Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Health center
design updated


The latest plan for the facade of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's planned health and wellness center uses what appear to be large wooden doors to convey a welcoming atmosphere.
(Photo: courtesy Gensler Architects)
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The San Francisco AIDS Foundation is moving ahead on its plans to establish a health and wellness center in the Castro neighborhood. Designs have been updated and the city's Board of Supervisor's voted unanimously Tuesday, July 9 to support legislation needed to advance the project.

Once completed, SFAF will merge its gay men's health center Magnet; the Stonewall Project, which provides drug counseling programs; and the Stop AIDS Project, which focuses on HIV prevention, into the new location at 474 Castro Street. The agency, which is the largest HIV/AIDS-related nonprofit in the city, has signed a 10-year lease for the building.

"We're very encouraged, and we don't anticipate there's going to be any procedural delays, but you have to go through the process," SFAF CEO Neil Giuliano said in an interview Monday, July 8.

The AIDS foundation took possession of the building June 16 and is working with the city in order to get the space open.

"We expect the planning commission will do a hearing on the plan sometime later this month, and after that happens, we hope to be able to move forward," Giuliano said.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a zoning rule change along Castro Street to allow for SFAF's proposed health center to move forward. The proposal still has to go to Mayor Ed Lee for his signature.

At the meeting, gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro, pointed to the continuing AIDS epidemic and federal HIV funding cuts, which city officials are expected to backfill.

"This project, given that context, is very exciting, and a welcome opportunity for our community," Wiener said.

Gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos said the proposal is "something that makes a great deal of sense."

Under the old rules, only businesses could operate in Castro storefronts totaling more than 4,000 square feet. With the new gay men's health center totaling 15,000 square feet, it would not be allowed without the zoning change.

Now, a "neighborhood-serving nonprofit" will be able to apply for a conditional use permit in a space exceeding the stated allowable limit. Thus, SFAF can now seek the necessary permits for its new health center from the planning commission, which is expected to vote on the foundation's plans sometime in August.

Giuliano hopes that his agency will be able to start renovation of the facility by late next month or early September.

However, he said, "a lot of that is tentative. You never really know until you actually get through the city process."

SFAF hosted a meeting at Magnet Monday night to offer people a chance to see the facade and ask questions about the project.



Another large part of the project, of course, involves money.

"We will be conducting a $10 million major fundraising campaign," Giuliano said. "About half of that will be for renovation of the facility, and about half of that will be for the expansion of the programs we currently have."

He wouldn't say how much has been raised so far. During a February editorial board meeting with the Bay Area Reporter Giuliano said the foundation needed to raise $7.9 million.

"We're in the silent phase of the campaign," Giuliano said. He said that the agency wouldn't report how much has been raised but, "We are very encouraged, and we've had a good response thus far." He confirmed that big donors have stepped up, but he wouldn't elaborate. The public phase of the campaign is expected to start around early 2014.

As for how long it may take to raise the money, Giuliano said it would "hopefully" take only three years, "but we don't know, it could be two."

SFAF officials have been working with Gensler Architects on the design for the space, formerly home to Superstar Video and a number of medical offices on the second floor.

The nonprofit has sought to create an open atmosphere for the center and plans to replace the outdated, bland facade of the current site. The latest iteration calls for what look like large wooden doors that would appear propped open as a symbol of SFAF's desire that the new health center be inviting to the community. A set of smaller glass doors would serve as the actual entryway into the building.

The plans also call for a third floor addition to be built and a new balcony over the entrance to Blush wine bar, which will remain a tenant of the building.

Giuliano said the first floor would include program-related offices and reception; the second floor will mainly be a sexual health clinic, where testing will be done; and a counseling center will occupy most of the third floor.

The design includes setbacks at the third floor level "to accommodate concerns of shading on the adjacent properties," Giuliano said.


Matthew S. Bajko contributed to this report.

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