Kaiser and Youth Wellness Center: Coming to Potrero Hill, Bayview
Melissa Mutiara Pandika
Kaiser Permanente and Walden Development plan to develop a 200,000-square-foot medical office building just southwest of Mission Bay, along 16th and 17th streets. The site, now occupied by office moving and storage company Corovan, will be divided into two parcels, with the Kaiser facility fronting 16th Street and housing on 17th Street. The multi-use development will be located across the street from Daggett Place, another mixed-use development on 16th Street.
“San Francisco is growing, and we anticipate to continue to grow,” said Randy Wittorp, director of public affairs at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. “We selected the site on 16th and Mississippi to bring our services to the southeastern neighborhoods and to accommodate future growth we see coming along in the City on the east side.” The project is still in the entitlement process, with completion planned for 2016.
The Kaiser facility will provide outpatient services, including primary care, women’s health, and pediatrics, and may include additional specialty services. The ground floor will feature a laboratory, pharmacy, optical services, and health management classes. The pharmacy, which will offer over-the-counter medication, optical services, and classes, will be open to the public. Kaiser is considering including a coffee or food service on the building’s ground level.
The residential building will consist of roughly 200 units, said Josh Smith, Walden’s president, although it hasn’t been determined yet whether the units will be condominiums or apartments. A portion of the housing will be affordable, with 40 percent two-bedroom units.
Both the medical and residential buildings will have underground garages. The three-level Kaiser garage will house roughly 550 spots, while the residential garage will have 150 to 160 spaces; the exact number will depend on each building’s final square footage. According to Wittorp, Kaiser and Walden sought the maximum allowed number of spots to accommodate parking needs without displacing spaces on the street.
About a third of an acre of open space, the “Kaiser Green,” will separate the medical offices from the residential building, and will be open to the public during daylight hours and maintained by Kaiser. A pedestrian- and bike-friendly midblock alley will connect 16th and 17th streets, as well as the Kaiser Green. “There will be a tremendous improvement in pedestrian, bike, and baby stroller circulation,” said Smith.
“I don’t think they’re really going to add anything in particular to the neighborhood,” said Potrero Hill resident Kepa Askenasy. “I’ve never heard a single person say, ‘I wish there was a Kaiser hospital or clinic over here.’ I have heard people say they wish there were more…two and three bedroom houses, more open space and green space and parking and places lit up…It’s causing a big surburbanization of Potrero Hill.” She worried that the project will allow Mission Bay to expand beyond the 280 Freeway, worsen parking congestion and contribute to the loss of blue collar industries.
According to Askenasy, who was involved in efforts to rezone Showplace Square to protect production, design, and repair (PDR) businesses, Walden has honored the rezoning only to the extent that the facility will generate a profit. “[The project] has nothing to do with enhancing the neighborhood or drawing in more blue collar industries,” said Askenasy. Data provided by Joe Fragola, media relations specialist for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, indicates that roughly 24 percent of residents in the 94103, 94107 and 94124 zip codes receive health care coverage from Kaiser.
According to community relations consultant Joe Boss, Kaiser opening a facility closer to low-income Southside neighborhoods “is nothing but good…Obviously these hospitals…are competitive and keep the cost down, but when it comes to treating people, they don’t check someone’s tax return, so I don’t think it forces out blue collar workers.” Walden plans to engage Boss to assist with community outreach related to the project, and he “will be compensated accordingly,” said Smith.
Wittorp said that Kaiser doesn’t yet know how many jobs the facility will create, since the number of positions depends on final square footage and services offered. “What we can say is there will absolutely be a net gain in the number of jobs we have,” he said. “I look forward to seeing the Kaiser outpatient care clinic, something again that I think should bring a lot more people and potential purchases of Potrero-Dogpatch merchant wares and services,” said Keith Goldstein, president of the Potrero-Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA). “Kaiser… actually joined the merchant’s association, so they’ll probably be encouraging staff to patronize our local businesses.”
San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH), located on 1001 Potrero Avenue, is the City’s main public hospital, and the only Level I Trauma Center serving San Francisco and northern San Mateo County. Senate Bill 1953 required SFGH to be replaced or retrofitted to higher seismic safety standards by 2013. The new acute care facility, which will be located at the existing SFGH site, will include a base-isolated foundation, the same technology used in many of the skyscrapers that withstood recent earthquakes in Japan. The 453,000 square-foot hospital will expand to 284 beds, 32 more than currently; the emergency department will increase from 27 to 60 beds. The building will feature nine stories, two below- and seven above-ground, and will be completed in 2015.
