LAGUNA HONDA: Tenants’ Issues Kill Bond Measure
"Backers of an ambitious proposal to rebuild Laguna Honda Hospital decided Tuesday to pull the plug on a November ballot measure after it became apparent that landlords and tenants could not agree on who would pick up the tab," the San Francisco Examiner reports. The bond proposal called for retrofitting part of the convalescent hospital to earthquake standards and building a new 1,200-bed wing. Over all, the facility would have had "room for 1,360 patients ... nearly 200 more people than are now there." At Mayor Willie Brown's (D) request, the city Board of Supervisors was to vote yesterday to place the $503 million measure on the ballot, but Brown sent a letter to the Board on Tuesday asking them to "scratch the plan," because tenant-landlord disputes over who would bear the brunt of the bond financing could not be resolved (Gordon, 7/28). The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a city law allows the cost of bond measure to be passed on to tenants, but "tenant advocates insisted that rent increases be capped at $1 per unit," a demand that caused negotiations over the measure to collapse (Wilson, 7/29).
An Early Death
Joe O'Donoghue, head of the Residential Builders Association and a proponent of the bond initiative, said, "I always took the position that we wouldn't move the Laguna Honda measure forward unless we had an equitable sharing of the burden between landlords and tenants" (Examiner, 7/28). In a prepared statement, Brown said: "Two weeks ago, a group of people representing the citizens of San Francisco came to me with a proposed bond measure to rebuild Laguna Honda Hospital. It appears now that the proponents have encountered an insurmountable obstacle." The Chronicle reports that the Board reacted as expected by voting 9-1 against the bond proposal, postponing a final decision until at least next spring. Sue Bowman, the lone dissenting vote on the panel, said, "It shows a really big failure on our part. I'm terribly sorry we're playing politics with people who need a fixed-up home." Robert Haaland of the San Francisco Tenants Union said his group was "frustrated that we're perceived as the villains here, when in my mind, it's the landlords because they are basically trying to pit poor people against poor people."
Will It Be Rescued?
While the bond initiative will languish until spring, hospital supporters, like O'Donoghue, plan to go to churches, houses and senior centers to "raise awareness" about the plight of Laguna Honda, and ask citizens not to vote for any other bond measures "until the hospital issue is resolved." Campaign consultant Jack Davis is considering a class-action suit that would force construction of a larger space for Laguna Honda residents (Chronicle, 7/29). Meanwhile, the supervisors are searching for alternate funding sources. "We're looking to see if there's an alternative source of funding that would not require a bond," said Supervisor Jose Medina (Examiner, 7/28). Click here to read about the recent history of Laguna Honda.