It’s difficult to believe that the New Year is almost upon us. For this month’s article, I want to provide a “Year in Review” of the major legislative actions and projects that our office prioritized in 2013.
After a failed attempt to approve California Pacific Medical Center’s (CPMC) plans to build a 555-bed hospital at the corner of Van Ness and Geary last summer, I joined two of my Board of Supervisors colleagues and entered into about five months of intense negotiations with CPMC and reached a deal in March of this year.
In District 2, CPMC will build a brand-new, 274-bed hospital at the former Cathedral Hill Hotel site on Van Ness Avenue. This state of the art facility will be CPMC’s flagship facility in San Francisco and will provide incredible access to modern health care for all San Franciscans. Construction is estimated to take approximately five years, and we broke ground on the project on October 29, 2013.
Upon completion of the Cathedral site, CPMC will convert the existing Pacific Campus in Pacific Heights to an outpatient medical facility, and ultimately sell the California Campus. I have worked with CPMC and the neighborhood to ensure traffic patterns are addressed and the Pacific campus is renovated in cooperation with local neighbors and the surrounding communities, and ensured the surrounding neighborhoods have significant impact on what type of facility ultimately replaces the California Campus.
PASSING UNANIMOUS BUDGET
Serving as chair of the Budget & Finance Committee was one of the highlights this past year. In a consensus-building process, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a balanced budget for fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15. Through our work in the committee, we found significant savings and reallocated those dollars for workforce training, social services, parks and open spaces, children and family services, and infrastructure.
The budget definitely reflected the priorities and values of both the mayor and the Board of Supervisors — but most importantly of San Francisco. With those savings we were able to add a half-dozen new gardeners for our city’s parks, open a new Recreation and Parks clubhouse in every district, add $2 million in direct children services and another $2 million in workforce training programs, plus much more.
Perhaps the best part of this was the fact that we were able to find savings and add services while still adding a record amount of funds into our city’s budget reserves to protect against the next economic downturn.
Thanks to the overwhelming support of San Francisco’s voters, we were able to pass Proposition A this November – a charter amendment that I placed on the ballot to solve our city’s $4.4 billion unfunded retiree health-care liability.
In November 2012, our controller’s office issued a report that benchmarked San Francisco’s current unfunded health-care liability at $4.4 billion. The $4.4 billion liability represents the future cost of providing retiree health-care benefits earned by current employees and retirees. Like many major cities, San Francisco’s liability, which breaks down to $13,487 per household, is funded on a pay-as-you-go basis out of the general fund, and less than one percent of the $4.4 billion tab has been saved.
With the passage of Proposition A, San Francisco is poised to become, believe it or not, one of the most fiscally responsible cities in the nation by addressing both pension and retiree health-care liabilities through the initiative process. We will wipe out San Francisco’s $4.4 billion liability in approximately 30 years, without requiring any additional concessions from employees or requiring any reduction in benefits. We’re simply requiring strict fiscal discipline at City Hall, so that we responsibly manage and plan for our City’s financial future.
Back in May, after over two years of negotiations, I announced a generous gift from Google to provide free Wi-Fi to 31 parks, plazas, and open spaces across San Francisco. This will further cement San Francisco’s role as a national leader in creating technologically driven solutions to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.
Free Wi-Fi service will have a number of positive benefits and implications: it will further close the digital divide in communities where Internet access is limited, increase government efficiency by providing our Recreation and Park staff with more tools to more effectively manage their recreation centers and community programs, and enable organizations that serve our youth, seniors, and populations with no Internet access to further enhance their programs’ effectiveness and outcomes.
The Free Wi-Fi project is set to go through the legislative process through the end of this year and the beginning of next year, with expected installation at the sites to begin in the Spring of 2014.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2014
We have a number of big projects for next year. Topping the list includes legislation to foster middle-income housing production and address the affordability crisis San Francisco is experiencing, enacting data-driven solutions to solve chronic homelessness, pushing environmental policies that help property owners make energy efficient upgrades to their homes, and focusing on my re-election efforts to continue representing District 2 on the Board of Supervisors.
We’re extremely proud of the work we were able to accomplish this year and look forward to making 2014 another successful year.
Happy holidays to you and your family!