problems and impacts would occur at the Geary and Van Ness site where Sutter proposes a new hospital and two new office towers.
A coalition of over 60 community, neighborhood, labor and environmental organizations- San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice (SFHHJJ)- urged the Planning Commission to reject the Development Agreement (DA) for the deal negotiated by the Mayor as failing to meet minimal concerns around the financial impacts of the project. Two of the six voting Planning Commissioners agreed and voted no on the DA. The DA as well as the EIR on the project will now go to the Board of Supervisors where a majority vote is required to pass both. It seems clear that the EIR will be litigated as it used outdated data in assessing traffic impacts at the key Geary and Van Ness intersection and failed to address the impacts of allowing a hospital (with no housing) to be built in an area specially zoned for “transit oriented development” of joint residential/commercial uses.
The community coalition raised key questions about the housing, traffic, healthcare and employment impacts of the project. Basically the argument claimed that Sutter/CPMC. the most profitable health provider in the City was shifting substantial costs to San Francisco residents and taxpayers.In housing, although the EIR showed that a demand would be created for some 1,500 new two bedroom homes, Sutter/CPMC agreed to only provide funds to build about 90 such homes. Such a massive shortfall will boost housing prices all other San Franciscans will pay. The healthcare implications of the deal are profound. The expansion will give Sutter/CPMC “market dominance” in health insurance, allowing them to set prices. The City sought a “cap” on how much Sutter/CPMC would shift costs to other users of the same insurance companies, such as the City. No such agreement was reached and the deep concern is that there will be a major spike in costs passed on to the City. Moreover, CPMC currently provides the least amount of free care for medically indigent San Franciscans. The DA will actually allow them to pay less than they do now, shifting that cost to San Francisco taxpayers.