SFGH Rebuild public relations director Tristan Cook emphasized that the project has been a community-driven process, with SFGH holding neighborhood meetings, publishing a newsletter, and reaching out to neighborhood and merchant organizations in the Mission and Potrero Hill, including PDMA, the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association, and the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House (Nabe).
Nabe Director Edward Hatter, who has been involved with the hospital planning process, said he only sees transportation problems worsening when the new building opens. A parking garage with 1,200 spots is located near the campus, but is at capacity, with staff entering a lottery when the garage opened, recalled Hatter. He noted that several SFGH employees park their cars near the Nabe at 953 De Haro Street, several blocks away from the hospital, regularly making the hilly climb to retrieve their vehicles after work. No additional parking is included in the project, although an off-site lot has been provided during construction for construction workers and hospital staff. SFGH also offers a free shuttle service to and from the 24th Street and Civic Center BART stations during peak commute hours, increased bike storage, promotes and coordinates a rideshare program for employees, and has Muni Next-bus signs in the hospital lobby.
Approximately 3,000 jobs will be created over the life of the construction project, said Cook. “The project invests in the future of health care in our City, and it is good for the local economy. We are reinvesting back into our local economy through local hiring and supporting local businesses,” he explained. To date, 341 San Francisco residents have been employed on the project, representing roughly 30 percent of field labor hours, with about five percent of workers from Potrero Hill, Mission, and Bayview. More than $56 million of certified Local Business Enterprise contracts have been awarded to 141 businesses working on the project, exceeding the five percent minimum threshold for local business contracts required by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, at 8.6 percent. “[SFGH has] been good at being a county hospital, doing outreach and workforce recruitment,” said Hatter.
Construction has begun on the Child Advocacy Center and Center for Youth Wellness Partnership for Children, an innovative, one-stop health center at 3450 Third Street that will co-locate wellness, mental health, pediatric, and social services. The new center will focus on children experiencing trauma and stress resulting from poverty, child abuse, and other factors. It will also house California Pacific Medical Center’s Bayview Child Health Center, which Dr. Nadine Burke, MD started six years ago.
The center's board is finalizing design and construction plans to add a pediatric clinic and therapy rooms to an existing building, which formerly housed the Sojourner Truth Foster Family Service Agency. The center will open next year, and anticipates serving 600 children in its first year, many of whom are likely already patients at the Bayview Child Health Center, which will be expanded at the new location.
The center’s site was zoned M-2 until 2009, when then-District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell led the change to PDR. Last fall, District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen introduced legislation to change the planning code to allow outpatient medical care clinics, which aren’t allowed under PDR regulations, at the location. “It is the overwhelming desire of almost everyone in the community to have that activity here, but not at this location,” said Michael Hamman, India Basin Neighborhood Association chair. “The location is inappropriate for wellness.” He pointed out that the site is “the nexus of the industrial activity for the whole area.” A railroad runs only a few feet away, and there’s heavy traffic from trucks serving the port, post office, recycling plant, and other facilities. “We are working with community members to address issues around the location and make sure it’s a safe and accessible location for this type of work,” said Suzy Loftus, the center’s chief operating officer.
Hamman noted that the Board of Supervisors had already identified areas where medical facilities should be encouraged, and for several years the community had been planning the creation of a healthcare hub within a multiple block radius of the Southeast Health Center on Keith Street, a more central location that offers, besides convenience, the synergistic effect of co-locating similar facilities. “Had the community been involved from the get go, [the center] could have had a better location and a lower cost in an area that the community could support,” said Hamman, who heard about the planning code amendment after it had already passed the Planning Commission and one week before it was submitted to the Board of Supervisors.
Hamman believes that the center will have a “deleterious effect” on economic development in the area. “More and more small businesses are being driven out of town as the zoning has been changed to allow for more White Collar activities,” he said, referring to the rezoning of Mission Bay, once a designated industrial area, to allow for office and biosciences spaces. “The people who live [in India Basin] now are very much of a mind to preserve industrial zoning, because that’s what… they can do. The people who fill [healthcare] jobs are not the people who live here now. They’re people who emigrate from other parts of the Bay Area to take those jobs.” He emphasized that he and other community members “enthusiastically welcome” biotech and healthcare industries, but in the appropriate locations.
According to Loftus, the center has recently increased community outreach efforts. “Getting community input is something we’re committed to.” She added that the Center for Youth Wellness welcomes additional partners who want to provide health services in Bayview.
This is the final article on a three-part series.
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