San Francisco committee adopts mayoral bond measure plan

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday May 6, 2024
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Edward Wright, right, from the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, spoke at a May 2 rally to demand that funds for City Clinic be included in the mayor's fall bond measure. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Edward Wright, right, from the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, spoke at a May 2 rally to demand that funds for City Clinic be included in the mayor's fall bond measure. Photo: Rick Gerharter

An oversight committee stacked with city administrators has given its stamp of approval to a bond measure San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants to put before voters in November. It includes funds to rebuild Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro LGBTQ district and to relocate the public health department's City Clinic that provides services for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

It will now be up to the Board of Supervisors to finalize what the $390 million bond will fund, as the supervisors can make changes to what projects are included. At least eight of the 11 board members will need to vote in support of the bond by July 26 in order to make it onto the fall ballot.

As the Bay Area Reporter had reported last week, LGBTQ advocates had called out the inclusion of $25 million for the public parklet at what seemed to be the disadvantage of purchasing a new building for the health department's STD clinic. The city has estimated doing so will require $28.5 million.

Following the uproar, which included seeing a protest in front of the clinic at 356 Seventh Street, Breed initially had announced May 2 that she would seek $27 million for the health facility after the controller's office announced the bond could increase by $30 million. Her office said May 6 it would now allocate $28 million toward City Clinic's relocation.

The full amount of the bond is capped at a certain level so should the bond measure pass it replaces retiring bond commitments and doesn't raise property owners' taxes. With the bond measure needing two-thirds support from voters November 5 in order to be adopted, any opposition to it will cause headwinds for Breed and city leaders pushing for its passage.

LGBTQ advocates and others have criticized the inclusion of various streetscape improvements in a bond they argue should solely be focused on public health projects. For instance, $70 million was slated for street safety projects and road repaving. Money would also be allocated toward improving Hallidie Plaza and repairing the elevator at the entrance into the Powell Street subway station.

Monday, Breed's office also said it was taking $1 million from street safety projects and another $2 million for downtown projects, plus the remaining $2 million from the increase in the bond's total, to create a $5 million fund to activate recreation spaces across the city. Projects in the downtown public realm would still receive $46 million, while the roadway projects would receive $68.9 million.

The bond measure would also fund $167 million in public health infrastructure, including renovating and expanding the Chinatown Health Clinic, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and Laguna Honda Hospital. The city's Homelessness Response System would receive $50 million to increase its capacity to house homeless families.

"The proposed bond will address critical needs to health care infrastructure, including a full renovation and seismic upgrade to the Chinatown Public Health Center, San Francisco Health Network's most seismically vulnerable clinic," according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

In a statement last week to the B.A.R., the agency also noted that the bond will "address critical upgrades to Zuckerberg San Francisco General (ZSFG) and Laguna Honda Hospital to ensure San Francisco's safety net public hospitals continue to deliver the highest quality care and meet strict state and federal regulatory operating requirements."

It added, the bond funds will also "ensure Laguna Honda retains its federal certifications to operate," and "will significantly expand ZSFG's Psychiatric Emergency Services, doubling the number of patients that can be served on a daily basis."

The health department didn't directly address the funding for City Clinic. It did state it "is grateful for this opportunity to continue to address our health care capital needs."

At its meeting Monday, May 6, the San Francisco Capital Planning Committee voted 10-0 with one abstention to send the bond proposal to the supervisors for review. City Administrator Carmen Chu said she was "reluctantly voting for this" due to her wanting to see more health department projects funded by it.

As he will vote on the bond when it comes before the supervisors, Board President Aaron Peskin abstained from voting on it as a member of the planning committee. Peskin, who represents District 3 and is running for mayor against Breed this November, was critical of the choices made about the projects included in the bond measure.

"Once again, we are forestalling making tough decisions for making political decisions," said Peskin.

Brian Springfield, a gay man who is executive director of the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, noted that the city funding will help bring the project forward and address its current staircase leading into the belowground Castro subway station that doesn't meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

"The main stairs do not meet current building codes," said Springfield. "They are groovy looking and wavy, but do not meet the ADA."

Stephen Torres, a gay Castro bartender running this fall for the open District 9 supervisor seat that includes the Mission district, called for the public health department's Silver Avenue Family Health Center in the Portola neighborhood to be added to the bond measure.

"It is one of the primary resources for Spanish-speaking patients in the city," said Torres.

Jeffrey Kwong, a gay man who is president of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, had raised alarms about the City Clinic funding and helped organize the protest last week. He noted to the committee Monday his thanks to the controller's office for finding the additional funds so the public health facility could be added into the bond.

He noted the Milk club over the last decade had "endorsed every single" bond measure put on the ballot. But Kwong also expressed a desire to see politics not intrude on the process to develop bond measures, noting the votes for them have grown closer in recent years. He expressed concern about seeing a bond measure in the future fall short of the two-thirds threshold.

"We want to make sure there is integrity in the process," said Kwong, referring to the deliberative way the city plans capital planning expenditures.

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