LAGUNA HONDA: Seniors, Disabled Oppose Bond Issue
Efforts to secure $299 million to rebuild San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital have "received a jolt" after a group of seniors and disabled people -- the group expected to offer support -- voted against the bond issue Thursday, claiming that the construction of a new facility would promote institutionalization, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. August Longo, president of the FDR Democratic Club for Seniors and People with Disabilities, which boasts 1,100 members, said, "We need a smaller facility at Laguna Honda as part of a broader plan aimed at keeping people at home," a plan that activists claim is "cheaper and better." Longo added, "We realized that what we want for Laguna Honda residents is what we want for ourselves: choices in where we live, who helps us, what we eat, when we go to bed, whom we spend time with." However, the nine supervisors in favor of the measure, who are backed by Mayor Willie Brown (D), argue, "If Laguna Honda closed, with San Francisco's severe shortage of nursing home beds, many patients would fail at home, requiring them to seek expensive emergency room treatment and acute care in hospitals."
The Laguna Make-Over
The bond issue, to face a public vote on Nov. 2, "calls for replacing the 73-year-old Laguna Honda structure with 1,200 beds for skilled nursing and 200 for assisted living." The current building has been cited for failing to adhere to seismic standards and has drawn criticism for its "large open wards," which lack privacy. The project, slated to cost $609 million, calls for a property tax increase and thus must gain a two-thirds majority among voters. Costs will be supplemented by tobacco settlement funds. Tom Hsieh, spokesperson for Proposition A, said, "It's one of the best examples of community-based care in the city. It's in one of the city's oldest, most-established neighborhoods that's easily accessible to the families of patients and to the hundreds of volunteers," adding that a growing elderly population will only increase demand for the proposed facility. However, Kathy Uhl of Independent Living Resource Center said, "If you build a 1,200-bed facility there will be a motivation to keep it full" (Epstein, 8/21).