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 It seems clear that the EIR will be litigated as it used outdated data in assessing traffic impacts at the key Geary and Van Ness intersection and failed to address the impacts of allowing a hospital (with no housing) to be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.
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The Sutter / CPMC plan to consolidate its current operation by building a new 555 bed hospital at Geary and Van Ness, building a new 80 bed facility at St. Luke's at Mission and Cesar Chavez, expanding the Ralph K. Davies hospital at Duboce and Noe, and closing down the old Children's Hospital in Laurel Heights is now before the Board of Supervisors and will be the subject of the June 14th HANC general meeting. Recent changes in the district boundaries have placed the Geary-Van Ness site into our District 5.
A coalition of over 60 community, neighborhood, labor and environmental organizations--San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice (SFHHJJ)--has urged the City to amend its current draft Development Agreement to secure employment opportunities for San Francisco residents, require Sutter/CPMC to fully mitigate the affordable housing demand of its projected new workforce, reduce its traffic impacts and bolster its commitment to public transit, and more fully address the large and long lasting impacts on the City's health care system this very large combined project will have.
HANC's June meeting will be devoted to a discussion of the health care impacts of the proposed project. Two experienced and knowledgeable panel members have agreed to "unwind" the complex "ball" of access, economic and health policy issues which rests at the heart of this project. Bob Prentice, a former Health Department senior assistant director and a current health policy consultant, and Paul Kumar, former Director Government Affairs for SEIU West, and current consultant to the National Union of Health Care Workers (NUHW), have agreed to discuss with us this complex mix of issues. Both served on the 2008 Health Department "Blue Ribbon Panel on the Future of St. Luke's" and both are current members of the SFHHJJ.
At the request of SFHHJJ, the Board of Supervisors is slated to hold a series of hearings on this project in June and July. On June 12th a hearing has been set on the SFHHJJ appeal of the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR). It is expected that the hearing will be moved to July, after the Board deals with the budget.
On June 15th and again on June 25th, the Land Use Committee is expected to hold hearings on the Development Agreement and healthcare issues related to the development. Additional Board hearings are slated for later in July as well.
Combined with the Obama Affordable Health Care law perhaps being modified or outright repealed by the expected June ruling of the Supreme Court, the Board of Supervisors hearing on the Sutter / CPMC project will make June a banner month in health care, and understanding the role played by the proposed development will be of importance to all San Franciscans.
Plan to attend HANC's June 14th meeting (7 PM, Park Branch Library, 1833 Page Street) as you will not have a better chance to hear an informed discussion on the real world and local impact of the largest hospital expansion plan in the City's history that will directly affect your health care costs and the availability of health care to tens of thousands of your San Francisco neighbors for decades to come.