Instead of praising the construction of St. Luke’s Campus for being on time and only months away from completion, neighbors who attended a meeting Wednesday were unhappy about access to an open-air plaza and the possibility of having to give up either parking or a bike lane along Cesar Chavez Street. 

Paul Klemish, the project director, showed neighbors the plan to widen the sidewalk on Cesar Chavez Street between Guerrero and Valencia streets by four to six feet for a curb extension.

“Do you know how the bike lane would be affected?” asked one man in the audience of some 13 who attended the meeting at St. Luke’s Campus.

Klemish said he hoped the bike lane would be moved out slightly and not merged with the lane of traffic. However, he said he could not be entirely sure until the city granted him the construction permit.

Either the bike lane or street parking would have to go, said Arly Cassidy, a neighbor who works as a city planner for the Town of Portola Valley.

Steven Spaid, the construction administrator, and Vahram Massehian, the project manager for CPMC Sutter Health, which owns St. Luke’s hospital, said the bike lane would remain.

“So, no street parking,” Cassidy said. “That’s great.”

Klemish said that he was still uncertain about the outcome and moved on to talk about the future of the open plaza that would connect 27th Street to Cesar Chavez Street.  The plans show an elevated plaza with a variety of green spaces, with benches for seating and a series of stairways that would allow both community members and patients of St. Luke’s to pass through.

In a development agreement with the city, the plaza will replace San Jose Avenue between Cesar Chavez and 27th streets.

A rendering of the plaza that connects Cesar Chavez and 27th streets. Illustration courtesy of Sutter Health CPMC.

Klemish said the hospital expected to keep the plaza open at all times, but he also did not rule out closing it during specific hours.

“I’m really surprised there was not a ramp added,” said Cassidy when speaking of the plaza. Without a ramp, she continued, St. Luke’s would have to allow those in wheelchairs to enter the hospital at any time, so that they would have equal access to the plaza. She assumed that this would be required under the Americans with Disability Act.

Spaid said that they had considered a ramp, but ultimately their accessibility reviewer advised that, “there is no accessible requirement for exterior space, only interior space.”

“Morally or legally?” said Jesse Nichols, who lives on 27th Street.

“Legally,” shouted one member of the audience.

“Well,” said Spaid, “legally.”

Klemish briefly moved the conversation along, but it eventually returned to plaza access. Spaid said there are some alternatives, such as adding an exterior elevator. And he seemed open to discussing other options.

After the meeting, Massehian said he was thankful for the engaged citizens. If this many informed people had shown up to the first meeting for St. Luke’s, he said, “we might have had a slightly different project.”

The next opportunity for citizens to shape a project will be in the development of Guerrero Park, which sits at the intersection of 28th Street, Guerrero Street and San Jose Avenue, which will have its first community meeting on Wednesday, November 29th, 2017 at 6 p.m. at St. Luke’s.