Petition Closed

Health care provider Kaiser Permanente and its partner, Walden Development, are proposing to build a massive medical office and residential complex in the Potrero Hill neighborhood. We, the undersigned, are concerned residents, business owners, and neighbors of Potrero Hill. For reasons spelled out in this petition, we are unified in our conclusion that Kaiser's planned development is not appropriate for the currently proposed site.

Letter to
Kaiser Permanente CEO and Board of Directors
October 31, 2012

We, the undersigned, write this letter to bring to your attention our concern and consternation over a proposed Kaiser Permanente Medical Office Building (MOB) on Mississippi Street, between 16th and 17th Streets, in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. The project as proposed will drastically and negatively affect our quality of life.

The Kaiser proposal serves the financial interests of the current property owner. It may appear to serve the interests of Kaiser, but it does not. It does not serve the interests of the residents of Potrero Hill and surrounding area for whom it is purportedly intended.

We urge you to direct Kaiser to reconsider the selection of this site and to look into more appropriate, constructive, politically expedient, architecturally and purpose-consistent locations such as in Mission Bay, where parcels may now be available that were not when Kaiser's original siting analysis was conducted.

A 2008 project summary report prepared for UCSF by the Mission Bay Community Task Force offers a telling contrast to the manner in which Kaiser is presenting and conducting its public affairs in regards to this proposal. In that extensively researched report, a Community Issues and Opportunities Map deemed this precise parcel, defined by 16th and 17th Streets, between Arkansas and Pennsylvania Streets, to be one of "Greatest Community Sensitivity." In marked contrast to UCSF's approach, the process by which Kaiser has been proceeding with this proposal, and the plan as currently put forth, offer a complete absence of sensitivity to the community and the site.

Before further ill-will is engendered against Kaiser and before the increasing and broad-based resistance to this proposed building tips into a very public battle against those making the proposal and a public relations nightmare, we urge Kaiser to reconsider whether its long-term interests are well served by its role in pushing this proposal forward, whether this effort exemplifies the holistic return on investment that it is the Board's fiduciary duty to maximize, and whether this effort successfully leverages the current store of corporate goodwill on account from Kaiser's "Thrive" branding campaign.

While we respect Kaiser's business and appreciate the high quality of care offered by its personnel, its business model, by its very nature, is ill-suited for the proposed location. Yours is a high turnover, high density business, and at the scale proposed, this building would generate in excess of 3500 daily visits, an unacceptably high proportion of which would be by car. We believe Kaiser's due diligence process has been flawed and has been marked by apparent collusion with a property developer whose long-term interests are not aligned with Kaiser's. The due diligence has not taken into account Kaiser's obligation to be a good neighbor to the community that it purports to serve, and places Kaiser on a path to squander completely an opportunity to be welcomed by a community, rather than be vilified.

Proper due diligence would reveal that: (1) the massive scale of the building is not in line with any existing commercial (as well as any residential) facility in the area and is far in excess of what is needed to serve the intended community, (2) this vast complex threatens the existence of the few remaining small businesses that have been providing services for our neighborhood for many years, (3) there is no thoughtful plan in place, nor can one be developed shy of significant expenditure by Kaiser on public transportation infrastructure, to prevent an onslaught of traffic congestion and attendant air pollution in an already greatly-troubled area (4) visitors to the facility would monopolize on-street parking (to avoid Kaiser's garage fees) in a way that directly harms local small businesses and residents and in no way helps them, and (5) the building would debilitate and destroy Potrero Hill's unique character, one which has long been associated with San Francisco's working class, a class that Kaiser, ironically, was originally created in order to serve. Finally, though the property owner vying to sell this land to Kaiser claims that this location is not functionally distinguishable from, and may be treated just like, Mission Bay, with its office park fortresses and deserted streets, he is wrong. Though directly adjacent to Mission Bay, the Potrero Hill neighborhood is a distinct, and very different, community. While this fact may be lost on Kaiser, it is not lost on the many in opposition to this proposal.

The massive Kaiser structure would disrespectfully block vistas featured in international cinema that celebrate San Francisco, vistas that benefit residents and commuters on highway 280, "America's Scenic Highway." The persistent frustration over this Kaiser building would affect physical and psychological health amongst community residents, an irony that will not be lost on savvy San Franciscans and will do as much damage to Kaiser's reputation as will the severity of this proposed architecture wreak havoc on our neighborhood's visual charm. With office park operating hours, giving this site over to the proposed use is expected to promote off-hours crime, and will do nothing to add to the commercial vitality of the neighborhood. Finally, the MOB as planned relies on suburban-style automobile commuting. The location has poor MUNI bus service, no BART service, is irrelevantly near to the CalTrain line (as this facility is stated to be for the use of SF residents, a train from the Peninsula does not mitigate transit problems), and is unnecessarily and convincingly far from the 3rd Street light rail line. We know that San Francisco's politicians will recognize that this proposal runs antithetical to San Francisco's urban planning mission to decrease utilization of private cars as part of approving new building construction.

Finally, we recognize that the Board may not be aware of a ten-year process, predating Kaiser's interest in the area, during which a thoughtful and extensive community planning process addressed development and utilization of the precise area in which Kaiser proposes now to build. The loud and impassioned voices of many local residents who were part of that process will now attest that a suburban-scale medical office building is the antithesis of what was deemed best and highest use of the site. In that process, the community's wishes were subverted at a late hour with the granting of the currently zoned building heights, ones far in excess of what was desired and site-appropriate. Thus, we ask the Board to understand that these same zoning codes which Kaiser is now taking for granted, and of which Kaiser is now proposing to take maximum advantage, are already a source of great dissatisfaction to the constituency that Kaiser claims it would serve via this proposed structure.

We residents of Potrero Hill, many of whom are beneficiaries of Kaiser Permanente's good works, recognize the commitment you pour into providing affordable healthcare to the San Francisco Bay Area, and we laud your undertakings and monumental achievements. We now ask that you bring this medical complex to another location where it will be welcomed and where it may genuinely help Kaiser members Thrive, rather than take the current approach of playing "Goliath" to our "Davids". Our neighborhood has a treasured identity, which we safeguard for ourselves and as a gift for San Franciscans for generations to come. We welcome thoughtfully planned changes that respect the character of our community.

We much prefer not to be adversaries of Kaiser and its Board of Directors, and this potential battle is not one we have sought, but it is one we will wage. We advise the Board to recognize the strength of community opposition to this plan, opposition that is rapidly escalating. While leaders of our local community (including high-profile Bay Area corporate leaders, developers and architectural experts) are prepared to work collaboratively with Kaiser to effect a significantly and meaningfully scaled-down version of this proposed development, one that respects the unique character of our neighborhood and suits the local need for your services in a thoughtful and balanced manner, we are unified in our conclusion that Kaiser's own goals would be better served by selecting a different site altogether.

Respectfully yours,
We, the undersigned, residents of Potrero Hill