Tenderloin health clinic seeks to ease community concerns amid fight for new home 

click to enlarge Community leader Robert Garcia heads a community meeting regarding the relocation of a behavioral health center in the Tenderloin, Hyde Street Community Services. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.f. Examiner
  • Community leader Robert Garcia heads a community meeting regarding the relocation of a behavioral health center in the Tenderloin, Hyde Street Community Services.

Many local nonprofits are being forced to relocate as landlords raise their rents amid the hottest real estate market in San Francisco since the previous technology boom of the late 1990s. But one organization on the move is finding out rent may not be the toughest obstacle.

The 40-year-old nonprofit Hyde Street Community Services has been providing mental health outpatient services in the Tenderloin neighborhood at 134 Golden Gate Ave. under contract with the Department of Public Health. But when faced with the prospect of having its rent double, the clinic went on the real estate hunt.

The only thing it could find after months of searching was not in the Tenderloin, but in Lower Nob Hill. When the Health Commission was to vote to approve the move on June 17, community opposition forced a postponement at the urging of Robert Garcia, the head of Save Our Streets, a tenant and business organization comprising eight square blocks of the Lower Nob Hill Historic Hotel and Apartment District, often referred to as the TenderNob.

Garcia is calling on city leaders to figure out how to keep the clinic at its current location, saying the facility would be a setback to decades of neighborhood advocacy work to improve the area.

"We ran prostitution out of this neighborhood," Garcia said. "This was organized crime. We ran it out. We got out there and did what we could to clean up this neighborhood."

But Cyndi Gyori, the Hyde Street nonprofit's executive director, said there was no choice but to move as the landlord wanted to double the $18 per square foot rent and they weren't large enough to fill the building's 18,000-square-foot space.

"We are one of those nonprofits that are being displaced," Gyori said.

After months of searching, the group found a 9,000-square-foot medical service space at 815 Hyde St. for $28 a square foot. With no need for major tenant improvements, the cost impact for relocating was nominal, totaling about $10,000. The site seemed to be the best option in today's market, according to Gyori.

The outpatient clinic, operating with a $2.88 million annual city contract, would continue to serve between 50 and 60 clients a day. Among approximately 700 open cases, about 40 percent are victims of trauma, 20 percent suffer from anxiety disorders and, 14 percent have schizophrenia.

At last week's community meeting organized by Garcia, nearby residents and merchants expressed concerns ranging from an increase of homeless persons in the area to safety.

Nicholas Barbera, 26, who recently moved to The City and signed a lease to rent a one-bedroom unit with his girlfriend near the proposed site on Hyde Street, said he is primarily concerned with safety issues.

"I see what is down in the Tenderloin," he said. "I have no interest of having any of that sitting outside my doorstep."

Amid concerns over the future of nonprofits, the Board of Supervisors recently created a $4.5 million nonprofit displacement fund to help with moving expenses, provide legal services and capital improvements for newly acquired sites.

Larkin Street Youth Services, a nonprofit catering to young people, is moving its facilities located in several buildings on Sutter Street into the space being vacated by Hyde Street Community Service as it is facing its own rent worries, according to Ray Fort, Larkin Youth's chief operating officer. The group would be paying about $20 per square foot for the space.

Gyori told those at the meeting that "we will take every step to mitigate any impact." Come Sept. 15, if the clinic doesn't find another place, "we will cease to exist," she said.

The Health Commission is scheduled to vote July 15 on the lease for the new location.

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