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Bio Companies Are at the Root of Mission Bay’s Growth


As early as 2019, the Golden State Warriors will bring old rivalries to new stomping grounds — in a neighborhood many people consider empty, awaiting future development. But Mission Bay has had an economic heartbeat for years now, filled with a healthy amount of medical competition.

Kaiser Permanente, UCSF, and dozens of biotechnology companies are facing the impending arrival of attractions that will draw visitors far and wide. Although they spent about 20 years turning Mission Bay into a medical hub, it only hit its stride a few years ago.

Way back in 1999, UCSF broke ground on an 878,000-square-foot hospital complex that would become the city’s only new medical facility in decades. In the meantime, biotech companies like Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals also set up shop while the complex was under construction.

Kaiser Permanente also got to work on opening a 9-story facility near its competitor, saving some patients from a trek to its hospital in the Richmond. UCSF opened centers dedicated to children, cancer patients, and women in 2015, and Kaiser’s opening followed one year later, just around the corner on Owens Street.

By 2016, roughly 70 biotech companies also called Mission Bay home, all while the Warriors arena loomed. A group of UCSF and research stakeholders formed Mission Bay Alliance and sued the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure in 2015, arguing that the project would create major traffic and hurt emergency access for medical centers.

The lawsuit was thrown out in 2016, allowing the newly named Chase Center to continue development but delaying its opening until 2019. Proposition I, which would have voters formally take the inconsequential position for the city to not poach other sports teams, would have been a final stand against the new arena affecting the medical groups — but it handily lost in the June election.

Even without the Warriors’ move to Mission Bay, it’s starting to feel crowded for some biotech companies. Earlier this year, gene research company Illumina announced it would take its 400 employees to Foster City. Neurodegeneration and cancer research company Alector is using a UCSF off-campus incubator office, but after raising $60 million to study Alzheimer’s disease, hasn’t been able to expand outside the area.

“They’re still there only because they couldn’t find suitable space,” Douglas Crawford, associate director of incubator program QB3, told the San Francisco Business Times. “It’s a disappointing challenge.”

Biotech companies may be finding space to be a challenge, but UCSF and Kaiser Permanente already have theirs laid out in Mission Bay. They’ve each become stewards of the space in their own right, contributing to community events and programs, like public vegetable gardens, workforce development, and school workshops.

This may all be lost on Warriors fans as they cheer for Steph Curry at the new home court. But while Curry makes baskets, breakthroughs in medicine will happen just blocks away.

Read more from SF Weekly‘s Mission Bay issue:

Mission Bay: The Most Misunderstood Neighborhood
What do you make of a place whose crowning aesthetic achievement is a 10-story parking garage?

What’s It Like to Live on a Houseboat in Mission Creek
Please don’t change the channel, this tight-knit neighborhood of 20 houseboats asks. But Mission Bay is on the move.

Mission Bay Has More Parks Than You Think
In a rare push for green spaces, 40 acres of parks are planned for residents of the 6,400 new housing units in Mission Bay.

The Lefty O’Doul Bridge: A Feat of Steel and Engineering
The drawbridge that connects SoMa to Mission Bay was built before the Golden Gate Bridge even broke ground.

The 10 Best Places to Eat and Drink in Mission Bay
Food trucks and fine dining in a neighborhood that doesn’t always get a lot of love.

Ida Mojadad

Ida Mojadad is the Staff Writer at SF Weekly. You can reach her at (415)-359-2728 or imojadad@sfweekly.com. Follow her on Twitter at @idamoj.

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