Neighbors Challenge Massive UCSF Hospital Expansion

Residents say the area is already too congested to handle the planned 1,200 housing units and what would amount to a brand new hospital.

San Francisco, as seen from the Marin headlands. (Courthouse News photo / Chris Marshall)

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — Neighborhood groups opposing the University of California San Francisco’s ambitious hospital and research facility expansion plan filed three separate lawsuits Friday to halt the project.

The groups want to overturn the University of California Board of Regents’ decision last month approving the expansion, believing it will drive up housing costs and clog streets in the “very constrained” Inner Sunset neighborhood.

UCSF introduced the plan to add roughly 2 million square feet to its already 4 million square foot Parnassus Heights campus in 2018. The project is estimated to cost $3 billion and take 30 years to complete.

Along with roughly 1,200 units of student and faculty housing, the development plan will replace a nearly 70 year-old hospital that no longer meets California’s seismic code and must be retrofitted or decommissioned for inpatient care by 2030.

San Franciscans for Balanced and Livable Communities said its petition filed in Alameda Superior Court does not seek to stop any development in the area, but to return to a 2014 plan that would not significantly increase the size of the campus.

“The hospital will add close to the square footage of two Transamerica buildings to an already overbuilt campus situated between two mature neighborhoods,” San Franciscans for Balanced and Livable Communities said in a statement, referring to one of the city’s iconic skyscrapers. “Over four decades the university has repeatedly promised the community that it would it would take steps to decompress the Parnassus Campus.”

The group is joined by the The Parnassus Neighborhood Coalition and the Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium.

“Bottom line: the UCSF CRDP expansion project creates a demand for 2,800 new housing units, but will provide only 1,263 — less than ½ of what will be needed to avoid negative housing market and lower-income resident displacement impacts,” John Elberling, manager of the Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium said in a letter sent Thursday to the Regents.

He said the project will burden the area’s already-strained public transit, particularly the N-Judah Metro line.

“The Parnassus Heights Campus is jammed into one of the most difficult locations in the city for commuter access,” Elberling wrote.. “The N-Judah MUNI/Metro route service is already jammed at capacity and cannot be easily increased.”

Elberling thinks UCSF should relocate its expansion to the city’s waterfront to be closer to its Mission Bay campus, suggesting Pier 70, the Potrero Power Plant, Candlestick Point, or Mission Rock near Oracle Park as potential sites. “Not only are these potential sites much closer to the Mission Bay Campus, they also will provide almost 20,000 units of new housing with over 6,000 affordable units — far more than the new housing demand that would result from the expansion project,” he said.

The groups want a full environment review of the project to determine its effect on housing, transit, air quality, and neighborhood aesthetics — as well as any potential harm to wildlife in the nearby Mount Sutro Forest.

The Parnassus Neighborhood Coalition also seeks to enforce an agreement the regents made in 1976 to permanently cap the size of the Parnassus Heights campus at 3.55 million square feet to resolve a lawsuit brought by its neighbors.

“The aim of the lawsuits is not to stop this project, but to make it work for all of us,” former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos said in a statement provided by the coalition. Agnos said he envisions an agreement similar to one that shrank the size of California Pacific Medical Center’s new hospital on Van Ness Avenue and revamped the aging St. Luke’s hospital in the Mission District.

 “We need to reimagine this hospital rebuild so that it serves all San Francisco communities, much like the Board of Supervisors did with CPMC several years ago that resulted in a smaller Van Ness hospital and a revitalized St. Luke’s in the Mission,” Agnos said.

UCSF did not respond to a request for comment.

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