Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee meeting brought on a heated discussion between Planning Commissioner Michael Antonini and Supervisor David Campos when it came to the commissioner’s reappointment.
Antonini, a dentist who has served on the Planning Commission since Mayor Willie Brown appointed him in 2002, is seeking another four-year term. But the controversy involving St. Luke’s Hospital’s retrofit has put him at odds with Campos, who believes the Planning Commission approved the plan without properly vetting it.
Would Campos give Antonini the nod?
“I cannot,” said Campos before voting down Antonini’s reappointment. “It’s not something that I do lightly.”
Supervisor Mark Farrell supported Antonini, while Supervisor Jane Kim, the committee’s chair, seemed to side with Campos, saying that though Antonini was both knowledgeable and accessible, she had concerns about his perspective on issues like affordable housing. In the end, the committee decided to pass Antonini’s reappointment to the full board, with no clear approval or rejection.
In April the Planning Commission voted 5-1 to approve a deal between Mayor Ed Lee and the California Pacific Medical Center in which CPMC agreed to retrofit St. Luke’s. Antonini stood with the majority.
Campos led the charge against the commissioner’s reappointment, focusing on why Antonini backed the CPMC deal. His grilling of Antonini was in light of leaked CPMC documents predicting that the company’s operating revenues would fall below 1 percent by 2018 and that this would occur two years in a row, allowing CPMC to activate an escape clause by which it could close St. Luke’s.
“I’m wondering what your thinking was,” Campos said.
Campos said that many board members were unwilling to vote on a project “where a trigger is based on projections given by CPMC, unless we actually see those projections.”
“So I’m wondering,” Campos prodded, “as a member of the Planning Commission, did you verify those projections … upon which the agreement was based?”
Antonini said that CPMC’s information made it look like the possibility of reaching the trigger was “extremely remote.”
“That was the way it read to me, and I read all the material, as you know,” said Antonini.
Antonini said that for the trigger to activate, not only St. Luke’s but “the whole operation” would have to be “going the wrong way.” Then, if CPMC didn’t want to live out its 20-year contract with the hospital, “they would sell it to a buyer that would continue the operation at the same level they were performing,” said Antonini.
“It’s sort of counter-intuitive that they would spend $250 million to build a new hospital and then just close the thing,” Antonini said. “So I’m optimistic that something can be worked out, but I think the ball’s in their court. I think they’ve got to come up with something that really makes it clear that under no circumstances is this hospital going to close before the agreed-upon time.”
“I’m also a glass-half-full kind of person, so I’m optimistic too,” said Campos, “and I definitely want to trust CPMC, but there’s an old saying by Ronald Reagan: ‘Trust, but verify.'”
When Antonini defended himself by saying that the Mayor’s Office had felt comfortable with the agreement, Campos fired back.
“But again,” said Campos, “the mayor’s recommendation was based on projections given to them by CPMC.”
Antonini stressed that the City does need to handle the situation, “whether or not these concerns are substantial, or realistic.”
“The community wants St. Luke’s, I want St. Luke’s,” Antonini told Campos. “I’m certainly on your side on this thing, about getting some verification.”
The Board of Supervisors will decide whether to reappoint Antonini on Tuesday, July 17.