San Francisco can quibble about sports stadiums, delay museum construction to preserve murals or stall a community college for immigrants in the name of preserving views or an obscure landmark. However, with California Pacific Medical Center’s $1.9 billion for a Cathedral Hill campus and $250 million to modernize St. Luke’s Hospital, the city should not lose focus on what 635 hospital beds can do especially during times of life and death crises.
The City’s Asian Pacific American community has been fortunate in 105 years. However, within walking distance from the AsianWeek Chinatown office on Sacramento Street, the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed the privately funded 25-bed Tung Hwa Dispensary dedicated only to serving SF’s then segregated Chinese community. In the midst of San Francisco’s biggest disaster, the local medical facility was wiped out and many lost their lives. Still to this day, no firm accounting exists as to how many San Franciscans, including Chinatown’s, perished in the quake and fires after April 18, 1906.
This is no time for political hardball negotiations and stall tactics. Without any tax subsidies, CPMC’s rebuild will be a $2.5 billion economic stimulus for 6,000 construction jobs and 6,800 healthcare jobs. San Francisco needs that kind of economic shot in the arm. Meanwhile, to ameliorate residential gentrification and commercial displacement of such projects, the hospital is offering more than $1.1 billion in programs to serve low income residents over 10 years.
Meanwhile City Hall should not look at CPMC as a cash cow, milking it for $108 million for housing and transit and up to $2 billion in charity care for 50 years. CPMC could still deprive the City major economic and social benefits by moving outside county lines and find a host city for considerably less expense and still serve San Franciscans.
By 2015, CPMC stands to serve a citywide Asian Pacific American community. The Cathedral Hill project sits on an urban spiritual center with major west-to-east and north-to-south transit spines connecting, serving and unifying major Asian Pacific American communities – the “new” Chinatown of the Richmond, the cultural center of Japantown, an emerging Little Saigon and the “old” Chinatown in the northeast.
San Francisco government leaders and California Pacific Medical Center negotiators have gone to the brink and there has been another delay until October for a Planning Commission hearing. Unlike the state imposed mandate to rebuild CPMC and California’s hospitals by 2015, earthquakes and other calamities have no deadlines, just casualties. City leaders must urgently and reasonably act to re-build CPMC now.