Stimulating Debate

S.F.'s employment rate is relatively good, but city leaders can still create more jobs. Here's how.

Left-minded activists have already begun denouncing the proposal as a raid on housing subsidies — seemingly oblivious to the fact that the subsidies are generated only if private, fee-paying projects are given a chance to obtain financing.

Yarne and Theriault say the mayor's pay-later plan solves this chicken-and-egg question, and could reignite stalled housing projects such as a planned 725-unit building at 201 Folsom Street and a 292-unit tower at One Rincon Hill.

"There's a lot of excitement over it," Yarne said. "It would have a tremendously stimulative effect."

Let CPMC build a new medical center.
On Van Ness Avenue on the site of the old Cathedral Hill Hotel, a union-management dispute holds up a $1.5 billion hospital construction plan.

In order to comply with state law requiring seismic upgrades, the four-hospital California Pacific Medical Center chain plans to build a regional medical center to house services now provided at hospitals in the Mission, Richmond, Pacific Heights, and Castro neighborhoods. But by moving services to a new nonunion medical center, CPMC would squeeze nurses at the Richmond and Mission hospitals out of the union. The union has fought back by blocking permits for the new medical center, saying CPMC should build a larger hospital at the unionized St. Luke's Hospital in the Mission and shrink its Van Ness proposal.

According to CPMC spokesman Kevin McCormack, last month the union requested that the company remain neutral when the California Nurses Association attempted a union drive at the new Van Ness hospital.

Under neutrality, "they can present any case they want, and we have to stay out of the whole thing," he said.

The CNA's Shum Preston said the neutrality request didn't include an offer to back off its campaign to stall construction of the new medical center. "We cannot support any development at Cathedral Hill that involved cutting St. Luke's below a size that makes the hospital viable in the long term," he said.

One way of reading this is that the union may not be ready to show its cards. The idea of trading union organizing neutrality in exchange for the CNA calling off its antihospital campaign is a reasonable one.

Union leaders in many industries complain that employers resort to spying, threats, intimidation, harassment, illegal firings of union supporters, and other methods to oppose union drives. And the healthcare industry has been the site of some of labor's most bitter battles during the past decade.

CPMC would seem to be taking a hardline, antiworker position at risk of undermining the hospital plans. The CNA, meanwhile has generated a flood of preprinted antihospital postcards filled out by union supporters, urging supervisors to oppose the medical center as proposed.

"We recognize there are real complex issues tied up with that one," Theriault says. "And, realistically, a number of them have to be worked through before it goes forward." But, once started, "the Cathedral Hill project will be hugely important for us."

This would seem like an ideal situation for a pro-jobs, white-knight mayor to ride in and obtain a compromise.

These are just a few of a city-full of projects stalled by interest groups, despite the fact that they would generate needed jobs.

Last week, reports that the mayor's plan to cut payroll taxes would create 4,300 jobs at a cost of $72 million evoked renewed complaints from leftist supervisors. During the next two months, the redevelopment agency and the developer will seek environmental review and design approvals for Lennar's project in Hunters Point that would include 9,000 housing units, and a community benefits agreement that guarantees job training, subsidized housing, and open space. Expect a continuing fight, with the mayor's office on the side of generating jobs.

And there is the 2005 plan, since blocked by antidevelopment activists, to create a North Beach–like neighborhood in the seven-block area near Market and Sixth streets, using public redevelopment funds to provide subsidized low-income housing, among other amenities. The mayor vowed to revive it last month.

If he wins any of these battles, Newsom will have proven he's no weenie after all.

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