As construction nears completion at V20, the 18 unit condo at 20th and Valencia, Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation plans to open a medical facility in the ground floor commercial space – if it’s approved by the Planning Commission.  Some Valencia Street neighbors, however,  are working to prevent that from happening or at least working to get it downsized.

The medical center would include various services, including physician’s offices, equipment for tests and lab work. It would also take up the full 7,100 square-foot corner space. Its large size requires conditional use approval from Planning because Valencia Street is zoned for 3,000 square-foot retail spaces.

Its large size also means that the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association has opted to oppose the project when it heads to the Planning Commission May 21. It’s also raised debate among members of the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association.

“It’s not going to be cohesive with a neighborhood that is famous for lots of retailers and restaurants, it’s this big behemoth medical center,” said Jefferson McCarley, a spokesperson for the Valencia merchants. “They want to be able to put this big gigantic thing that is above and beyond what the planning code allows, that code was put in for a reason.”

Jenifer Turnbull, a vice president of facility development for Sutter, says the medical facility will work to be a good neighbor and plans for its storefront facing Valencia Street to have a retail-like feel.

“I do think we will be good neighborhood partner, providing health services for everyone from kids to geriatric folks,” said Turnbull. “We’re working hard to make it a more active space, with glass windows, and weekend and after hours services. We also think bringing primary care is really a benefit to the neighborhood.”

Turnbull also said that Sutter chose the Mission because it’s one of the medically underserved neighborhoods listed in the Department of Public Health’s 2013 Health Care Services Master Plan.

McCarley says that Valencia Street isn’t right for a project that’s so big, but a group of merchants on the corridor would support Sutter’s arrival if it didn’t take up the entire corner.

“We welcome Sutter to the neighborhood, even to Valencia street,” said McCarley. “We would love it if they could take the second floor. Or allow retailers to contribute to the vibrancy of the street by taking a slightly smaller space behind the storefront space.”

McCarley says the medical facility could slow down foot traffic for shoppers traveling down Valencia.

Turnbull says that Sutter won’t feel like an office, that if it moves into the space the company could include a shop for its Institute of Health and Healing, which practices western medicine and eastern therapies and sells various nutritional and health supplements.

Lowering the project’s footprint also isn’t an option, according to Turnbull. She says Sutter hopes the facility can provide as many services in one location for patients as possible, which she says includes those on most insurance plans including Medicare and Medi-Cal.

“We like to aggregate services so patients can come to one place to get everything done,” said Turnbull, adding that they need a space as big as the one at 20th and Valencia to create that kind of convenience. “There’s not a lot of available space in this part of the city, not the kind of spaces we can provide this breadth of services.”

Because Sutter is a medical facility it doesn’t technically fall under the category of formula retail, which is limited on Valencia Street. But McCarley says the Planning Department should treat it as such. St. Luke’s Hospital on Cesar Chavez and Valencia is also a Sutter facility.

On Monday May 11, representatives from Sutter will present at a community meeting organized by the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association at 953 Valencia Street at 7 p.m.