Blighted Tenderloin waits for new hospital to be built

May 25, 2011 10:06:30 PM PDT
In four years, San Francisco's Van Ness Avenue is slated to be home to a new, state of the art hospital. But for now, it's home to a lot of empty storefronts covered in graffiti. But the hospital that could revitalize the area is also part of the problem.

Peeling paint and graffiti cover the front of a movie theater that has been vacant for years. A block away, Circuit City is still advertising gift cards, although the chain has been defunct since 2009.

"It bothers us, you know, we would like to see a vibrant community," Tenderloin resident Lorenzo Listana said.

Listana knows changes are coming to the corner of Van Bess and Geary. The giant Cathedral Hill Hotel that has stood empty for the last year and a half is slated to become the new campus of California Pacific Medical Center.

"Hopefully this hospital and the medical office building that we're building across the street will help kind of regenerate the neighborhood," hospital spokesperson Kevin McCormack said.

But McCormack told ABC7 the city has not yet actually approved the project. So it could be next year before they start demolition and three more years before the hospital opens.

In the mean time, what was the neighborhood bakery stands empty and what used to be a Peruvian restaurant continues to decay.

The businesses did not leave this block empty handed. A neighborhood group told ABC7 the hospital paid them generously to move out and find a new home somewhere else.

But what's left is an eyesore that could remain that way for a couple of years.

And one community organizer told ABC7, as the hospital tries to get city approval to start building, he thinks they want it this way.

"CPMC has been using the justification for moving their hospital here, using the excuse that the neighborhood is blighted and they're going to help contribute to revitalization; it's somewhat facetious in that they have kind of contributed to blight in the neighborhood a little bit by closing down this hotel and these businesses," Tenderloin community organizer Steve Woo said.

"What we've done probably didn't help, but I don't think it exacerbated it," McCormack said.

McCormack hopes demolition will begin next year. It will take 1,500 workers to tear down the building and put up a new one; workers who will no doubt patronize local businesses.

Listana, who lives in affordable housing, says he hopes his neighbors can be among them.

"We would like to see our residents prioritized in their hiring," he said.


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