The proposed $160 million rebuild and expansion of Chinese Hospital may not be the most attractive nor authentic architecture in historic Chinatown, but the Planning Commission agreed Thursday on its necessity.
The project to remake and modernize the last independent hospital in San Francisco, located at 835 and 845 Jackson St., now heads to the Board of Supervisors and, if approved, could be completed in 2015.
The original hospital, built in 1924, is now a medical office building adjacent to the current hospital, built in 1979. Both are seismically deficient, and the current hospital’s rooms are drastically undersized and lacking in modern facilities, hospital officials say.
Under the new plan, the current hospital will be remodeled, and the office building will be demolished and replaced with a 54-bed acute-care facility and a 22-bed skilled-nursing facility to serve the elderly population.
Commissioners unanimously approved the project’s environment impact report, as well as zoning and other changes. They were nearly as unanimous in saying the modernist structure’s looks would be significantly lacking for one of the country’s most famous neighborhoods.
Commissioner Ron Miguel called the architecture “universally bland.” Miguel and other commissioners agreed there should be more of an effort to preserve the character of the neighborhood in the hospital.
“Everyone realizes this is a vital part of our medical system,” Commissioner Gwyneth Borden said. “We also want to maintain the beautiful fabric of what Chinatown is.”
Commissioner Cindy Wu differed slightly, stressing that “it’s the street life that really defines the neighborhood.”
Chinese Hospital Chief Operating Officer Linda Schumacher said while she remained sensitive to those criticisms, the hospital would be unlikely to save and reuse much of the medical building’s historic features.
“The difficult part is a lot of them, because of their age, are actually falling apart,” she said.