New UCSF research facility navigating red tape 

click to enlarge This rendering shows the proposed UCSF research facility at S.F. General Hospital. - COURTESY UC SAN FRANCISCO
  • Courtesy UC San Francisco
  • This rendering shows the proposed UCSF research facility at S.F. General Hospital.

Two decades in the making, a new $160 million UC San Francisco research facility at San Francisco General Hospital is closer to reality than ever before.

The long-proposed five-story facility, to be constructed at the existing B-C parking lot at the southeast corner of the hospital campus near 23rd and Vermont streets, will be home to about 200 UCSF physician-scientists and some 800 employees working under them.

Members of the Health Commission on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution endorsing a nonbinding agreement between The City and the UC system regents to lease the lot space. Base rent will be $180,000 annually for 75 years, with a 24-year option to extend.

Following an environmental review, the final ground lease would go before the Board of Supervisors around June 2016, with construction projected to begin sometime in 2017 for a grand opening in late 2019.

On that land, UCSF would build its facility, with the $160 million already factored into its budget, at no cost to The City. The plan was tossed around for 20 years but negotiated in its current form for the past couple years.

“It’s been a challenge, but it has been done,” said Sue Carlisle, vice dean of UCSF’s School of Medicine at the hospital.

The new, 175,000-square-foot facility — one-third for wet labs, or bench research, and two-thirds for dry labs, meaning desktop research and administrative work — is a much-needed upgrade from the century-old buildings that do not meet the UC system’s seismic standards, Carlisle said.

The scientists and employees who will work at the new facility are currently scattered across nine buildings on campus, mostly red brick edifices dating back to 1915.

Of the nine buildings now housing researchers, four are thin structures designed for tuberculosis patients, two were originally clinic and hospital buildings, one was a nursing dormitory, one was an emergency room and the last was a U-shaped hospital building.

“These buildings are not conducive to building modern labs,” Carlisle said. “Even if we retrofitted them, they still don’t have the kind of space arrangement that most labs need, so they are enormously inefficient.”

Though there were initial concerns from patients and neighbors about parking loss, no objections have been voiced lately, said Rachael Kagan, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health, which operates the hospital.

The department has formed a working group with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to look at traffic management and explore the possibility of building out the hospital parking garage, which currently occupies only two-thirds of its allotted area. That proposal is expected to go before the transit agency board in September.

“We really appreciate the support of neighbors who understand the importance of the research but understand potential parking issues and are doing everything we can to address that,” Kagan said.

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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